3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Solaris is a publisher that likes to bring something different to the fore and to be honest you really don't get anything stranger than this book from Clifford Beal. It brings the wonders of historical fiction blending it with some cracking Urban Fantasy as the characters within have to deal with not only the superstitions of their own time but also with the wonderful twists that the modern writer can bring to the fore.
All in, this book has quite a few twists within, bringing tragedy, political machinations and duplicitous natures to the fore. Back that up with great characters, some wonderful prose and add an overall arc that really does keep you guessing and all round it's a book that I had a lot of fun with.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2013
I need to make something clear. As a general rule I don't read books about the supernatural and I don't read historical fiction set before the Napoleonic Wars. So why have I just read GIDEON'S ANGEL by Clifford Beal?
The simple answer is that I know the author ... but I don't want to give the impression that the following review of this book is favourable just because it was written by someone I know ... it is favourable because it is a very good novel.
The main character is Richard Treadwell, a professional soldier who supported the defeated - and subsequently executed - King Charles I, and who now serves in Cardinal Mazarin's Guard. The Cardinal gets wind of a plot by the exiled Royalists to overthrow Cromwell's regime, and that it might involve the use of some form of necromancy. Treadwell is given the task of investigating what is happening, but uses the opportunity it provides to go back to England - for which he has been exiled for life - to see his wife and family. In the process he becomes involved in a plot to kill Cromwell ... and then to save him from being killed by members of the Fifth Monarchy movement who think that they are doing God's work, but who have been duped into using supernatural forces to ensure that England falls under Satan's control. He is aided in his battle against the Forces of Darkness by a French lieutenant (none other than D'Artagnan), the daughter of a fellow exile who is also Treadwell's mistress, a former Parliamentarian soldier (who is also a member of the Ranters), Elias Ashmole (the famous English antiquary, astrologer, and student of alchemy), a Jewish wine merchant (who is also a rabbi), the wine merchant's daughter, and a gypsy-like wise woman.
All the characters are believable, well-rounded, and reflect the numerous contemporary beliefs and scientific/philosophical understanding of the period, so much so that I found it easy to believe the supernatural elements of the book as seen through their eyes. The fight scenes are all exceptionally well described and sound technically correct ... which is hardly surprising as the author is a renowned swordsman. The depictions of seventeenth century Plymouth, Exeter, and London are obviously based on high-quality research, and one could almost smell the sweat and the stench of rubbish and manure that permeated the atmosphere of those places. The story also clips along at a vigorous pace, and I did find it difficult to put down once I started to read this book.
I will certainly read any other books about Richard Treadwell's adventures in seventeenth century Europe. I understand that at least one more book is almost complete and that there may be plans for a third.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2014
Highly readable story which resurrects historical characters (Oliver Cromwell, John Thurloe, Elias Ashmole, Cardinal Mazarin) and places them in a Satanic plot to kill Cromwell. It put me in mind of 70s British horror films such as Blood on Satan's Claw, but without the 'cheesy' camp that implies. It's actually properly chilling in places, with some great - and creepy - descriptions of monstrous beasts. An excellent confrontation scene at the end brings forth Hellish powers into the Whitehall Palace of Cromwell's rule. Think Harrison Ainsworth mixed with Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's told in the 1st person, so it's the voice of Sir Richard Treadwell, a Royalist who finds himself needing to defend Cromwell's life, that we hear. It's delicately done, and well judged to my mind, a suggestion of the 17th century manner of speaking. This could have become turgid and obscure, but instead it's witty, and often laugh-out-loud funny (deliberately so). The character of Billy Chard, especially, is delightful, and he swears to great effect. A very easy read, and makes me wonder why some writers do so well with books far less enjoyable, with plots far less convincing (devils taken into account there), and with narratives far more bogged down in historical detail. Excellent stuff!
on 1 November 2014
The Raven's Banquet serves as a prequel to Gideon's Angel, so after enjoying the former, I finally got the opportunity to delve into the latter...
Richard Treadwell exists at the French court, exiled from England, his home, and his family. As a staunch Royalist, he remains dedicated to returning the Stuarts to the English throne, and removing that one main obstacle - Oliver Cromwell.
The promise of an English revolt draws him back to familiar shores, despite the sentence of death on his head - all the time pursued by Lieutenant D'Artagnan, to bring this loose cannon back to Cardinal Mazarin.
