Shadowed by his rival, the Queen's chief torturer, Shakespeare travels through an underworld of spies, sorcerers, whores, and theater people---including his younger brother, the struggling playwright Will---to piece together a complex conspiracy, the implications of which are almost too horrific to contemplate.
For a zealous and cunning killer is stalking England's streets. And as Shakespeare threatens to reveal the madman's identity, he and the beautiful woman he desires come ever closer to becoming the next martyrs to the cause.
©2008 Rory Clements; (P)2009 Tantor
"Excellent.... The characters, action and period detail are all solid." (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)
Ordinarily, I am leery of historical settings but this novel was an absolute joy. The story moves fast, is filled with interesting and believable characters, and thrilling action. Our hero's playwright brother is mostly refreshingly absent and the Elizabethan setting serves as the perfect backdrop for this gritty spy novel.
This ripping yarn is a first-rate historical novel and a gripping mystery, read by the excellent Simon Vance. Usually, I don't care for blending fact and fiction, but this one pulled it off through a complex, tangled plot and expert storytelling. I couldn't recommend it more highly!
My favourite reader on Audible, and he delivers a great story - a thriller set in Elizabethan England. The hero is the older brother of William Shakespeare (who makes a cameo appearance in the story). John Shakespeare is a spy for Secretary Walsingham, attempting to foil a plot to assassinate Sir Francis Drake on the eve of the Spanish Armada. Some wonderfully evil villains, a beautiful heroine, lots of action and intrigue and a touch of romance. I enjoyed every minute of this novel.
Genre fiction, trashy to literary--mystery, action, sci fi, fantasy, and, yes, even romance. Also history. Listener reviews help a lot!
It sometimes seems as if all the authors responsible for the recent plethora of novels set in Tudor England feel obligated to include a scene involving drawing and quartering (the gruesome fate of non-noble traitors). When "Martyr" started out with a totally gratuitous detailed description of this horrific form of execution, I almost didn't continue, thinking the book was just going to be a clich??d catalog of titillating tortures.
There is plenty of torturing and plenty of bloodletting and plenty of suffering as the book goes along, but the story picks up pace and gets more interesting (if only barely plausible). I always enjoy Simon Vance???s narrations, and have listened to so many of them that his voice makes me feel right at home. If you like Vance's voice and you???re not yet tired of the Tudors, you???ll probably enjoy this one.
Another choice, if Audible ever gets a chance to offer them, would be Edward Marston's Nicholas Bracewell novels, especially the first one ("The Queen's Head"), which covers similar territory to "Martyr." Like "Martyr," the Bracewell novels have a Shakespearean theater connection, but they are more original (or maybe just seemed that way when I read them back in the 20th century) and less sensationalistic.
The book stated slowly for me but after a few hours I was engrossed in the history of the period and the adventure of the story. Once you realize how hated and hunted the papists of old england where during this period the enjoyment of the plot increases significantly. The villans are well developed in their evilness and deeds. The book becomes fast paced as the plot unfolds and you will find yourself captivated. There is a touch of Victorian eroticism in the story and a love story too. The violence is not excessive. This is not one the novels that disappoints at it's conclusion. Sherlock Holmes would enjoy this adventure! The superior performance by Simon Vance willl confirm once again that he is one of the best if not the best.
If you like historical novels, then give this a try. The narration is great, and the story is a thriller. (the author takes much poetic license, with individuals and happenstance). I would love to see a sequel to this. I really did enjoy Williams brother John Shakespeare, who is an agent for Queen Elizabeth I. There is some really, nasty brutality, and the fact that people can be used like chattel, is not that far fetched, since those in power could be brutal, because they could be. You have to remember the year was 1588, and 99% of the population didn't even have a chamber pot *If you have a weak stomach, you may want pass on this. However I did enjoy the narration and story, and would recommend to friends.
While Martyr has a lot to offer, I was put off by the violence and torture vividly described throughout the book. The similarities of Sansom's Matthew Shardlake to Clement's John Shakespeare are many. Both protagonists are lawyers working for a high level court official. Both are single. One is deformed, the other has a deformed assistant. Both start out supporting the religious crackdown they are assisting in. In the end, I prefer Shardlake, who realized that might does not always make right. John Shakespeare's unquestioned acceptance of torture and killing, and seeming willingness to participate, is off putting. And at the same time, he meets a woman, falls in love, and proposes in the course of a couple of days. A Catholic at that. It just didn't ring true, for either of them. Clement is good at weaving real events and people into the story. I don't know if William Shakespeare actually had a brother named John, but I don't think that connection adds anything to the story, though I assume it must come in handy in a later volume.
Simon Vance is an excellent narrator but the story itself is nothing special. Not terrible, just not all that compelling. The whole Shakespeare connection is silly: Shakespeare's father (John) did have 8 children with Mary Arden, but none was named John. The Shakespeare connection is necessary (or sort of necessary) for part of the plot, but still silly. There are also some grating anachronisms of language which sit particularly badly along side the attempt at sounding like 16th century England. Character development is fairly black and white and the plot itself is nothing memorable.
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