Sixteen-year-old Isabella is forced to flee her home when her father’s radical ideas lead him into a suicidal stand against Oliver Cromwell’s army. Taking refuge in Amsterdam and desperate to find a means to survive, Isabella finds work with an elderly printer, Master de Aquila, and his young assistant, Willem.
When Master de Aquila travels to Venice to find a publisher brave enough to print his daring new book, Isabella accompanies him and discovers a world of possibility – where women work alongside men as equal partners, and where books and beliefs are treasured.
But in a continent torn apart by religious intolerance, constant danger lurks for those who don’t watch their words. And when the agents of the Spanish Inquisition kidnap de Aquila to stop him printing his book, Isabella and Willem become reluctant allies in a daring chase across Europe to rescue him from certain death.
Act of Faith is a book about books, about freedom, and about friendship. It’s an adventure story set in an era when ideas were dangerous and many books were banned: when an educated young woman was not only unusual but sometimes feared.
A novel for young adults, it traces the story of Isabella Hawkins as she travels across Europe in search of a place where writers are free to publish, women are able to work, and people are free to dream.
Act of Faith is published by HarperCollins (Australia and NZ). It’s in bookstores and available as an ebook.
The sequel is The Sultan’s Eyes (2013).
Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Australian Books of 2012.
Highly commended, Australian Society of Authors’ Barbara Jefferis Awards 2012
Shortlist, 2012 Gold Inky Award
Shortlist, Ethel Turner Prize, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
“In the field of contemporary Australian young adult fiction, Act of Faith runs against stereotype: it is an historical novel set in the 1640s; a work of scholarship as well as a work of fiction. In a measured voice, Gardiner writes of distant times and places, clearly assuming an intelligent reader. She explores the religious intolerance of the period, which leads her characters from Cambridge University to the radical printing studios of Amsterdam and Venice, and finally to an auto-da-fé in Seville.
Gardiner has combined dramatic action with dialogue that is comical even when her characters debate complex questions about the causes and outcomes of personal and institutional bigotry. Act of Faith is a great book for classroom discussion, especially at a time when religious tolerance is at a troubling low. The book is also notable for the exquisite sixteenth and seventeenth century printer’s devices which not only decorate its pages, but inform readers about the aesthetic of the historical period.”
– Judges’ comments, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
Cover design: Jane Waterhouse, HarperCollins
Site header photo: Kym McLeod, Stock.Xchng