Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Edi's Spotlight: Sacred Treason by James Forrester

It is no secret that I read and like books beyond science fiction and fantasy. Historical fiction, thrillers, mysteries and crimes especially set in Medieval England are my second passion.

In May 2010 I read and reviewed The Time Traveller's Guide To Medieval England (June 2009, 368 p.) [ISBN-13: 978-1845950996], by Ian Mortimer. His full name is Ian James Forrester Mortimer. So far he published eight non-fictional books under the name Ian Mortimer. And now he goes fiction under the pen name James Forrester. I bought a copy of Sacred Treason [ISBN-13: 978-0755356027] his fictional debut. As expected it is a historical mystery.
It is your decision whether you want to read the official blurb or my summary.
England, 1563. Elizabeth I reigns since five years.The Queen and her court is afraid of catholic conspiracies. Elizabeth trusted in men like her chief advisor Sir William Cecil and her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham to nip conspiracies in the bud.
Catholic William Harley is the Clarenceux Kings of Arms. On a cold and rainy December fellow Catholic Henry Machyn knocks on his doors. The man is in fear of his life and that reason for that is a book - back containing a deadly secret. And William Harvey receives the book and the wish to keep it secret. It does not take long until Henry Machyn is dead and Clarenceux finds himself in the sight of the stat in form of Sir Francis Walsingham and his men.
In a nearly forlorn race against time where they lifes of his family, friends and are at stake, Clarenceux tries to unlock the secret of the book and to save his dear and near ones....

Your God. Your Country. Your Kin. Who do you Betray?

After reading the subtitle you instantly know that is Sacred Treason a conspiracy novel - a clever one.
The story is intelligent, not too complicated and perfectly time with a real climax at the end. There is well dosed action and violence. Nothing which you would not expect set in this time.

The World is the absolutely highlight of the book. James Forrester is a historian and an academic. He has a more than profound knowledge of Medieval History. Every pore of the book breathe history. What a convincing portray of London and life in the 16th century. Absolutely breathtaking.
I was thinking to give you some examples but that would be only a dim reflection.

The important characters are based on people who lived at this time. They are well developed , show character and have principles. But I could not fully connect to William Harvey. Like in real life you can't love every one.

There are some things which I didn't like. And to be honest they are more or less a question of individual taste.

The 408 pages of the book are divided in a prologue, 77 chapters and an authors note. That means an average chapter length of around five pages. And to be honest there are some chapters which are only two pages long! To be honest I don't like such short chapters. This belittle my reading pleasure. Don't get me wrong. It has nothing do to with the quality of the story.

There is one scene in Chapter 20 which I found a bit strange. I could not fully understand why Clarenceux was released after tortures and a night in a cellar without being followed by Walsingham's men.

William Harley is a man full of principles. But I could not fully connect to him. He is definitely not one of my favorite characters.

Final words
As other reviewer I can't compare Sacred Treason with Dissolution by C J Sansom because I did not read it so far.

Sacred Treason
is definitely a gripping story set in a convincing London.

But there are two other historical thrillers which I liked a bit more
The Sweet Smell of Decay
(2009) [ISBN-13: 978-1905636426], by Paul Lawrence - my review
A Plague of Sinners (2010) [ISBN-13: 978-1905636914], by Paul Lawrence - my review

Anyway I recommend Sacred Treason to everyone who likes historical thrillers. You can't go wrong with the book.

Please do not read the author's note before you have finished the story!! Spoiler alarm!!


Sarah said...

Sacred Treason has been looking at me but I haven't read a review yet so I haven't picked it up. Now, however, I might have to based on this review. I'm going to go check out the reviews of the other historical thrillers you have posted.

ediFanoB said...


I was not aware that you like historical thrillers.

I will read and review more in future.
Let me know in case you find something interesting.

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