A strong sense of history runs through every page of Astrum Divinus, John Christopher’s thriller rooted in a man’s harried search for his roots.
In the case of the novel’s protagonist Dr. Peter Northcott, that search is no simple matter of a quick visit to ancestry.com. Instead, Northcott must navigate the tangled web of his own personal history — and that past runs deep.
Abandoned by his mother as a child, Northcott was reared by a kindly English couple and set on his professional course as a teacher and professor via upper-class schools. Only when he’s 33 years old, teaching and doing research in Rome, does Northcott discover that his family legacy is much more complex than a simple case of child abandonment. A visit from the eccentric priest Father Renauld reveals Northcott’s true identity as the prophesized savior of humanity, the ”Astrum Divinus” or “Divine Star” foretold by an ancient and secret society.
Northcott wrestles with his epic duties as Christopher spins a tale that incorporates elements of ancient Christian mythology, European history and bona fide archaeology. Christopher writes with an authority and depth that lends credence to the novel’s strong ties to academia. Although the story includes many fantastical plots twists about Armageddon and mysticism, there’s plenty of pure history in this story of a man who’s inherited an ancient responsibility as a savior.
Christopher’s dedication to detail lends credibility to the story, but it also serves as an occasional distraction. The history that underlines the first-person narrative can get a bit dense at times. Along with Christopher’s somewhat stiff style, that academic tone robs the novel of the status of true page-turner. Still, the book offers plenty of excitement and action, particularly for fans of Dan Brown and other historical-based fiction. It’s clear that Christopher has done his homework in putting together this thriller, and that dedication makes the book succeed in the end.