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123 Reviews
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good one!
Having enjoyed Rory Clements' debut novel, I was a bit worried about the dreaded second-novel syndrome but thankfully, it doesn't apply here. This is a quality return to the late 16th century and to John Shakespeare. Five years have passed [it's now 1592] since the previous book and I have to ask why, other than to see the passing of Walsingham and the advent of Cecil in...
Published on 3 May 2010 by Jeff

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Turning into a good series, but ...
This is turning out to be a very readable series. There's a lot to admire in this book - a fast-moving, page-turner plot with that safe old favourite, a race against time; interesting characters, including some excellent villains, many of whom are famous historical figures; a convincing 16th century setting, against a backdrop of real events; realistic dialogue which...
Published on 26 April 2011 by Bookwoman


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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good one!, 3 May 2010
By 
Jeff "roadrunner" (uk) - See all my reviews
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Having enjoyed Rory Clements' debut novel, I was a bit worried about the dreaded second-novel syndrome but thankfully, it doesn't apply here. This is a quality return to the late 16th century and to John Shakespeare. Five years have passed [it's now 1592] since the previous book and I have to ask why, other than to see the passing of Walsingham and the advent of Cecil in the top Spymaster position. The plot, which I won't detail as, let's face it, gives the game away revolves, to a certain extent, around Roanoake, an early settlement in what is now Virginia and problems relating to early settlers there. More to the point is the factional fracas between any number of people vying for the favours of the fading Elizabeth, not least the main contender Essex. Throw into the mix a not-too-convincing marital falling out between Shakespeare and his wife over religion and you have a thoroughly good read! Very well written and, it seems to me, well researched. I was very uncertain in the first book about the main character's name. It's clear that a John Shakespeare, supposedly elder brother of Will, never existed so I wondered what was the point. In the first book, quite honestly, there was no point at all but in this one things are different. William [the man himself!] makes an appearance and I have to say it works very well. It's known that he frequently skated on thin ice in his search for patronage and Clements brings this into his plot cleverly. Interesting take on Sir Walter Raleigh, a man perhaps few of us really know much about. And, by the end, which is all-action, we realise that what started it all is a problem that is sadly still with us.
Excellent read which I strongly recommend. I note that the new CJ Sansum is due out very shortly. He's got competition!!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TO BE OR NOT TO BE, 4 May 2010
By 
James Eves "applegarth" (London,England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I must say how much i enjoyed this second outing of John Shakespeare (and yes he is the old brother to young Will who plays his part in this adventure ),set in the 16th Century England ,Rory Clements creates the dark atomosphere for plague invested London, as he takes Shakespeare back into the world of the intelligencer in 16th century England and into the intrigues of Queen Elizabeth 1 court , were he is caught in the power struggle between The Earl of Essex and Sir Robert Cecil.Rory Clements has a great eye for detail and his story telling has you on the edge of your seat as we romp through this Historical thriller at pace.If you like C.J.Samson "Matthew Shardlake" or Susanner Gregory "Thomas Chaloner" you love John Shakespear,more please Mr Clements and soon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Sequel, 5 Sept. 2010
By 
J. Potter (Shropshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Loved 'Martyr' and was hoping 'Revenger' was going to be as good. It wasn't - It was even better!!. Started reading Rory Clements as adored the 'Shardlake' books and was recommended his books thanks to Amazon reviews and to me he now ranks up along with C J Sansom. His books are riviting, funny, educational and full of wonderful characters some fictional some not.I can't recommend both these books highly enough. Can we have the next one asap please Mr Clements!!?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revenger `a good un`, 22 Aug. 2010
Fantastic sequel to Martyr, Clements has brought the Elizabethan era to life once again, with plot and sub plot and a host of new villains with novel ways of inflicting suffering on their victims, all in the name of religion. Couldn`t put it down, can`t wait for the next installment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A smashing Elizabethan thriller, 24 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 (Paperback)
The year is 1592; four years since the Spanish Armada and five years since the last time we met John Shakespeare. I had read and enjoyed the first book so decided that I would try his second adventure.
How can the death of 2 young lovers be linked to a plot by the Earl of Essex to take over the English throne when the ageing Queen Elizabeth I finally dies, the mystery of a colony in the new world and the hunt for an elusive woman all be linked?
Also thrown into the story is a falling out between Shakespeare and his wife Catherine over her desire to practice Catholicism. This murder, mystery, marital disharmony and double crossing make this an excellent second novel.
The dark, dank atmosphere of 16th century London on the brink of a plague epidemic is fantastically recreated. The horrors of the period are also exposed through the (somewhat gruesome) torture techniques that would be handed out should you cross the wrong person. The book has obviously been expertly researched and the author's love of the period shines through.
This a smashing Elizabethan murder mystery/thriller which had me gripped from start to finish - superb!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sequel better than the first, 20 May 2013
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This review is from: Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 (Paperback)
I hadn't really taken to Rory Clements after reading the first John Shakespeare book, Martyr. I had him pegged as a solid writer but not in the same league as CJ Sansom or SJ Parris in terms of historical detective novels set in Elizabethan England. However I'm revising my opinion after reading Revenger.
The plot is simple, John Shakespeare (a former intelligencer for Walsingham) is called out of retirement to work for the Earl of Essex. He wishes Shakespeare to find a supposed survivor of the Roanoke colony in the New World who has been sighted in London. This is the door into a more complicated treason involving Arbella Stuart and the Devereux family.
The rivalries between the noble houses in the Tudor court are well-drawn, more is made of the difficulties of Shakespeare's wife's Catholicism but the relationship between John Shakespeare and his brother William still seems like a stretch too far.
I much preferred this to Martyr and so am glad I've kept with the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rory Clements - better than C J Sansom and Bernard Cornwall, 27 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 (Paperback)
The title of this review tells you how much I thoroughly enjoyed this book - I really like Sanson and Cornwall but Rory Clements books are really superb and donot shy away from some of the nastier descriptions (but donot let that put you off - they are part of the story). The story is set in the time of Elizabeth I and is an exciting history/thriller with many twists that I didnot see coming. I recommend it and doubt that anyone will be disappointed though I would recommend that you read the first in the series 'Martyr' before this book as they are both excellent but this one being slightly better with the same leading characters.
I have already ordered the next in the series 'Prince' as a hardback when it appears.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars better than shardlake, 19 Jun. 2011
By 
L. Turner "neva" (france) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 (Paperback)
i am a great fan of the shardlake books set in the reign of henry 8 so was not sure whether i would like this as clements has a lot to live up to but, if anything, i enjoyed it more.
I have not read the first book martyr so did not really know what to expect but, whereas the shardlake novels can often seem a little slow, there was always something happening in this book. clements does not give the 'rose tinted glasses' view of elizabethan england, which is often associated with the virgin queen, and i enjoyed his use of the language and expressions of the era and his characters.
i will definitely read martyr and would be surprised if it is not as good as this
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Turning into a good series, but ..., 26 April 2011
By 
Bookwoman - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 (Paperback)
This is turning out to be a very readable series. There's a lot to admire in this book - a fast-moving, page-turner plot with that safe old favourite, a race against time; interesting characters, including some excellent villains, many of whom are famous historical figures; a convincing 16th century setting, against a backdrop of real events; realistic dialogue which avoids any 'forsooths' or 'begads'; a solid leading man who's William Shakespeare's brother, no less. If you like a historical murder/spy mystery with a dash of intrigue you'll enjoy this, and the author has been clever enough to plant the seeds for a whole series.
But for me it's an almost, but not quite, four star read.
Rory Clements must realise (and his publishers, judging by the cover design, certainly do) that he will always be compared to CJ Sansom and that John Shakespeare will always be compared to Matthew Shardlake. In this respect, there's absolutely no contest. Sansom's first person narrative means that we enter into the heart and soul of Shardlake - consider how he constantly worries about the wellbeing and whereabouts of his sidekick Jack Barak, and compare that to the perfunctory relationship that Shakespeare has with his assistant Boltfoot, which just seems to move the plot along.
However, it's an exciting plot and he weaves real people and events into it very well indeed, but for me it's short on atmosphere and characterisation. I suppose it's the difference between the character-led and the plot-led story. Sansom's characters live and breathe, making the story even more compelling. But maybe with a decent director and some good actors, Revenger's defects could be remedied for the book to form the basis of an excellent tv series?
Just one final carping note: lose the lists at the end of the book! It's always interesting to tack on some sort of historical note at the end of a book like this, to flesh out the real characters and their place in history. But here we have a rather random list of characters that didn't quite make it into the narrative proper, and a lexicon of words that the author didn't use well enough to make their meaning clear. And do we really need to have the definitions of words like musket and strumpet ..?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical thriller, 18 Mar. 2012
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 (Paperback)
It is 1592 and the ill-fated colony of Roanoke, commissioned by Sir Walter Ralegh, has been lost on a distant shore. Summoned by the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth's former intelligencer John Shakespeare is asked to investigate a brutal double murder, and also the sighting of one of the lost Roanoke colonists here, in London. Quickly, he realises that he is being pulled into a dangerous game, as the Earl of Essex and Ralegh compete for the Queen's affections, and when Sir Robert Cecil asks him to spy on Essex he uncovers a plot that threatens the future of the monarchy. The presence of the menacing Charlie McGunn, Essex's enforcer, and Sir Richard Topcliffe, the notorious torturer and anti-papist, threaten not only his investigation but his family, too.

