Sacred Treason by James Forrester
Published by Sourcebooks
It starts for Clarenceux with a knock on the door late at night. As a a Catholic in Elizabeth I’s England, he worries about late night knocks at the door; despite his loyalty to the Queen there is always the worry a Catholic subject will come under suspicion by the queen’s spies. On that fateful night, however, the knock is not one of the queen’s men, but Clarenceux’s old friend, Henry Machyn. Machyn looks frantic and has broken curfew to be there and give Clarenceux a book. It is not just any book, but a book with the potential to get both men in deep trouble: Machyn tells Clarenceux that the fate of two queens is tied up in this chronicle and that if anything happens to him, Clarenceux will know how to decipher the text. Unfortunately for Clarenceux, Elizabeth’s spymaster Walsingham is aware of the existence of the chronicle and believes it to be very dangerous. He and his goons will stop at nothing to get the book if it will, as they believe, keep their queen safe.
Forrester accomplished something interesting in Sacred Treason: he made me root for the people involved in a possible Catholic plot against Elizabeth I. Typically my sympathy is unwaveringly with Elizabeth and the men tasked with protecting her. Part of the appeal of Clarenceux, of course, is that he did not ask to become involved in any plot, but is instead pulled in by Machyn’s delivery of the chronicle and the appearance of Walsingham’s henchmen before he has time to figure out what to do with it.
I was not quite as impressed with Forrester’s prose while writing fiction, I prefer his writing style when he writes nonfiction under his real name, Ian Mortimer. In fact, I really like his Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England. That being said, Sacred Treason has an engaging plot and good characterization. These attributes, combined with Forrester’s extensive knowledge of the time period make Sacred Treason an easy book to pick up and get lost in for an hour or two.
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