However, it all soon becomes clear that Richard Treadwell has stumbled into something much bigger - a supernatural plot to open the gates of hell itself upon England...
What I love most about Beal's writing is his sense of time and place - he makes the 1600's seem real and authentic beyond what most writer's achieve.
There's nothing archaic about the text, which at times I found simply wonderful - quite a few times I found myself imagining the voice of Richard Burton reading out passages.
There's also a keen sense of tension and mystery that grows through the book that kept me engrossed.
Although the story is a kind of historical fiction/supernatural horror hybrid, it doesn't sink to the depths of splatterfest and gore I might expect from the horror genre, and the book is free of sexual violence and torture, which was a relief.
But I wasn't entirely satisfied, especially with the ending - which seemed to lose pace and clarity, and then conclude with deus ex machina. Although many writers employ the same tactic, not least in supernatural horror, I really felt this story could have risen above that.
The journey there, however, was immensely enjoyable. I continue to be a fan of his writing style (which I previously commented on here) and very much look forward to Clifford Beal's next novel.
on 12 February 2014
Sir Richard Treadwell, a royalist knight, has returned to England following a five year exile to lead a coup against Oliver Cromwell. But after stumbling on a plot to assassinate Cromwell by an agent of Satan, he sets out instead to save Cromwell, and in doing so prevent the End of Days.
Richard Treadwell was an officer in King Charles army, until Cromwell took over and had the King assassinated. Now, Richard sells his sword wherever it is needed. But then Cardinal Mazarin contracts Richard's services to identify an individual who has made a pact with the Devil for some nefarious cause. Haunted by events of his past and disturbed by the passing of one of his oldest friend, Richard tries to escape the Cardinal's commission by returning to England, disguised as his deceased comrade. If he is captured, he risks execution, but he is desperate to see his family and escape the fate of dying an old man in his bed. In England, Richard quickly falls foul of a militia leader, Gideon Fludd, when he kills the man's brother in self-defense. He is captured and taken prisoner by Gideon, only to find that Gideon is the person consorting with powers beyond human comprehension and is planning on bringing about the End of Days by killing Cromwell. Richard is rescued by d'Artagnan, a musketeer in the Cardinal's employ. But things only get stranger from this point on, as Richard finds himself being hunted by roundheads, Gideon Fludd and demonic forces.
The story is written in first person, from Richard Treadwell's perspective, who is painted as an Errol Flynn type, with a deep sense of justice and integrity that has become somewhat buried under the weight of his experiences and his disappointment with life. He comes across a whole host of characters who either try to aid or heed him in his mission, the most prominent of which is a former soldier who fought against the royalists, but has since fallen from grace. The musketeer d'Artagnan doesn't resemble the character we have come to know through the various adaptations of Dumas's The Three Musketeers. Here, he seems to be an older and more cynical version, who still respects loyalty and camaraderie but now places duty first. There are also cameos by a stoic Cromwell and a flustered John Milton too, but they feature late in the novel and the latter hardly impacts the plot at all, beyond Beal perhaps alluding to the events of his story being the source of inspiration for Paradise Lost.
The historic setting is well rendered with a good amount of description that brings 17th century France and England alive. The writing also has a period feel to it, with Beal making use of some of the vocabulary of the time and affecting a similar style to swashbucklers like Captain Blood by Rafael Sabitini. What Beal does really well is writing fight-scenes, with a good use of historical weaponry and gritty choreography. Disappointingly, the main bulk of the story is swashbuckle free, with a little at the beginning, a little in the middle and a chunk of it at the end.
The tone of the book has a definite Gothic feel to it, with brooding descriptions and an impending sense of something dark growing within the periphery of your vision. Some readers may find Beal's Gothic style off-putting, but it really does lend itself to this cross-genre story, which is broadly historic fiction, but has strong elements of horror and fantasy thrown into the mix.
on 27 November 2013
1653: Two plots to kill Cromwell. One to restore the King. The other to set the devil on the throne.
I didn't need to read any further, that did it for me, and the fact that Clifford Beal was sat on the opposite side of the table to sign Gideon's Angel was just a bonus. I've never read any of his work before but the plot sounded epic and then I learnt that a young musketeer named d'Artagnan featured within as well. I couldn't wait to pick this book up and read on.
