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VINE VOICEon 30 April 2016
This is a prequel novel to the series featuring intelligencer John Shakespeare, fictional brother to the playwright. This starts from his youth in the early 1580s when he first comes to the attention of spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and first makes the acquaintance of the sadistic heresy hunter Topcliffe. I enjoyed this more than the novels covering his later life - John comes across as a more human figure, caught on the horns of the dilemma between loyalty to his Queen and country and the Catholic sympathies of many members of his extended family, the Ardens (his mother's side). His assistant Boltfoot Cooper also came across as a more substantial and deeper character. Last but not least, William himself gets much more of a role here (he is very much in the background where he appears at all in the later novels), here at the point in his early life where he falls in love at the age of 18 with the 26 year old Anne Hathaway. Enjoyable stuff, if rather predictable, having read four of the later novels.
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on 15 March 2014
As ever, Rory Clements tales of John Shakespeare are very enjoyable. I particularly liked that he took us back to the beginning to meet the young john and also see his first encounters with the vile topcliffe as his fledgling partnership with boltfoot and Peace. Great read.
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on 27 March 2014
I have not missed a John Sheakespere (the main character and the brother of William) book and this is right up there with the best. A wonderful read with all the main characters included but curiously I think it could have been written as the first book in the series as it deals with the young John Sheakespere joining the inteligencers (MI5/MI6 of the 16th Century). Obviously the author thought it would be good idea to fill us in with the early beginnings to the series and I am delighted that he has but it could easily be read as the first book in the series and then continued with Martyr etc - great for new readers of these books who I guarantee will be hooked after reading this one. I hope we donot have to wait too long for the next Rory Clements book with John Shakespeare as the main character.
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on 15 March 2014
Fills in details on how Shakespeare met some of the characters who play a large part in future books and what happened to shape the nature of their relationships.

I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read - couldn't put the kindle down.
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Bought this for my wife as she is a keen Elizabethan era fan. She enthused so much that I read it myself.
Good strong storyline, good strong characters, an interesting easy read.
Well recommended to lovers of historical fiction.
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on 17 April 2014
At first I was a bit disappointed until I realised this prequal set the scene for all the other John Shakespeare stories. It put into context the relationships of John and the chief protagonists which perhaps the later stories couldn't accommodate. Clements description of the circumstances of Catholics and Protestants at that time with the fear and suspicion it conjured up is outstanding. A lesson we should not forget in these days of diverse faith. For all Elizabeth's faults maybe she did set this country on a course of reconciliation; not through politics but the will of neighbour to live with neighbour. I couldn't put this book down any more than I could the previous John Shakespeare stories. Simply wonderful.
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on 13 August 2015
This is another cracking Elizabethan thriller from the pen of Rory Clements.

The plot rattles along at a good rate, with plenty to keep the reader enthralled. There is a welcome return of many familiar characters as well as Clements introducing us to many new individuals, both good and evil often with things to hide

Whilst the sites and smells of London have featured heavily in previous books, it is a nice change to see John Shakespeare visiting his home town of Stratford Upon Avon and the connections with William Shakespeare.

If you like historical fiction, this is highly recommended.
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on 2 April 2014
My family and I have grown to love this authors work.We have been waiting for this new work.It didn't disappoint.
The writing was well researched and did active about the era in which this series of books are set.
It is interesting to note that fanatical religion is not just a problem for our age.John Shakespeare is the Reasonable Man with serious doubts about the connection between having to conform to the set national religion and patriotism.
It took me two days to finish the book and I can't wait for the next one.I hope that it too,will deal with Shakespeare's early life as an agent
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VINE VOICEon 26 January 2015
A little bit disconcerting to be reading familiar characters as new but that soon passed in this riveting tale with plots and plots. For the first timer with Rory Clements and John Shakespeare, although in publishing chronology this is number 6, this is the book to start with. Fearsome enemies, some supposed to be allies and an honest man caught in the middle, trying to root out treason but at the same time protect his family. RC has an eye for detail and characters and delivers a great read. Up these with the best historical fiction writers.
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VINE VOICEon 2 May 2015
This is the sixth book in the series but is number one in the story of John Shakespeare an intelligencer working for Sir Francis Walsingham who is Queen Elizabeth's head of her secret service . You can read these books in any order as the author skips from one point of time to another so really there is no point trying to read in order like a long story . Others have gone into great detail of the book almost telling the whole story . Therefore I will just say that I enjoy these books and this is a great read and I recommend it .
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