An Uneasy Crown (Tudor Series #4), by David Field

Nine stars

David Field’s masterful Tudor series continues, as the politicking and drama turn to the next generation. While series fans may have enjoyed being neck-deep in Henry VIII’s antics, his health is waning. To fill such large shoes will be a daunting task. Young Edward ascends to the throne at age nine, unable to rule alone. A Recency Council is appointed, headed by Edward Seymour, to guide young King Edward through the perils of ruling over England. The Earl of Somerset may be respected across the country, but his younger brother, Thomas, is far from pleased. While the Regency Council has a plan for the longevity of Tudor monarchs, young King Edward has a plan for the line of sucession that does not necessarily include his Catholic sister, Mary. Rather, Edward wants to see his young cousin, Jane Grey, find her path cleared to reign, which ruffles more than a few feathers. With the decree signed by the young monarch, it is only when the news reaches the Regency Council that public outrage reaches a boiling point, with additional ire directed at Edward Seymour. The Tudor dynasty could be in jeopardy, not least because King Edward is ill and the future remains murky. Tudor politics and backstabbing is front and centre in this piece, allowing Field to offer up some wonderful drama to entertain readers. Recommended to fans of the series to date, as well as the reader who has a passion for all things Tudor.

I am pleased that David Field keeps adding to this series, which mixes well-known aspects of English history with lesser published bits. Field uses a solid narrative, balancing it with a cast of strong characters in this tumultuous time in Tudor history. From the young boy king, Edward, who seems to be going through the motions, to the deeply influential Regency Council, whose members include the persuasive Edward Seymour, Field uses them all to push forward a variety of plots that come together as the story unfolds. With little time for adequate development, Field thrusts them before the reader in hopes of making a great first impression. The story’s structure is strong, though the time Field wishes to cover makes it hard to encapsulate everything in an effective manner. Mixing long and short chapters, Field is able to push forward an impactful narrative that tells of the internal divisions within the Tudor Court—none of which had anything do to with the validity of marriage, for once. Field has done well with the entire series to date, using strong characters and developing lesser-known facts to create an entertaining piece that is sure to educate as well. New and seasoned David Field fans alike will take something away from this novel, as the series gets better the further one delves.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for another winner. I am so eager to see all your ideas coming to find the light of day. Keep up the fabulous work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The King’s Commoner: The Rise and Fall of Cardinal Wolsey, by David Field

Eight stars

David Field continues his new series, perfect for fans of all things Tudor. In another story that draws on historical record, Field is able to recount the life of Thomas Wolsey. When Tom Wulcy was young, he found himself on the losing end of much bullying. While keen on his academic studies, this son of a butcher had no aristocratic blood to better himself. However, his passion for his studies saw Wulcy earn a degree by the age of fifteen and, through a trick of the times, relabelled himself as Thomas Wolsey. From there, with his studies in divinity, Wolsey joined the priesthood and was able to find favour with the Tudors, during the time of Henry VII, who was in the midst of trying to secure political alliances with Spain and ensure his eldest son, Arthur, had a fitting bride. Wolsey worked to smooth the way, though the union was doomed when the heir to the throne died of the sweating sickness. FIeld moves the narrative along with Wolsey developing a strong connection to both Queen Katherine and Henry VIII, independently, as well as a royal unit. As the years progressed, no male heir was forthcoming, though Katherine did confide that her countless stillbirths must have had some spiritual symbolism. As many Tudor fans will be aware, it was around this time that a young and beautiful Anne Boleyn arrived on the scene, seemingly to serve Katherine. As Wolsey sought to help find the young Boleyn a suitor, things took a turn as the Court began to come apart. With his inherent connection to Rome, Wolsey rose through the ranks to the position of Cardinal, while Henry VIII sought to take drastic measures that would violate all that Wolsey—and Rome—held dear. Field takes the reader along the monumental events that Wolsey witnessed as the Tudor dynasty took a sharp turn. How long could Cardinal Wolsey hold onto his beliefs in the face of a monarch eager to get his own way? Stellar in its telling, Field shows that he is a master at historical fiction and keeps the reader enthralled until the final sentences. Recommended for Tudor fans an those who love the work of David Field.

