As a devotee of historical fiction, I harbor an aversion to any novel masquerading as such, all decked out in a few facts but with virtually no substance. Much like the stream-of-consciousness Versailles: A Novel by Kathryn Davis, The King’s Nun is guilty of the same deception, built on the bare bones of fantasy. As well, the title is a bit of a misnomer, the two main characters the subject of little true historical scholarship other than time and place.
The novel begins with the meeting of a novitiate at Munster-Bilzen Abbey and the great King Charlemagne. The king is attracted to the quick mind and lively beauty of Amelia, the nun-to-be; he calls her to his castle to discuss family matters that have been weighing on his mind.
Amelia readily spews advice to the worldly king and with authority, her suggestions quite mature for a seventeen-year-old girl with no experience of the world save the walls of the abbey. The two form a spiritual bond and a physical attraction, which remains unconsummated until the end of the novel, at which time Amelia gives up her virginity before trudging the thorny road to sainthood.
Tediously predictable, Amelia displays an arrogance that belies the vows of obedience characteristic of a nun, although no doubt helpful in one craving a position of power from which to do good works. Only later to we learn that Amelia is canonized a saint by the Catholic Church, although even Vatican records are in dispute as to the authenticity of this particular person, her miraculous acts supposedly circumstantial and easily explained at the hands of the author.
With a heavy dose of religious fervor, a few passages attempt theological discourse (The Nicene Council and the Arian Heresy; Pope Leo’s quest to remain the one true vicar of Christ), but they are merely window dressing for the supposed romance that ties the lovers together until they are rejoined in heaven. A disappointing exercise for those who love historical fiction.