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5.0 out of 5 starsGorgeous Gem of a Book
Reviewed in the United States on August 25, 2016
What can I say? Elizabeth Fremantle had me riveted from the first page! Sisters of Treason is a page-turning, heart wrenching, gorgeous gem of a book. An author after my own heart, Fremantle not only delves into the stories of two oft-forgotten ladies of the Tudor Court, but she chooses women who's stories don't have a happy ending. Here, the Grey sisters are deftly crafted in all their humanity. Their interior world is brought to life in vivid detail; each layer is nuanced, yet profound. The portrayals are colored in shades of grey (no pun intended) so, as in real-life, there are no villains or heroes to be found...except, perhaps, Sargent Porter Keyes. Human nature is a complex beast and oftentimes, behavior leaves us with more questions than answers. Such is the case with the Grey sisters and the people that surround them at Court. I was most impressed with the way Mary Grey's physical deformities were addressed. She is clever and beautiful; resourceful and daring. The reader never looks upon her in pity because why should they? Her hunched body is merely a shell for the bright soul it contains. Best of all, Fremantle includes Catherine Carey Knollys and her daughter, Lettice. Extremely important ladies in Elizabeth's Court that are almost always, inexplicably, left out in historical fiction. My heart leapt for joy when my beloved Catherine appeared. To sum things up: Don't Miss This Book!
5.0 out of 5 starsExtremely readable and well-explained Tudor politics!
Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2020
Elizabeth Fremantle does an exemplary job of explaining and humanizing Elizabeth I's fears of coup d'etat by her own cousins. Elizabeth's older sister, Mary I, had successfully defended her reign from the coup d'etat to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Lady Jane, her husband, and her father would face the axe. The remaining Greys, Lady Frances (niece of Henry VIII via his sister Mary), Lady Katherine, and Lady Mary were put in a precarious position by being in the line of succession and in the line of fire.
Elizabeth I, unmarried and without heirs, was the only person who could give her consent for her cousins to marry, and she was determined not to allow Lady Katherine and Lady Mary to marry and have children who could one day challenge Elizabeth's reign. Lady Katherine fell in love, secretly married, and Elizabeth had her imprisoned to stop her from becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, Katherine and her husband were able to thwart her plans, have conjugal relations, and produce two sons. Lady Mary, a dwarf, was reduced to being Elizabeth's servant and plaything. She too would also rebel and marry. Even Lady Frances would remarry for love without Elizabeth's consent.
I really enjoyed this fictional account of the lives of Katherine and Mary Grey, younger sisters of Lady Jane Grey; the ill-fated nine day Queen. I tried to read Leanda de Lisle's "The Sisters Who Would Be Queen"--a non-fiction book of the Grey sisters--a few years back but unfortunately I just couldn't get into it for some reason. This novel however truly brought Mary and Katherine's stories to life for me, much in the same way that Alison Weir's "Innocent Traitor" did for Jane. I greatly enjoyed reading it and found it just as well-written as Ms. Fremantle's first novel "Queen's Gambit". This novel is told from three different perspectives. We have the viewpoint of Katherine Grey, Mary Grey, and then Levina Teerlinc--a Flemish painter who earned her living by painting miniature portraits for members of the English court. Levina's perspective in particular was interesting as it was that of an outsider to the Grey family and the Tudor cirle in which they belonged by right of blood. Furthermore Levina's character allowed the reader to gather a little bit more sense of the common people and how they were affected by the change in monarch and the subsequent changing of religious law. As a follower of the reformed faith Levina takes special interest in Lady Jane Grey's writing, a passion of Jane's that I feel the reader is expected to know about prior to reading this novel. I believe the author expects the reader to have some knowledge of Jane, but perhaps not of Mary or Katherine. This is exactly the boat in which I found myself and therefore I felt as though this novel was perfectly geared towards my knowledge base. Although I can see how Katherine's character may be the favourite of many--she literally jumps from the page with vibrancy--it was Mary's steadfastness that truly resonated with me. In spite of her physical deformity Mary is quick to feel compassion for others, ignoring her own plight completely. Mary is also intelligent and witty, able to navigate the treacherous waters of court by using either her brain or quick wit to determine what to say, when to say it, and who to say it to. Katherine has none of this and therefore for me it was Mary who I truly felt a connection to. I admired her character greatly. I look forward to the next novel by this talented author.