Gideon's Angel is a superbly written piece of fiction set within the seventeenth century and a time when England was recovering from the bloody civil war. He paints such a vivid picture but at the same time dispenses with the long descriptive text that could have bogged the story down and lost its momentum. The characters are so alive that they almost jump from the page and I could imagine that I was there with them, living the adventure. Also the story gives a slight hint of the strained political struggle between democracy and monarchy, where Charles II and his royal court find themselves as guests in France biding their time to return to English soil.
I particular liked the part when Treadwell arrives in Devon and visits old haunts where he meets up with his steadfast companion, Billy Chard. Beal writes a good villain as well but on that I won't say anymore as I don't want to give anything away.
All in all this is an excellent tale that has it all and you won't be disappointed. Beal has been added to my list of favourite author's and I can't wait to read some more of his work. Incidentally, if he's listening, I'd love to read about a young Cromwell and his rise to power amongst the `Roundheads' that preluded the war!
on 29 June 2013
Sadly, fantasy has become rather staid and predictable. For every one "Game of Thrones" or "Lord of the Rings," there are undoubtedly tens of thousands of books that boringly blend swords, sorcery, hero on a quest, and the occasional fair lady. Perhaps that's why Gideon's Angel is such a breath of fresh air in what is (regrettably) an almost thoroughly stale genre.
Let's start with what Gideon's Angel is not. It's not set in some land of make-believe rife with unpronounceably-named cities, and populated by the usual cast of crotchety dwarves, noble elves, avuncular wizards, nasty dragons, and heaving-thewed barbarians. It's also not your typical "hero on a quest to save the world by finding the [fill in the blank]."
Suffice it to say that yes, there are sufficient swordfights, supernatural encounters and dastardly villains to satisfy most fans of fantasy. But the resemblance to run of the mill swords and sorcery ends there.
Set in Oliver Cromwell's England (think Pilgrims with buckles on their hats and you've got the right time period) , Gideon's Angel introduces a supernatural element into what was undoubtedly a miserable period of history. In many books set in the past, the characters appear to be personalities ripped from modern times and thrust into the past, hastily dressed in period clothing, and set on their merry way.
Fortunately, Gideon's Angel deftly avoids this trap. The story's protagonist, who, as we learn in the first few pages of the book, is a supporter of the king (i.e., the losing side of the British Civil War) is very much a man of his time, and his actions and decisions are thoroughly shaped by his environment. Thrust into a fantastic and unfortunate set of circumstances, our protagonist reacts to the world in a refreshingly 17th century manner.
The tale itself is a solid one, and as the story seamlessly moves along a delightfully unpredictable course, it's a true pleasure to see how Gideon's protagonist reacts to the bizarre circumstances he finds himself in. Truth be told, the ending is a bit disappointing, for the sheer fact that you won't want to see the story come to a close.
Perhaps the one downfall of this book is it defies easy categorization. Neither historical fiction, nor fantasy, not horror, it will undoubtedly be a disappointment to those "purists" who believe that storytelling needs to follow a set of rules. But for those who enjoy a well written yarn with interesting characters and some strange twists and turns, Gideon's Angel is sure to please.
on 26 February 2013
When Solaris announced Clifford Beal's Gideon's Angel my interest was immediately piqued. Fantasy and historical fiction are solidly in my wheelhouse and with Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls I'd had it confirmed that a marriage of the two could be a beautiful thing. Combine that with a setting in an era I discovered in more detail last year and I really couldn't wait to read Gideon's Angel. It even made my most anticipated reads list for the first half of 2013. Happily, the book lived up to my expectations and was a wonderful read.
We start the book in the past, about eight years before the story proper is set, and meet our protagonist Richard Treadwell at the point where his life falls apart--he's fighting a duel to the death to prove his innocence. While a strong start, which is instantly exciting and has you rooting for Treadwell, it also serves up a bit of confusion, as the next chapter starts in 1563 but moves to a flashback set somewhat earlier, co-starring a young musketeer named d'Artagnan. We then move to a different time in the next chapter, but it wasn't clear how much time has elapsed, so by this point I was completely confused as to where we were in time. However, this is also the point the story takes off and I forgot all about the timeline and just sank into the adventure. However, those first two or three chapters did give me pause and made me double check historical stuff to make sense of things, which made the book have a bit of a wobbly beginning for me.
