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An ambitious novel which rather outstays its welcome
on 23 February 2012
The object of this novel is evidently to evoke the atmosphere of James I's court - one of feverish instability, and in this it is successful. By the time you reach the end, however, you have had more than enough; it is polished off in a flurry of very short, inconsequential chapters which indicated (to me, at any rate) that Ms Dickason was also tiring of her work. Up to a point, the plot is intriguing, even exciting - provided that you do not read the family tree at the front before you read the novel. James I comes across as a real villain: foul-mouthed, insensitive, utterly capricious and unpredictable, paranoid, megalomanic and ruthless - all these aspects of his dangerous character are convincingly conveyed by Dickason. There is humour too: you don't have to speak French for the really hilarious nature in Elizabeth's eyes of her betrothal ceremony to reach you - I laughed out loud! Her love for her brother is also realistically conveyed. Finally, however, you do wish for the novel to end, and are relieved when it does. Three stars is a little mean: but four would be over-generous.