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on 24 March 2013
It`s rare that I feel moved to write a review.But this book was so frustrating and had potential,and the way the main character developed let it down.This had a promising start,a strange middle and a bizarre end.If a reader is expecting CJ Sansom or Rory Clements ,forget it,the main character is sanctimonious,naiive and hypocritical.Pretty much unlikeable ,in fact.The other characters are either really bad or curdlingley good.Having said all that it`s not the worst book I`ve read for under a fiver,it`s just that the competition in Tudor faction is so strong that this one really needs to up its game to even get near the neighbourhood of Clements and Sansom,who are both vastly superior.Won`t bother with the sequel.
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on 10 July 2011
As has been stated, part of the growing genre of Tudor thrillers that has sprung up on the coat tails of the superb C.J. Sansom books. As a keen Sansom fan, I have tried many of these, with varying degrees of enjoyment. This, however, is the best of the bunch in my opinion. The characters are thoroughly believable, very human and, while the conspiracy that makes up the plot is rather convoluted, the action moves on at a good pace. The historical expertise of the author comes through in his depiction of the sights, sounds, atmosphere and people of the period. I have not enjoyed a book, in any genre, this much for a long time, and I look forward to further instalments.
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on 30 March 2013
.. I adored this Elizabethan trilogy because it refused to take an either/or view of the great Catholic/Protestant divide which dominated the age. So much Tudor fiction has degenerated into somewhat unbelievable good guys versus bad guys yarns of derring-do. These three books explore the nuances of people who clung to the old religion without wanting to betray their country and it took integrity and courage for the author to make his hero a conflicted Englishman torn between family faith and country. There is a lot of nice background detail and the smells violence and ill health of the age are accurately described. I particularly liked the characterisation of Walsingham and Cecil who seemed to be a real Tony Blair type.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 August 2010
Despite Forrester's academic credentials (James Forrester is a pen-name for Dr Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England), Sacred Treason is anything but a dry historical account of the affairs of the English royal court in 1563, but is rather an entertaining little adventure that, with a little speculation, uses the period detail as a solid background for its mystery to unfold.

Unwittingly finding himself at the centre of what turns out to be a serious charge of treason against the monarch Queen Elizabeth, is William Harley, royal herald, known as Clarenceux King of Arms. Clarenceux has in his possession important book, a chronicle kept by his old friend Henry Machyn, handed over to him for safekeeping just before Machyn is arrested. Clarenceux has been told that the chronicle holds the key to the fate of two queens, and more than that, it could also have repercussions for the persecuted "old religion" of Catholicism. Finding himself arrested and in danger of facing execution for possession of treasonable documents, persecuted by authorities at the highest level and with a particularly cruel sergeant-at-arms looking for vengeance, Clarenceux has no option but to try and discover the meaning of the chronicle in his possession and the significance of the dates entrusted to a covert group who have named themselves after the Knights of the Round Table.

In many ways, there isn't anything particularly original about the plot or the characterisation of Sacred Treason, the majority of the story being that of a standard conspiracy thriller with an innocent man at the centre, pursued by the ruthless henchmen of higher authorities with a mysterious political agenda of their own (it could be any Hitchcock thriller or The Bourne Identity in this respect), but while the period detail is downplayed in favour of the plotting for the most part, it's not insignificant.

Some might prefer a little more detail in the descriptions of medieval London, but being character and dialogue driven makes the story much more readable, without losing any of the essential flavour of the period. Intriguing hints and historical background are dropped in at the essential moments, but in service of the adventure and without there ever being any feeling of the author demonstrating the depth of his knowledge or historical research. This makes Sacred Treason all the more readable and entertaining, while at the same time delivering a story where the personal, political and historical repercussions are fully explored.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is set in the Elizabethan period, following the travails of a nobleman, Clarenceux, after he comes into possession of a mysterious book. The text feels like a cross between a period novel and The Da Vinci Code, as the main actors all struggle to unravel a mystery which could have profound consequences for all concerned.

The author is, amongst other things, a published historian, and so his world is as accurate as might be expected. Importantly, it is also well realised - his descriptions of chases and duels in the streets of London are not just accurate, but also believable, the language and detail a pleasure to read, complementing, rather than detracting from, each other.

The characters are well realised, including heroes, villains, and characters which fit ambiguously between the two. Certain historical characters make an appearance, and are described and act believably, within the constraints of the narrative. One might argue that the characters could benefit from more background than they currently have - but so much is already packed into the pages of the text that it is hard to see where it would have fit. Hopefully subsequent texts will put more meat onto the character's metaphorical bones.