David Field writes in such a way that the reader is enveloped in the tale from the opening pages. Mixing Tudor history with a flowing narrative, this fictional account gains momentum and keeps the lay reader wondering where the truths end. Field uses characters who remain relatable while sticking to how history has portrayed them, none more than Wolsey in this piece. Born as common a resident of England as they come, Thomas rose through the ranks due to his attentive nature, both with his studies and by following those in positions of power. His role with the Tudors is documented throughout this piece, as he found a form of royalty only his faith could bring. From a priest until he attained the position of cardinal, Wolsey was able to find his own nobility, which worked for him, as he connected with the likes of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII. However, as Field eloquently depicts, this connection and royalty was tested when the King sought to divorce his wife and take another. His Catholic faith and friendship with Katherine outshone the loyalty he had for his monarch, forcing Wolsey to lose everything at a time when Henry VIII turned his back on the Church. Field creates this narrative to effectively show what became of a man whose faith could not be swayed by political or monarchical power. The novel takes events to the fall, albeit not necessarily the earthly end to Wolsey’s life, allowing the reader to descend just as they climbed the proverbial ladder with him. While I did sometimes struggle to make sense of some of the subplots, this is not from a lack of strong writing by Field or a disinterest in the topic at hand. The reader with a keen interest in learning can use Field’s attention to detail while witnessing this key event in the Tudor dynasty. A powerful piece that should not be missed, though denser than some of his other series.

Kudos, Mr. Field, for a great continuation of all things Tudor. I will keep reading and hope to learn more, as I journey through this exciting time of English history.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Revelation (Matthew Shardlake #4), by C.J. Sansom

Eight stars

C.J. Sansom continues with his great set of Tudor era historical mysteries, tapping into some of the controversies of the time to spin intricate tales sure to keep the reader enthralled. Matthew Shardlake has taken on quite a complicated case when asked to defend a young man who has been locked away in a mental facility. His crime, excessive praying and zealousness, leaves many wondering what is to be done. At a time when religious fervour is punishable by death when not in line with the Church of England, Shardlake must get to the bottom of this before things get out of hand. However, there are other issues, particularly when a friend is found murdered. As is often the case, Shardlake cannot steer clear of a mystery, though the King’s Coroner is quick to shut down the investigation. Shardlake is determined to get answers when asked by his friend’s widow. When Shardlake is approached by Archbishop Cranmer, he discovers that there may be more to the murder than meets the eye. It would seem that there are more murders with similar attributes, but those at the highest levels of Court do not want it known publicly. Shardlake examines what little evidence and documentation he can find, only to discover that the killer seems to be following a portion of the Book of Revelation, where death and destruction is rampant. Even with a list of the forms of murder, the interpretation is quite significant, not to mention the choice of victims. It would seem someone is trying to get rid of radical reformers, choosing brutal killings to make their point. When Shardlake and a few others are targeted by someone wanting the investigation stopped, it would seem he is on the right path. While all this is going on, Shardlake cannot forget his client, whose mental state remains as fragile as ever. Something must be done to quell the dramatic reaction of many in England, with ongoing questions at Court at what Henry VIII will do in his search for a new—sixth—wife. This may be one case that Matthew Shardlake wished he had left well alone. Brilliant in its delivery, C.J. Sansom taps into both the era and its intricate scandals to create a mystery like no other. Those who have loved the series to date will surely want to add this to their collection.

This is a great series for those who love their mysteries steeped in history and controversies of another era. C.J. Sansom does well to educate while entertaining the reader in a nuance-filled narrative. The story digs deeper than most of the Tudor history with which I am familiar, usually Henry VIII chasing a new wife or his offspring—Elizabeth—seeking to rule in ways never thought of before. It looks to the religious reformation within England and how powerful entities shaped the development of England and its Church at a time when things were still fairly new and shaky. Sansom continues to offer a little more of the backstory related to Matthew Shardlake. Gritty in his way of thinking, Shardlake faces much retaliation as he defends a religious zealot and comes to terms with his own beliefs in the face of a killer who wants to rid the country of non-traditional believers. The thread of religious dedication is an interesting sub-plot that Sansom has added to create more flavour to the Shardlake character. Shardlake remains a keen legal mind and wonderful investigator, working alongside his assistant, Barak. With a few characters from the history books, Sansom injects what many will already know about the heavy hitters of the era, but also finds time to shape new and unknown people to push the story forward. These characters serve various purposes and help to offer a more ‘down to earth’ approach to the story, with a topic that is anything but peaceful. Sansom has a wonderful way of weaving his characters into a glorious tapestry and will not disappoint. The novel is well-paced and offers more Tudor history as England comes into its own from a religious perspective. The novel is by no means out of the realm of any reader, though its topic and analysis can sometimes give it a ‘deeper’ and more ‘intense’ feel, alongside the long and intricate chapters that may be red flags for some readers. The patient reader may enjoy peeling back the layers of history required to digest the larger plot. I am eager that I gave the series another chance and want to get to the core of the Sansom reading experience.

Kudos, Mr. Sansom, for keeping me curious and wanting to know more. There may be many who write about Tudor times, but your mysteries offer a wonderfully unique angle.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: