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An easy read - shame about the plot lines!
on 29 November 2012
This is a book that is very easy and quick to read. That is probably its strength and weakness - it is a great book, provided that you don't stop to think about it.
Many reviewers have commented on the weakness of the Andrew Woode angle in Act !. I can only agree with this - and it is so painfully obvious what has happened and who is the root cause. (This is not the only plot line to be telegraphed).
I mentioned, in my review of Prince, that the evil of Topcliffe is overworked and, frankly, tremendously boring. This follows the same path and falls in to the same trap. It is time to move on, Rory (and I suspect that he is thinking of doing so)!
There are a lot of plot lines in this: the death/murder of an earl; a Jesuit conspiracy (or was it); a potential double agent; the war in Brittany; an act of treasonous sabotage; and the main storyline concerning the perspective glass. (I am totally ignoring the vagabond storyline - that is just tedious taradiddle!). Too many things - and the ending becomes a little too neat in an effort to tie them all off.
One thing also sticks in the craw. Sailors would not be at all happy to have a woman on board, especially not if they were going in to battle in a foreign sea. A woman on board ship was considered to be very unlucky, and the Elizabethans were nothing if not superstitious. Eliska sailing with Frobisher fits the story nicely, but it really is a non-starter of an idea.
As a final point, this was a 471 page hardback. If the print had not been so large (10 words to the line as a maximum!!!) it would be no bigger than 380-400 pages. With better editing, I suspect that this is a 250 page novel - the result you see is just bedecked in more gossamer finery than Titania herself.
If you want a quick read which won't tax you, this will do. (Good for the beach or the Tube, I would say). If you want something deeper, this is not for you. For a better crafted book, I would go for the Sansom Shardlake series and the Mantell Cromwell books (for more serious reads) or why not try the Patricia Finney Ames and Becket series (for a well crafted and witty read).
I would probably try the next Rory Clements novel. They have not been anywhere near as bad as (Ian) James Forrester (Mortimer)'s incredible (as in "unbelievable") Clarenceux novels.