The plot is fast and intriguing, and the central mystery well occluded - the reader has enough clues to keep up with, and perhaps outpace the characters a little, but not enough to draw any conclusions (I couldn't at any rate). The characters and reader thus hurtle through the trials and tribulations of the narrative journey at the same frantic pace as the characters, always intrigued to learn a little more of the central mystery.

Clever, well realised, and an enjoyable read - recommended.
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on 13 March 2014
Elizabethan England is fertile ground for authors. The secrecy, betrayals and plots that typify the era generate some very good stories, and 'Sacred Treason' is certainly amongst them. Forrester writes from the plotters' perspective, which was refreshing. So, all in all, a good read. The reason I only offer three stars is that I've just read 'Treachery' by S.J. Parris, which is superior in plot, drama, and character. I confess (but not to Mr. Walsingham) that I'm biased, having read and enjoyed all of her previous books in the series. Nevertheless, 'Sacred Treason' is well worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ian Mortimer has a considerable reputation as a historian, but now (under a pen-name) he has turned his hand to historical fiction - or perhaps we should say faction, since the story arises out of a discovery Dr Mortimer made during his research work. The story centres on William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms and therefore very much an establishment figure, during the reign of Elizabeth I. Harley is a Roman Catholic, and unwittingly finds himself involved in a plot whilst doing a favour for a friend. The efficient secret service of Francis Walsingham becomes aware of his involvement, and both sides know the likely outcome if the allegations can be proved.

It is a gripping and well-told tale. Dr Mortimer uses his expert knowledge well but unostentatiously. I cannot think of an example of academic showing-off, and all the references he makes have a definite point. The London of those days is well described and there are several moments at which that level of description makes the story come even more to life. For example, when the authorities mark a house that they want to keep inquisitive people away from as if there were plague there, the locals do not believe it, and the author explains convincingly why they do not swallow the story.

I didn't want to put it down and look forward eagerly to the next tale from James Forrester.
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on 21 February 2011
One of my favourite non-fiction books is The Perfect King: Edward III by the author Dr. Ian Mortimer. Imagine my surprise then, when I opened the flyleaf and read that James Forrester is actually a pen-name for Ian Mortimer! It doesn't surprise me that he has made the leap to historical fiction because he is such a beautiful writer; the words flow from the pages with ease.

This debut novel is set in London, 1563. The main character, William Harley, also known as Clarenceux, receives a book from his friend and fellow Catholic, Henry Machyn. But Machyn is in fear of his life... What secret can the book hold?

From then on the plot thickens, into an intriguing Tudor Mystery. As Clarenceux and his companion attempt to solve the clues written in the book, It becomes a race against time to piece together the meaning of it all and avoid death. If, like me, you like C. J. Sansom's Shardlake Series, then you will probably enjoy this book. It is beautifully written and really conjures up the Tudor era. It's one of those books that you can get lost in. I didn't want it to end .... and it left me wanting more. So I was thrilled to find that a sequel is due out this summer 2011. I'm really looking forward to it ...
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on 7 July 2012
Having read all the C J Sansom "Shardlake" novels, I was beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms when I came across this book.
Whilst not quite as satisfying as Sansom, it was well researched and written in a style which has encouraged me to investigate its sequel.
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on 24 February 2014
I bought this book because it was written by historian Ian Mortimer, and was hoping for something better than the usual HF fare, and it's impossible to criticise the history (which makes a change!)

However, this book demonstrates all the worst qualities of genre fiction. The characters weren't fleshed out, and just vehicles for the plot. The plot was derivative, hackneyed, and clichéd, as though it was straight out of Dan Brown's note book, using codes and ciphers that weren't that clever. Nothing really happens, just the two leads running from one part of London (via Sheffield at one point), there's a lot of torture, implied rape and murder (much of which could have been left to the readers imagination). The villains are of the dog-kicking variety, and I think Mortimer does a disservice to Walsingham who was much more clever and interesting a character than is seen here. The character of Rebecca also concerns me, as she isn't there to serve the plot, but just to be a victim (even Sophie in DVC was better developed than Rebecca.) The only character I did like was Lady Percy (by the way Mortimer, the Earls also have Warkworth Castle as well as Alnwick in Northumberland.)

I was also expecting a bit more Scottish history, with maybe a bit of complicity from Mary, Queen of Scots.

If you liked DVC you'll probably enjoy this. If you don't, best to avoid and stick with Shirley Mackay or CJ Sansom.
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