Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 70% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book, 2 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Sisters of Treason (Hardcover)
Elizabeth Fremantle writes historical fiction set in the Tudor era. In a market where one would expect every aspect of this family's turbulent reign to have been mined to exhaustion, Fremantle approaches it through avenues that have been lightly travelled, if not missed entirely. In her first book, Queen's Gambit, she focused on Henry VIII's often overlooked last wife Katherine Parr and in her second novel, she focused on the similarly neglected Grey sisters. Having read Karleen Bradford's The Nine Days Queen in the Dutch translation when I was about ten or eleven, Jane Grey has always fascinated me. When I saw the synopsis for Fremantle's Sisters of Treason, the story of Jane's younger sisters, I knew I had to read this book. Katherine and Mary Grey make for compelling leading ladies and the book was a fantastic read.

The titular Sisters of Treason are Katherine and Mary Grey, the younger sisters of Jane Grey. We only meet them after their sister has met her fate on the executioner's block and they are ensconced at court as ladies of the Queen's Chamber. We follow them through the next two decades and see Northumberland's bid to keep the throne in Protestant hands after the young King Edward's death haunts their lives and how by dint of their blood they will always be regarded as a threat to the throne. But while a story of court politics and conspiracy what stands out most is their humanity. These are just two girls, different as sisters can be bound by love and blood.

Katherine is beautiful, impetuous, and impulsive; the spitting image of her beloved, treasonous father she has his passionate heart and loves boldly an unwisely. It's hard not to love Katherine as a character, as she's complex in unexpected ways and has some of the most interesting relationships in the narrative. I loved her close friendship with Jane `Juno' Seymour and the mischief they get up to together. But Katherine takes some very dangerous decisions and it's hard to see her go down that road knowing where it'll end. I loved Katherine's indomitable optimism and loyalty though, she's steadfast in her love, whatever it may bring her.

Mary Grey was perhaps my favourite character in this book. The youngest of the three sisters, Mary is set apart by her crooked back and small stature. Even as a young teen, she remained small enough to comfortably be held on a lap, as Queen Mary often did, something that Mary Grey despised. Mary's voice is something special. While conscious of the way her back dictates how others treat her and understandably angry and bitter about this, she is a good and kind person, though quick of wit and sharp of tongue when provoked. It is this that attracts Elizabeth's attention once she becomes queen. Mary is also an astute observer of court life and it is through her that we learn of most of the plotting and politics going round at court. Mary has learned at a young age that people will overlook her and speak of things in front of her that should have been kept secret.

Mary is not the only character that is at once of the court and outside it. Our third narrator Levina Teerlinck -court painter and close friend of Frances Grey, the girls' mother - is also someone who moves through the court mostly unregarded. When sat in the queen's rooms to sketch scenes and draw portraits, people often forget to watch their words. Levina is also our clearest viewpoint of the religious strife that marked Queen Mary's reign. She witnesses the countless burnings and as a "reformed" Catholic is closely watched by Bishop Bonner's informers and even threatened into informing on their neighbours. She's also instrumental in the creation of Foxe's Book of Martyrs in this story, an element that adds an extra element of suspense to the story. Levina's viewpoint is also that of a more mature woman, one who is settled in a happy marriage, one that requires work but brings contentment, and as such is a good mirror to Katherine's youthful passions.

Mary and Elizabeth Tudor might not be central characters in Sisters of Treason, they are huge presences in the book and ones that hold huge and frightening power over the Grey girls, a fact that especially Elizabeth is wont to remind the sisters of regularly. Despite their fearsome presences Fremantle doesn't paint these two powerful women as ogres. For example, while Mary earned her nickname Bloody Mary to the fullest this didn't stem from being an awful person, but from desperation and the devout conviction that the Catholic faith was the one true faith and that for the good of her people she should bring them back to the Roman Church. Elizabeth is a hard young woman, one who knows what she must do to survive on the throne, yet at the same time she yearns for love and has to rein in her heart at each opportunity. Fremantle shows us two very human queens, marked by their awful, painful youths and by the pressures of the Tudor throne. In their portrayal, and indeed in much of the narrative, the reader finds a contemplation of the meaning of power, of what people will do to gain and/or keep it and how the whiff of a chance at it changes them.

Sisters of Treason is a remarkable book, one that I just couldn't stop reading. Fremantle's writing is clean and precise and conveys layers of depth in its narrative. I loved Katherine, Mary, and Levina and their story. I loved learning more about this family, who is so often relegated to the footnotes of Tudor history. With Queen's Gambit Fremantle suitably impressed me, with Sisters of Treason she's made me a fan. If you love Tudor-era historical fiction then Elizabeth Fremantle's Sisters of Treason is a must-read. I can't wait for her next book to see who she tackles next!

This book was provided for review by the publisher.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]