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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2010
Having enjoyed Rory Clements' debut novel, I was a bit worried about the dreaded second-novel syndrome but thankfully, it doesn't apply here. This is a quality return to the late 16th century and to John Shakespeare. Five years have passed [it's now 1592] since the previous book and I have to ask why, other than to see the passing of Walsingham and the advent of Cecil in the top Spymaster position. The plot, which I won't detail as, let's face it, gives the game away revolves, to a certain extent, around Roanoake, an early settlement in what is now Virginia and problems relating to early settlers there. More to the point is the factional fracas between any number of people vying for the favours of the fading Elizabeth, not least the main contender Essex. Throw into the mix a not-too-convincing marital falling out between Shakespeare and his wife over religion and you have a thoroughly good read! Very well written and, it seems to me, well researched. I was very uncertain in the first book about the main character's name. It's clear that a John Shakespeare, supposedly elder brother of Will, never existed so I wondered what was the point. In the first book, quite honestly, there was no point at all but in this one things are different. William [the man himself!] makes an appearance and I have to say it works very well. It's known that he frequently skated on thin ice in his search for patronage and Clements brings this into his plot cleverly. Interesting take on Sir Walter Raleigh, a man perhaps few of us really know much about. And, by the end, which is all-action, we realise that what started it all is a problem that is sadly still with us.
Excellent read which I strongly recommend. I note that the new CJ Sansum is due out very shortly. He's got competition!!
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on 4 May 2010
I must say how much i enjoyed this second outing of John Shakespeare (and yes he is the old brother to young Will who plays his part in this adventure ),set in the 16th Century England ,Rory Clements creates the dark atomosphere for plague invested London, as he takes Shakespeare back into the world of the intelligencer in 16th century England and into the intrigues of Queen Elizabeth 1 court , were he is caught in the power struggle between The Earl of Essex and Sir Robert Cecil.Rory Clements has a great eye for detail and his story telling has you on the edge of your seat as we romp through this Historical thriller at pace.If you like C.J.Samson "Matthew Shardlake" or Susanner Gregory "Thomas Chaloner" you love John Shakespear,more please Mr Clements and soon.
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on 26 April 2011
This is turning out to be a very readable series. There's a lot to admire in this book - a fast-moving, page-turner plot with that safe old favourite, a race against time; interesting characters, including some excellent villains, many of whom are famous historical figures; a convincing 16th century setting, against a backdrop of real events; realistic dialogue which avoids any 'forsooths' or 'begads'; a solid leading man who's William Shakespeare's brother, no less. If you like a historical murder/spy mystery with a dash of intrigue you'll enjoy this, and the author has been clever enough to plant the seeds for a whole series.
But for me it's an almost, but not quite, four star read.
Rory Clements must realise (and his publishers, judging by the cover design, certainly do) that he will always be compared to CJ Sansom and that John Shakespeare will always be compared to Matthew Shardlake. In this respect, there's absolutely no contest. Sansom's first person narrative means that we enter into the heart and soul of Shardlake - consider how he constantly worries about the wellbeing and whereabouts of his sidekick Jack Barak, and compare that to the perfunctory relationship that Shakespeare has with his assistant Boltfoot, which just seems to move the plot along.
However, it's an exciting plot and he weaves real people and events into it very well indeed, but for me it's short on atmosphere and characterisation. I suppose it's the difference between the character-led and the plot-led story. Sansom's characters live and breathe, making the story even more compelling. But maybe with a decent director and some good actors, Revenger's defects could be remedied for the book to form the basis of an excellent tv series?
Just one final carping note: lose the lists at the end of the book! It's always interesting to tack on some sort of historical note at the end of a book like this, to flesh out the real characters and their place in history. But here we have a rather random list of characters that didn't quite make it into the narrative proper, and a lexicon of words that the author didn't use well enough to make their meaning clear. And do we really need to have the definitions of words like musket and strumpet ..?
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VINE VOICEon 20 May 2011
This is the second offering in Rory Clements's series featuring the intelligencer John Shakespeare, now, following the death of Walsingham, working for Robert Cecil. This is a grim story involving the famous lost American colony of Roanoke and the headstrong activities of the Earl of Essex. It contains some interesting characters, including some of the most unpleasant ones I've encountered in historical fiction (Topcliffe is real, though). I'm still not sure if I like John Shakespeare - for me he still largely lacks the human appeal of Sansom's Shardlake.
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on 14 March 2015
I started reading Rory's books a few years ago and since then have always bought the latest ones as and when they become available. His sense of time and place is remarkable - you can really see - and smell! - Tudor London, His characters too are 'large as life and twice as natural' as the saying goes which all goes to make the books compulsive reading - once picked up you can't put them down even if it is 3.00am in the morning!