Considering how the market for historical murder mysteries has become so flooded in recent years, I think the current holder of the crown, C J Sansom, has a real competitor here. There are a lot of similarities between the two protagonists in their unwilling participation in big historical events, and their assistants, and their involvement with less than savoury real-life characters and movers and shakers in the Royal court. There is something about Clements's writing that feels, to me at least, to be more real than Sansom's. His use of language has a more authentic vibe to it and, because he writes in the third person (as opposed to Sansom's first person), he doesn't have to use such convoluted plot devices to get his characters into the situations they need to be in, he just switches viewpoints as and when he needs to in order to advance the story. This has been a particular failing in Sansom's more recent books, I think, as Shardlake's presence at certain times has bordered on the unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, Sansom is brilliant, but I'm leaning slightly towards Clements after reading his first two books.

Revenger has a real pace about it and, as Shakespeare gets deeper into the mire, and members of his family come under threat, Clements ratchets up the tension to an action-packed finale. In fact, this knocks spots off a lot of modern-day novels I've read which purport to be edge-of-seat rollercoasters. Clements also seems to have developed the characters a little better here. Shakespeare himself still seems a little bland but others, like Cecil, McGunn, Topcliffe and co came alive in my mind, which was great.

If there is a failing to Clements's work it's that he tries to write a couple of sex scenes, he really does, but the references to Shakespeare's 'yard' (really? A yard??) and it resembling a 'broomstick' made me put the book down because I was laughing so much. Maybe that's what Clements intended, but unfortunately the characters seem to be taking it all too seriously. He either needs to work on this or drop the scenes altogether - they really aren't necessary. Fortunately, they only occur a couple of times and are very brief.

Other than that, this is a terrific book, a real step-up from the already excellent Martyr, and a deserved award winner. It's full of atmosphere, intrigue and action, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Can't wait to read the next one.
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Revenger: John Shakespeare 2 by Rory Clements (Paperback - 14 Jan. 2016)
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