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Not His Best
on 4 July 2010
Over the years Ainsworth's novels have gradually lost favour which is a shame because he did write some cacking tales. This one alas isn't one of his best but may still appeal to quite a few readers, especially with the popularity of Tudor based historical novels that seem quite in favour at the present time. I should warn you though that there are quite a few typos in this edition, not necessarily spelling, the one that I found most annoying was that it for some reason at times alternates in the size of the font.
Anyway, that out of the way the story starts in 1529. Henry VIII is at Windsor with his mistress Anne Boleyn, with Wolsey and Campeggio discussing whether Henry has grounds to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Anne is trying to wrap Henry round her little finger but Wolsey is trying to get him to fall for a young lady in the area, thus taking his mind off of a divorce. With others after love with the women they fancy there is a lot of intrigue and machinations going on. At the same time the castle servants and those who live in the area of Windsor warn people not to go into the forest at night, as Herne the Hunter has been reported abroad. With Herne appearing and disappearing seemingly at will, is he really a spirit, or something much closer to earth?
As with nearly all novels of this period, if you do decide to read it be warned that there is a lot of melodrama, but that is part and parcel of reading older works. I quite enjoyed this, but as with all authors some books are better than others, and for me this isn't one of Ainsworth's greatest.