I have a map of Tudor London and it is fascinating to check the street names in the books and then cross-reference them with the map and then with a modern map and see how many names still survive today - surprisingly quite a few. Places that today are almost part of inner London in those days were very much outlying villages and rough, remote areas where there were very little signs of habitation.

Thank you Rory for yet another great addition to the series.
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on 29 August 2014
A thoroughly good read! I couldn't put it down. Stayed up most of the night to finish it! The author brings to life the times feelings and smells of Elizabethan England, and the suspicious nature of the court over religion.

The character Shakespeare (brother to Will) is very cleverly portrayed, so much so I feel I know him. This author is on par with CJ Sansom, brilliant writer.
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on 28 July 2014
Enjoyed this book as I am enjoying others by this author. Its peppered with historical detail and description and the story rolls along at quite a pace. John Shakespear manages to get himself out of a variety of situations without the many resources available to present day book and film characters. The story links back and forth to his family and retainers and in that way prevents him from becoming the isolated 'hero' favoured by so many other authors
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on 14 October 2014
I have others in this series and would say the same for this as others. Well written and really gets you involved. After reading the latest release I count the days to the next and then pre-order. An author worth following, there are not many who can transport you to the past but Clements does.
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on 21 May 2012
John Shakespeare (yes, I know, I found it a bit difficult as well but William does play a small role in both the books I've read) gets set a task. It's not one he relishes but it's made totally clear that he hasn't a lot of choice. There have been claims that a survivor from the disappeared Roanoke expedition has been seen in London - totally bonkers possibility since Roanoke is in the Americas and the place is a savage land. The Earl of Essex (not a nice man) has "requested" Shakespeare's skills in discovering the truth so that he can destroy the reputation of his enemy Sir Walter Raleigh - but Robert Cecil, Essex's rival in the Elizabethan Court, has also called on Shakespeare's help (in order to destroy Essex) and you don't refuse either! In fact this is a very good read which holds one's attention all the way through. There are murders and violence, even the plague, but there is also a great mystery - and a conspiracy - at the heart of this tale. A Tudor thriller that well deserves reading!
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on 22 July 2010
Yep, I've read all C J Sansom's Matthew Shardlake books - the last one was a read til 3 in the morning, awake again at 7, as my subconscious couldn't wait to finish it. So, given that context I came to Rory Clements Martyr with a level of cyncism, no one could do 'Tudor' as well as C J Sansom, but I was completely wrong. Given the similar scenario, it is amazing as to how two authors can come up with such an interesting, but different take on this period. I know Sansom is early Tudor, while Clements is late Tudor, but the bottom line is that they are both great storytellers, and have emersed themselves in historical non fiction enough to make their fiction believable. Revenger is another read til 3, awake at 7 to finish, I was completely riveted by the story, the characters. In fact I fully intend reading it again to pick up on the nuances that I might have missed being so engrossed in the plot. Having read biographies of some of the characters in the book, it was a delight to see them come to life through Clements sketches of them.
Read. Enjoy. Long may C J Sansom and Rory Clements continue writing!
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