Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner

Title: The Tudor Secret
Author: C.W. Gortner
Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: 2011
Pages: 352

Rating: 4 out of 10

In 1553 England, Brendan Prescott is sent to serve the Dudley family and act as squire to Robert Dudley. Nearly as soon as he arrives in London, he is swept into a swirl of politics and intrigue in a royal court whose young monarch, the fading Edward VI, lies on his deathbed. Vying for the throne are Jane Grey and the two Tudor daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, and each of them have supporters and enemies. Brendan is first asked to spy for Robert, and then to double-spy for William Cecil, a powerful name at court and an ally of Elizabeth's.

I had resolved just a few weeks ago to take a break from Tudor England, since I feel the topic has been more than exhausted in today's popular historical fiction. But, when I saw this one on the Early Reviewer's page, I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and the idea of spies and secret identities and double-crossing. It sounds marvelous, but unfortunately the best thing about this book was the cover.

Not that it was entirely awful, but I can't think of anything in particular that was good about it.

I couldn't bring myself to be all that interested in any of the characters, especially the main character Brendan. The author wastes no time getting to the action - skipping any chance we had of getting even a good introduction. Brendan seemed silly to me - he's the type who will rustle bushes loudly while "spying," (and he does - more than once). He boldly confronts powerful nobility and royalty in some scenes, but in others, is terrified to even speak to someone in a position of power.
Robert Dudley is cast as "bad," and the author makes no attempt to explore his character. I personally think him a very interesting historical figure, but the author tells us all about how Robert used to beat up Brendan when they were kids, and apparently he has still remained the cruel, more or less stupid bully.

I thought it was suspiciously convenient that Brendan is able to meet with such high nobility in only the first few nights he is at court, and how as soon as Robert asks him to deliver something to Princess Elizabeth, he finds her at once. He then walks alone with her at night - I don't think that a Princess fearing for her life would just agree (or be allowed by her guards) to just stroll off with some unknown man.

Some other things were thrown into the mix that seemed very staged and hurried through.

There was a background romance between Brendan and a lady-in-waiting, which was at first a surprise because from the way Brendan described this woman before, I had thought that she was an old lady. He seems to develop feelings for her overnight, and it never seemed all that convincing to me.

A woman from Brendan's past, who raised him in place of the mother he never had, comes into the story, but only for a matter of minutes. It was just so very pointless and strange.

The third would be Brendan's mysterious identity. It's an overused plot tactic, but one that I normally love if it's well written. But here, it remains just an overused plot tactic. Brendan is a foundling, meaning that his anonymous mother abandoned him when he was a baby and that he was "found" by someone else, who raised him as a servant. He bashes us over the head with this fact repeatedly in the beginning of the book, and for the rest of it, never lets us forget it. Practically by page 2 I knew for certain that he was going to find out something about his heritage, or meet his parents, or something like that.

I just wasn't interested in this book. Even though the action happens fairly quickly, it wasn't exciting because I just didn't care about the characters.

Not all that good, and I will most likely not be reading the next installment in the series.