Once the story gets on its way, however, and the action is moved from France to England, after an interview with Treadwell's current employer Cardinal Mazarin, it settles down to business. Treadwell is an old campaigner, who's fought as a soldier of fortune in numerous campaigns, both on the continent and on English soil. As such, he's experienced and one could say rather jaded and cynical. Despite this, he seems a good man, who might not always act honourably, but tries to do right. He's also more than just a soldier, he is a sensitive who has seen some dark things in his time as a fighting man. Things he'll encounter again on his current mission. I loved Treadwell's decisions, especially once he discovers the Fifth Monarchy plot and its consequences. I also liked where Beal takes Treadwell's faith and that in the end his faith seems somewhat restored.
Along the way Treadwell finds allies in unlikely places, the most important of which is the Ranter Billy Chard. Chard is a fantastic character, who reminded me a lot of Blackadder's Baldrick. He makes for a staunch comrade and his courage and steadfastness in the face of darkness is impressive. But what I really loved about him was his irreverence and his temper; Billy has a hard time keeping his mouth shut and is easily insulted, he's also very funny and his banter with Treadwell give some much needed comic relief at times. Treadwell and Billy are joined by Elias Ashmole and Rodrigo da Silva, a Portuguese converso, who both bring different mystical powers to this group of unexpected allies. Rounded out with the expert swordsmanship of d'Artagnan and our band of heroes is complete. All three of the later companions are given believable motivations to stand with Treadwell against the dark forces arrayed against Cromwell and the Commonwealth and are characters in full, not just cardboard cut outs used to fill out the band.
There are only four named female characters, who are all strong in their own way. Treadwell's wife, who was left to fend for herself after his exile, his mistress, who isn't content with being abandoned and decides to make her way to England on her own, da Silva's daughter, unafraid to follow her father into danger, and Anya, a Cunning Woman who Treadwell first met in Germany and whose magic has kept him safe all these years. And while they are interesting, their seeming dependence, except perhaps Anya, on the presence on their men in their life - Maggie, Treadwell's mistress doesn't want to be without him to face the consequences of their liaison alone, while da Silva's daughter would rather die with him in battle, than be left an orphan and alone - bothered me a lot.
Beal puts an interesting spin on the dissolution of the Barebones Parliament and the establishment of the Protectorate. He seems to have a solid grip on not just the historical facts of the era, but the religious underpinnings of its unrest as well. He shows us the various factions and the splintered nature of the Protestant faith in England and the intolerance there was towards those of a different faith, such as Catholics and Jews. But he doesn't just make good use of the mystical teachings of the various faiths and cults, but he also includes the mystical brotherhood of the Freemasons, a society that has fascinated me ever since I researched them for a paper. He interweaves all of these in a tight plot, where faith is shown as a weapon for both good and evil.
Gideon's Angel is an exciting and compelling debut. Beal shows a deft hand at mixing historical fact with fantasy and mimicking the period's language without becoming incomprehensible to modern readers. I really enjoyed the resolution of the novel and the choices Treadwell makes for his future. While Gideon's Angel is a story complete in and of itself, Treadwell's choices and profession leave an opening for more tales of his adventures and I would love to spend more time with him. If you enjoy historical fantasy such as the work of Anne Lyle, you definitely shouldn't miss Gideon's Angel.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
on 26 February 2013
Clifford Beal's Gideon's Angel was a pleasant surprise for me. It's entertaining and immersive historical fantasy, because it's a well written combination of historical fiction, fantasy and adventure elements. This book is a first rate adventure story.
Gideon's Angel is a story about Richard Treadwell who lives in exile in France. He secretly returns to England to kill Cromwell, but finds out that he has to change his plans or England will be doomed. This isn't his only concern, because his Parisian mistress follows him to England and causes him trouble. He also has to deal with d'Artagnan who wants to take him back to France to Cardinal Mazarin.
Before I write more about this book, I'll mention that the name of this book comes from the entity that one of the characters (Gideon Fludd) summons. I won't write more about this subject, because I want to avoid writing spoilers, but I'll briefly mention that it was thrilling to read about the entity, Gideon Fludd and their plans for England.
I enjoyed reading about Richard Treadwell, because he was a realistic and believable character who wanted to avenge what was done to him and his family. Reading about Richard's predicaments and adventures was fun, because he got into all kinds of trouble.
