The Nameless Day (The Crucible, #1)

ISBN: 0765342820
ISBN 13: 9780765342829
By: Sara Douglass

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About this book

The Black Plague. The Pestilence. Disease and death haunt every town and village across 14th century Europe and none are immune from its evil. Some see the devastation of their world as a sign from God for Man's wickedness.But Brother Thomas Neville sees this swath of death as something much more. Neville is a man beset by demons. Or is it angels? He has had a visitation from none other than the Archangel Michael, who commands Thomas to a mission. This mission will take Neville across the length and breath of the continent in a desperate bid to find the means to stop the minions of Satan who have found a doorway out of Hell and are preparing to venture forth, to try and seize this world in preparation for an assault on Heaven itself.As Thomas Neville encounters angels and demons, saints and witches, he comes to realize that the armies of God and Satan are arraying themselves for the final battle...and that his soul is to be the battleground.The question is, has Neville picked the truly good side?

Reader's Thoughts


I couldn't get into it- I didn't identify with the main character at all. I can't rate it because I didn't read the whole book.

Ranting Dragon Nameless Day is the first volume in Sara Douglass’s trilogy, The Crucible. While the author lists The Crucible as her favourite of all her series, many readers had mixed feelings about The Nameless Day upon its initial publication. Most of their concerns regarded the vastly different feel of this novel when compared to her previous works (such as the popular Axis Trilogy), and the unconventional choice of protagonist. Nevertheless, in my opinion, having read all three books in the series, I would still recommend The Nameless Day and consider it to be a highly worthwhile read. While it may not suit the tastes of all readers, The Crucible is probably the best historical fantasy series I have ever read, and one of the most intricately plotted and daring fantasy novels in general.History and fantasyThe story takes place in an alternate fourteenth century Europe, in the midst of the Hundred Years’ War and a great schism in the Roman Catholic church which would eventually see three popes simultaneously claim office. Former nobleman turned Dominican friar Thomas Neville is visited by the Archangel Michael who warns him that demons run rife throughout Europe and have integrated themselves into every level of society. If they are to be stopped, Thomas must find a mysterious casket, thirty years missing, and use its contents to cast the demon spawn back into the fiery pit of hell. This task, however, is more easily said than done. The demons have had decades to prepare for his arrival and do not intend to go down without a fight. Furthermore, Thomas is haunted by visions of what he suspects is a demon-woman sent for the sole purpose of tempting him from his promise. Worst of all, the concepts of good and evil may not be as clear-cut as he believes.Essentially, Douglass interposes another, more secret battle between the rival factions of the angels and the demons, amidst and underlying the various other struggles of a particularly tumultuous period of European history. She does this with spectacular style, involving intricate period detail with fantasy elements, and hinting towards larger themes to be explored in the later books. Such include the respective roles of church, state and the individual, as well as faith and responsibility for one’s fellow man. She also explores and builds upon the origins of what would eventually become humanism. Though she does alter some dates (for example making certain individuals appear earlier or later than in historical records) and The Nameless Day is foremost a work of fantasy fiction, Douglass’s historical scholarship is generally quite thorough and demonstrates an excellent knowledge of and passion for her chosen era.Complex charactersThe main protagonist, Thomas Neville, is self-righteous, misogynistic, small-minded and hypocritical. Although this may make him unrelatable to some readers, it makes him a more realistic character given the historical period. After all, the likelihood of finding a man of Thomas’s position with particularly modern or liberal views would have to be relatively uncommon in the fourteenth century. Furthermore, Thomas’s character provides many opportunities for development and, judging by the aforementioned criticism, one must conclude that Douglass has succeeded in creating a character that readers desperately want to see change as a person.Those familiar with medieval history may recognise a myriad of notable historical figures amongst the supporting cast. These include John of Gaunt, Katherine Swynford, Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV), Charles VII, Joan of Arc, Richard II, Geoffrey Chaucer and many others. Each character, whether historically based or entirely fictional, has their own distinct personality, a great achievement for a novel encompassing so many individuals. The ‘good guys’ are never wholly good, while the ‘bad guys’ are rarely purely evil. Alliances are ever-changing and everyone has their own agenda and hides their own secrets.A little bit of everything (done well!)Once again, Douglass showcases her admirable talent for seamlessly blending elements of different genres into a cohesive whole. The Nameless Day incorporates fantasy, history and romance, while also containing some particularly brutal and gory moments that would put most writers of modern horror to shame. Certain sections, especially at the beginning of the novel, are very dark and reminiscent of early Gothic works such as Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, full of sinister clergy and malevolent secrets.Why should you read this book?By the end of the novel, much is still unclear and many questions remain to be resolved in the following books. However, those who can bear the suspense will be greatly rewarded by this daring and thought-provoking series and the many shocking and unexpected developments it encompasses. All in all, The Nameless Day is definitely worth a read for any fantasy fan who isn’t particularly averse to historical fiction and would like to try something a little more daring and challenging than just another Lord of the Rings clone. However, it does contain substantial violence and various depictions of religious figures behaving badly, which may be unpalatable to some individuals. Hence, you may be wise to refrain from lending it to, for instance, your fainthearted and devoutly Catholic grandmother.

