Forrester brings his Elizabethan-era trilogy (Sacred Treason, 2012, etc.) to a fitting and dramatic close.
William Harley, the Clarenceux King of Arms, is a Catholic who is loyal to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth. He unwillingly possesses a document that can destroy her reign and restore the Catholic Tudors to the throne. Worse, it can ignite a civil war. Unfortunately, enemies of the queen know he has the document and hound him relentlessly to give it up. But William, usually referred to in the story as Clarenceux, is a man of unflinching devotion to both his queen and his family. The ensuing conflict yields a good many dead bodies, often of innocent bystanders. Will his beloved wife and daughter be among them? Whom can he trust? He would like simply to destroy the document, but that entails dangers as well. Meanwhile, Forrester takes pains to authentically convey what life must have been like in days of yore. The smells, the muck and filth, the violence and the hangings for petty theft will all make the reader appreciate being alive today and not then. Yet there is a spirit binding Clarenceux to his family, his queen and his God that feels both pure and genuine—without being a cliché, he is a model of courage and honor. Now and then, the story’s dialogue has two Williams addressing each other by name, which can be confusing, but that’s a small matter. (The author’s note mentions that, in the 16th century, most men were named John, Thomas or William.) Much more important is the intensity of the struggle, with its evenly matched combatants. For Clarenceux, it’s all about doing what’s right, no matter the obstacles.
An enjoyable yarn. Sensitive readers might shed a tear or two at the end, so keep the tissues handy.