Review of Sacred Treason by James Forrester
Overview from www.bn.com: 1563: Anyone could be a suspect; any Catholic could be accused of plotting against the throne. Clarenceux keeps his head down and his religion quiet. But when a friend desperately pleads with Clarenceux to hide a manuscript for him, he is drawn into a web of treachery and conspiracy he may never untangle. Is there no refuge if your faith is your enemy?
Bestselling author Dr. Ian Mortimer, writing as James Forrester, has crafted a chilling, brilliant story that re-imagines how the explosive mix of faith and fear can tear a country apart. Sacred Treason tells a thrilling story of murder, betrayal, and loyalty—and the power of the written word.
This book was a Free Friday offering from Barnes & Noble that was presented as something akin to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I found that description was somewhat misleading.
In an attempt to categorize novels so that potential readers will want to buy them, publishers often try to compare their offerings to something similar that the public already knows about. I think that is what happened here though I see very few similarities between this and Dan Brown’s book. In fact, the only similarities I see are that both stories involve a religious conspiracy and both involve a strong reliance on past events. That is where the similarities end though.
This story takes place entirely in the past, in Elizabethan England to be precise. There are no modern-day detectives involved except for the author describing his investigation of Henry Machyn’s chronicle and that comes after the story finishes.
Also, the author does not seem to be trying to discredit Christianity the way that Brown’s book reportedly did. In fact, although much of the plot centers on the Protestant/Catholic debate, most of the main characters in the book recognize that God works through either faith. I found this refreshing and thoroughly enjoyed the book as a result.
I am glad that I gave this book a chance for it proved to be much better than I expected. In fact, I loved this book. It is definitely one of my favorites that I have read so far this year. I think there is a good chance that it will make it into my top ten favorites for the end of the year.
So what did I love about it? Everything. I can hardly think of a bad thing to say about it. Of course, the first thing I always notice is the story. I don’t want to give away any spoilers as I hope you will read it for yourself and come to love it as much as I did but I will talk a little about the plot.
The story revolves around one William Harley who is a herald by profession and a Catholic in religion. One night an acquaintance of his named Henry Machyn comes to his house after curfew, scaring him to death. Perhaps he should have gone with his first impulse and refused to answer the door because the mission Machyn entrusts him with causes the deaths of many, including a small boy.
Machyn gives him a chronicle that he has been working on. He tells Harley, otherwise known as Mr. Clarenceux, that he must protect this book at all costs because it contains a great secret that will determine the fates of two queens. Clarenceux reluctantly agrees to keep the book while Machyn disappears off into the night.
Worried about Machyn, Clarenceux goes to his house to find him only to find a murderous Sargent-At-Arms waiting for him there. He gets arrested and it seems like the end for him when he is unexpectedly released yet still pursued by this Sargent-At-Arms who goes by the name Crakenthrope.
The plot continues, detailing Mr. Clarenceux’s attempts to hide the book while avoiding capture and the certain death that follows. It turns out that his pursuit involves people all the way up to Mr. William Cecil, right-hand man to Queen Elizabeth herself. Cecil will protect her majesty at all costs and wants to determine once and for all what Mr. Clarenceux’s involvement is and whether or not he is a threat to Elizabeth’s rule.
The next points I will talk about are the characters. We see little of Henry Machyn but he, like Clarenceux, seems caught up in a secret which he is not equipped to deal with. He trusts Clarenceux to do the right thing.
Clarenceux’s opinion about religion and Elizabeth’s role and rule in this debate change constantly though he never waivers from his belief that Catholicism is the right way to go. He is an honorable man however, and in the end he does what he believes to be the right thing for both his family and England as a whole. I found myself liking him all the more for his courage and forthrightness.
The other characters are also entertaining. I don’t know much about the Elizabethan period though I plan to study it soon but I got the sense that most of the characters could have existed and some of them in fact did. What they were really like would be hard to know for certain but I didn’t think the author did them any injustice.
I don’t understand why some of them think that this story is demeaning to Catholics. Though I am not a Catholic, I felt that if anything, it made them look good. As I said before, most of our main characters are Catholics and I found them very likable though I am not a Catholic myself.
Read it yourself to see what you think. If you like mysteries or thrillers you may find this interesting. And of course, historical fiction fans will probably like.
I recently went to the author’s website and found that he has two other books that follow Clarenceux’s life. I guess this is the first of a series then. When I have more money I hope to get an e-book copy of them and review them also. Or (hint, hint) perhaps the author will send a free copy for review my way. Either way, I am looking forward to it.
Contains: some scenes of violence or danger