Clifford Beal writes fluently about minor characters, which is good. Gideon Fludd, Richard's wife, Billy, Maggie and other characters are fascinating characters, so it's a pleasure to read about them. Maggie is an especially interesting character, because she's Richard's mistress and doesn't want to be left behind when Richard returns to England.
When I read this book I noticed that Clifford Beal knows a lot about history and pays attention to historical details. His view of England in the 17th century feels believable, because he has a way of making the reader feel like he or she is right there in the middle of the happenings with the main character. This book brings the gritty substances and nuances of the happenings to life in an engaging way.
I think it's good to mention that knowledge of history isn't necessary to understand what's happening in this book, but it may help readers to enjoy the story even more.
Clifford Beal handles magical elements amazingly well. He writes about them in a realistic way, which brings a lot of excitement to the story. For example, the scenes in which Richard sees what's following him are handled fantastically.
Because I'm a big fan of dark fantasy and horror stories, I noticed that this book contains a couple of dark fantasy and horror elements which were connected to magic (summoning and summoned entities). These elements were wonderful and they added a charmingly sinister atmosphere to the story.
It's good that the author knows how to write about romantic scenes in an interesting way. He doesn't dwell on them so the story doesn't become tiresome (the romantic scenes are an important and entertaining part of the story).
I loved the fight scenes, because they were surprisingly realistic. I think that the author's experiences about rapier and dagger fighting have a lot to to with the realism in the fight scenes, because first hand experience about these things explains why the scenes are so good and realistic.
This book contains several good and fluently written scenes, but I'm not going to write about all of them (I'll only mention a couple of examples). One of my favourite scenes is where Richard meets his wife after the exile. I like the way the author writes about what happens at that moment, because the wife's reaction is handled perfectly. It was also great to read what happened to Richard afterwards, because his plans didn't go exactly as planned.
In my opinion Clifford Beal's prose is amazingly good and smooth (it's great that there are debut authors who know how to write fluent prose). The story moves fast forward, so there aren't any dull moments in this book, which is very nice, because every once in a while I've read historical fantasy books in which it seems to take forever for the story to start and when something finally happens, you'll notice that there aren't any pages left to read. Fortunately this book is different and the author keeps on delivering plot twists and action scenes, which keep up the reader's interest in the story.
I think it's possible that old adventure stories may have been an inspiration to the author, because this book has the same kind of timeless charm as certain old adventure books (for example, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas came to my mind when I read this book). I also think that Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series and other similar books (and perhaps even Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories) may have been a source of inspiration to the author.
Because I enjoyed this book and think that it's a fine achievement, I hope that Clifford Beal will write more historical fantasy books. I noticed that he has written Quelch's Gold, which is a true story of an early 18th century Anglo-American pirate, so I think I'll try to read it in the near future.
Clifford Beal's Gideon's Angel is a good historical fantasy romp, which offers entertainment, swashbuckling, plenty of action and even romance for fans of historical fantasy and adventure stories. If you're looking for an immersive and well written historical fantasy adventure, you won't be disappointed by this book.
Gideon's Angel gets full five stars from me for its entertainment values. It's one of the most entertaining and engaging historical fantasy books I've ever read, because it's pure fast-paced escapism from start to finish. It's one hell of a good and enjoyable book.
Swordplay. Muskets. A sprinkling of heaving bosoms. Black magic. Brawls in taverns. Clifford Beal's novel has a generous helping of tropes from roistering fiction, as Col Richard Treadwell, a Royalist exile at the court of Charles II in Paris, intrigues across both France and England. Treadwell is enmeshed in the politics of the exile Court, and furthermore works for Cardinal Mazarin. When things become a little hot he agrees to lead a rebellion against the force of Parliament.
However it turns out that Treadwell's rebellion is the least of Oliver Cromwell's concerns - and that something far, far worse than a restored Monarchy is plotting against his rule.
This was a fun read. I enjoyed the idea of London under the Commonwealth as a playground for the unholy, a kind of 17th century urban fantasy, I suppose. Beal seems to have done his homework on the period of the Commonwealth. I was surprised to see the soldiers being called "redcoats" - but looking into it I see that the New Model Army did mostly have red uniforms form 1645, eight years before this story is set. He also drops real people (for example, Elias Ashmole) and events in to good effect.
It's possibly made a little easy for Treadwell as he was given a backstory that included previous encounters with the occult, and an old ally who just happens to have ended up in London. But still entertaining for all that.