July 16, 2013

Tudor Book Blog Reviews: 'The Tudor Conspiracy' by C.W. Gortner


(Don't worry, I don't spoil any of the mystery!)

Philip and Mary
The story opens in 1544, during the reign of Queen Mary. Brendan Prescott (our hero from Gortner's first novel, The Tudor Secret - read my review here) is visited by William Cecil who explains that there is a plot to take Princess Elizabeth out of the line of succession. He cites the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard, as the instigator. He wishes to remove Elizabeth to make way for Mary's Spanish children by King Philip and, as a result, Hapsburg dominance of England. Though Prescott helped both Mary and Elizabeth in the first novel, he must now choose to work against either Mary or Elizabeth. Mary has been convinced by Renard that Elizabeth is basically a traitorous heathen who must be dealt with. However, both Cecil and Prescott know that this is not true. Prescott decides to work for Elizabeth, and infiltrate Mary's court to thwart Renard's plan. However, he is called upon by Queen Mary to find proof of Elizabeth's treachery. Now serving as a double agent, he must find the proof (whether it be treacherous or not) in Elizabeth's letters before his shadowy nemesis does.

My Thoughts

Princess Elizabeth Tudor
Though you don't need to read the first novel to enjoy this one, I highly recommend it. You get a base for the characters, especially Prescott. It would also help you better understand his point-of-view, as he assisted both Mary and Elizabeth in the first novel. Events and conclusions from the first mystery are also referenced in this mystery. However, you can still easily follow along; it would just be more enjoyable to have a base for what you are reading.

When reading the first novel, I was struck with how well researched it was. It was so easy for me to envision everything on the page. I was a little concerned that his latest novel wouldn't match up to the first. However, Gortner certainly knows his stuff. Though the premise of both novels (to a point) and the main character are fictitious, Gortner does an amazing job of bringing the real historical period, events, and people to life. For example, upon entering London, Prescott compares it to how it looked during Edward's reign. He captures the mood of the city and time, mentioning the disgruntled graffiti downing Catholicism and Spaniards. This particular period has seen some historical fiction, but nothing like Henry VIII's reign has. I love that Gortner has not written his first two novels in Henry's reign, but rather during the reigns of the 'forgotten Tudors,' Edward and Mary. That, combined with it being a mystery, was enough to hook me right there. However, Gortner doesn't just rely on his unique plot, but masterfully develops it and his characters to make it an excellent book, period.

Particularly, he does a good job of capturing how I, personally, envision Mary Tudor. When Prescott is summoned to meet her, he makes the following observation,
Mary Tudor was not beautiful. Whatever physical appeal she'd once possessed had been spoiled by years of bitter antagonism, so that she looked older than her thirty-seven years, her close-set hazel eyes pleated by wrinkles and her sunken cheeks betraying a premature loss of teeth. Poor eyesight had carved a furrow between her near-invisible brows, ans she was gaunt, her figure almost childlike in her rigid, gem-encrusted finery. What she lacked in beauty, however, she made up for with a regal presence and a generosity of heart that had engendered loyalty in many of those who served her.
Elizabeth, as a prisoner in the Tower.
Other characters, especially Robert Dudley (who makes another appearance) and Elizabeth Tudor are equally well crafted. I also enjoyed some of the minor characters. Jane Dormer, Kate, William Cecil and a whole slew of real and fictional characters grace the pages, some briefly and some who play key parts in the plot. No matter the part they play, Gortner completely develops them, even the stable boy!

This novel is very rich. It is full of history, fiction, mystery, and excitement. I found myself reading it very quickly, as I had a hard time putting it down. My favorite part was the time Gortner spent developing even the most insignificant characters as well as offering rich visual details of the settings. His detail really draws you in, making you feel a part of the period.

Overall, I give this novel 5 Tudor Roses! I love a good mystery (especially set during my favorite time period), and Gortner certainly delivers.

I am excited to announce that author C.W. Gornter will be stopping by The Tudor Book Blog on July 19th for an exclusive Q&A! Be sure to check back for that! Also, be sure to check out his website for more on his excellent novels.

Also, if you want to follow The Tudor Conspiracy and C.W. Gortner's Virtual Blog Tour, go here.

Note: A huge thank you to C.W. Gortner and Amy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for sending me a pre-release copy of this novel, as well as a copy for giveaway! More on that in the next post ;) 

1 comment:

  1. I love a good book with a great conspiracy as the hook. This one looks great to me as I like the historical setting so I am going to get this one on my tbr list! A recent book I've read along these lines is White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy bu Paul Mark Tag. It's hook is weather, but the mystery is a great story! His book info is at http://www.paulmarktag.com/about_the_author.html, he's a great write, one of my favs!


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