This is a totally engrossing, deeply learned historical novel based on the life of Sir Walter Ralegh (Garrett's preferred spelling), with emphasis on his last few days before being executed by order of James I. Garrett "paints" a brilliant picture of Ralegh's life and times, and rather than relating his story in chronological order, he describes and develops, through various voices, the major events that have brought him to the prison cell he now occupies. In one chapter a fellow soldier relates Ralegh's military career, emphasizing the bravery, pride, and honor that guided him in all things: even at the end after failure in Guiana means certain death for him in England, Ralegh out of pride and honor brings his ship home rather than desert his pledge. Most of the chapters are told in the voice of an omnipotent narrator as they focus on events and people associated with Ralegh: Francis Bacon, a schemer always in debt, eventually impeached by Parliament for bribe-taking; Edward Coke, who as Attorney-General tried him in 1603 in a cruel and most unfair way; Queen Elizabeth, who granted Ralegh all sorts of favors and privileges; James I, prejudiced against Ralegh ever since the death of the Earl of Essex, his partisan, the blame for which fell on Ralegh's shoulders; even the Bishop of Salisbury who administers to Ralegh's religious needs the night before his beheading (they have a brilliant conversation about innocence, the King's justice, and fear of death). Garrett's prose is muscular and authoritative: it shows a great deal of research, but his notecards are nowhere to be seen. Anyone interested in Ralegh or in superbly written historical fiction will find much to praise in his book. Highly recommended.