I really enjoyed Reign of the Marionettes by Sheena Macleod. Here is my review:

 

This novel more than lives up to its ‘blurb.’ Part of the blurb tells us the novel is “Set at a time of religious and political turmoil, when the fate of English rule is at stake, and it’s impossible to know who to trust ‘Reign of the Marionettes’ brims with historical detail and intrigue.”

What the reader does not know until after finishing it, is it is an extremely well-written book. The plot and characters are based on the real events of the reign of King Charles II and his Restoration Court.

This turbulent episode of British history is brought alive through Sheena Macleod’s excellent writing. I do wish history had been taught like this during my schooldays.

It has a great plot, no pun intended, as it has more plots and counter-plots than wet days in Manchester. Those plots are so wicked they put Machiavelli to shame. The greatest and most evil of them all (plotters) must surely be Titus Oates. There are no redeeming features of this character who is brought to life through the author’s skill. The novel also contains many other intriguing characters all skillfully weaved into the story one by one. On the good side, there is Powis, a Catholic Lord, his wife, Elizabeth, James of York (the King’s brother), his wife – a young Catholic bride of Italian nobility, and even King Charles himself who seems to try to “do the right thing” in nigh impossible circumstances.

On the other hand, we are introduced to the villains, Titus Oates, Shaftesbury, and others involved in the treasonable plot to ensure no Catholic will ever reign over England. The author also weaves a myriad of other meaningful characters into the story. All play a part, and all are fleshed out by a brilliant writer.

The author also sets the scene well in the prologue in that it depicted the times of Queen Mary, known as “Bloody Mary”, known for her persecution of Protestants.

This is historical fiction at its best. Yes, the backdrop is about the power struggles between the monarch and Parliament, Catholics pitted against Protestants, but there are no religious, sentimental or philosophical arguments about any of those issues. It deals instead with the troubled times, the characters involved, the intrigues, the plots and counter-plots.

Clearly, the book is extremely well-researched evidenced by the author’s notes, and her source materials. But it’s more than just that, the sights and smells are brought to life brilliantly – especially London, as it must have been in this era. I could see it, smell it, hear the cries of the crowds shouting, “No Popery!” I could feel the stone cobbles beneath my feet, the cold and hunger of imprisonment in the Tower or Newgate; and, empathize with the great injustices of the time especially in the highest courts of the land.

The writing style is excellent. The dialogue is excellent. I highly recommend this book. It also has a clever, meaningful title.

This is my freely given, honest and unbiased opinion of a free review copy supplied by the author.


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