Sue Mack

You hated the characters for there were no redeeming qualities. The one you were supposed to root for you didn't

Steph Klassen

I'm still really confused as to where this is all going. who's the good guys? who's the bad guys? WHAT IS GOING ON?!


Not for everyone. Tough main character but he gets better, I promise! Live her detail-orientation for history, though.

Pam B Morris

The first in the series, I liked it because I love Sara Douglass books. She writes with style and intelligence and clarity as always. I'm reserving judgement until I read the next book in the series. It may live up to my expectations!

Matt DeLateur

historical fantasy at its best :D

lynne naranek

In the author's note, Sara Douglass states that the 14th century was one of shifts in weather, politics, health and such in Europe, such that the very people who emerged from that 100 years were very different, spiritually. In fact, they had made an about face, going from a focus on the soul's salvation to technology, conquest.... and this series is an attempt to explain that shift.This book sets the stage, where we have a an ex-nobleman turned Dominican Friar being given the task of ridding hte world of demons, a task set up by Archangel Michael himself! But what exactly are these demons, and are they truly creatures of evil? This situation is then explored against the backdrop of an England close to what students of history would recognise (I didn't, NOT being a fan of history, LoL!), with its king intent on gaining the French throne. Oh, and there's murmurings within the peasant community for rights as human beings, after all "When Adam plowed and Eve span, where, then, was the gentleman?"Like I mentioned, I am no fan of history, being the victim of atrocious teachers and syllabi in school. But if it tales like this that help kindle some spark of curiosity, that have me willing and interested to then look up key historical figures and milestones to see how the differed from Ms Douglass's alternative retelling.Be warned that overall the tone of the book, and even the main character, by itself may not be that entertaining. But I was hooked by the idea and concept, and had a great time with this entire series.


This is a curious book, with an interesting take on the Black Plague/Death. Here the main character is fighting between good and evil, the Church or the Nobility, and many other dichotomies develop. What makes the book so good, I think, is that the reader doesn't seem to know which way the character will chose or if good is really good and evil is really bad. With the history in the background one can realize that the situation in Europe during this period was just as tumultuous. There are two more in the series and I cannot wait to pick them up.


A history lesson and a good tale all in one book. It was interesting to meet the Neville, Rivers, and Beaufort families from another's perspective and research (other than Phillipa Gregory). I especially liked her characterization of Joan (Jeanette) of Arc and the Catholic Church during that time. Douglass explores that inner working more closely than most. Which later makes Thomas departure for his oath a better sell. However, I feel like a lot of story was diminished and awkward due to Douglass' need for historical 'fillers'. I felt that whole pages were wasted in historical detours. Yes, it is all perfectly true, but it takes away from the story as a whole. I will further read the rest of The Crucible Series because I, like Thomas, now have this need to see it through no matter the circumstance!


This is a great departure from the normal fantasy. I would call it a historical-fantasy. Its historic time wise, but the author does have some historical characters out of their time. Its about the black plague and the catholic church in the 14th century. A little slow to start with, but a very good trilogy.

Ken Grace



Generally I like Sara Douglass books but this was a bit less initially motivating that the Starman (and related) series. Her general plots are often quite dark and this is no exception. I was really into it by the end of the story. Of course, however, it's an older book and the book stores don't carry it and my library has to get it from Timbuktu so it takes forever. Hopefully I'll get the next one before I forget all the details. I could just order it but then I'll have to buy the first just so I don't have half a series. anyway...back to the review.I didn't enjoy how the main character is so close-minded and (perhaps just in my sensitive mind) it seemed that he was being used as an archetype for Catholics of the time. I suppose it is quite likely true, though. It was just annoying that his "unreasonability" (katie-lish) was so blatant. He didn't seem to have much depth. At the end of this book, more dimension popped up but by was over. I suppose it was a good way to get me to go on to the next book.


Will try reading this again. I picked up all three of this series at a book sale. Maybe with all of them I'll like the story better.


Everything about this was OK: the story, the plot, the writing. Seems like there was a lot of stuff which wasn't very relevant to the story or overdone. If the writing had been better that would have been acceptable because you would have enjoyed reading it anyway, but the story just plodded. I will read the next book just to see what happens but I am not eagerly awaiting getting a copy from the library.

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