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat Book Definetily Worth Buying
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2014
This is a great novel about two young girls and their families during the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth 1. Although it is fiction, it appears that the author has done a great deal of historical research. It starts in the reign of Mary Tudor. The terror of her reign is vividly described. You had to act convincingly like you were Catholic, even though you were Calvinist Protestant, otherwise you would be burned at the stake. In addition, you had to be careful who you associated with. If someone that you associated with was suspected of being a Heretic, you could be arrested and executed. One of the sisters is the middle sister of Jane Grey, one of Henry the VIII's that was beheaded for treason. Because of sister's possible claim to the throne, both Mary and later Elizabeth keep her under close scrutiny. The book is very interesting and well written
5.0 out of 5 starsSuper novel about Jane Grey and her two surviving sisters
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 9, 2014
The lack of a surviving mail heir, after six different wives, leaves Henry the Eighth's legitimate bloodline and succession firmly in the hands, or rather the veins, of his female children and relatives. When his teenaged son King Edward dies, male power is not exactly relinquished, rather it passes to the men around the throne, men who will scheme and manipulate their way through a system of female rule that most of them detest, or at best represents their religious preference for the realm of England. Jane Grey was a protestant and therefore very attractive to the religious reformers as a sympathetic monarch, and to be honest through her Tudor descent from Henry's sister, she would have been a legitimate and possibly more stable monarch than Henry's eldest daughter Mary who was as fanatically Catholic as her mother Catherine of Aragon.
The author opens her excellent tale with the unbearably sad execution of seventeen year old Jane Grey after a reign lasting a mere nine days, heartbreakingly blindfolded and trying to locate the block on which she will lose her head. She has been manipulated into marriage with Guildford Dudley by their ambitious fathers, but Mary Tudor secures sufficient support to mount a successful coup d'etat thus condemning both fathers, the son and the daughter-in-law to death for treason. The beheading of Jane Grey is a poignant and defining event. This happens almost immediately in the narrative and is wonderfully well written, showing how the state sponsored brutality of ambitious men was ruthlessly carried out : the shadow cast by this event compromises the lives of her mother Frances, and her two sisters Katherine and Mary. Frances, supported by her friend the court painter Levina Teerlinc, must watch her child die, the beautiful and romantic Katherine is forbidden to marry as she might produce male children who could destabilise the queen, whilst the youngest, little hunchbacked Mary Grey is brought to court to act as kind of human pet for Queen Mary Tudor and treated disgracefully. Queen Mary's swift marriage to King Philip of Spain consolidates religious persecution and Jane Grey's judicial murder has been the bride price demanded by the Spanish negotiators.
Katherine is also bound to the court so that she can be closely watched, and must fake her adherence to the old faith, whilst all around her so called heretics are burned alive for their beliefs. The aging Queen believes herself capable of bearing an heir, but when her symptoms eventually prove to be those of disease rather than pregnancy, a disillusioned Philip departs and leaves her to her fate. On her death, the protestant Princess Elizabeth ascends the throne to (not quite!) universal acclaim, but it is little crippled Mary Grey who senses that while outwardly everything has changed, for them nothing ever will. How right she is: the new Queen shows no inclination for marriage and children, thus leaving the Grey sisters as exposed as ever to those who would manipulate their lineage and Tudor blood. Levina is a constant support to the Greys, despite her own demanding career and a marriage that is becoming ever more troubled amid religious tensions as Veena's husband and son leave for a safer haven, whilst she will not abandon her friend's two vulnerable daughters.
The lives and struggles of the two remaining Grey sisters are vividly imagined by this absolutely excellent author as they try to forge lives for themselves in a climate of suspicion with the unremitting fear that they might share their sister's destiny.
No-one who loves historical fiction will be disappointed in this superbly constructed book. Great stuff.
4.0 out of 5 starsBelievable story of the tragic grey sisters
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 12, 2014
After reading and enjoying the queens gambit I pre ordered sisters of treason. Elizabeth Fremantle writes interesting & gripping historical fiction that's much better than some of the chick lit historical fiction bodice rippers! Id day she's well on the way to competing with Phillipa Gregory & Alison Weir. I haven't given this book 5stars as it started well but went off kilter and dragged for a chapter or two as the scene was being set, but did pick up to become a very good read. We all know the tragedy of the grey sisters and I have visited beautiful bradgate park many times. If you've enjoyed this I highly recommend the sisters who would be queen by the excellent leanda de lisle
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 30, 2015
The little known story of what happens after the execution of Lady Jane Grey, from the view point of her sisters Mary and Katherine. It,s so well written and heart breaking. If you think Mary 1 treated Jane unfairly you will be shocked at Elizabeths attitude towards the two sisters. I read Elizabeth Freemantles first book Queens Gambit, about Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry V111, and it was just as brilliant. Can,t wait for her next book.
5.0 out of 5 starsThis is an excellent historical novel
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 17, 2015
This is an excellent historical novel. I felt I was there and couldn't put it down. It made me feel very different about Lady Jane Grey, and I thought Queen Elizabeth was quite cruel to the Grey sisters. There is no way she would have had done to her what she did to them. I fully recommend this book to any historical novel lover. The Tudor's were very cruel to anyone close to the throne at that time.
5.0 out of 5 starsA different approach to the Tudor succession
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 6, 2015
I haven't read any of Elizabeth Fremantle 's books before but I would like to read more.This book is a fresh approach to the Lady Jane Grey tragedy in that it revolves around the lives of her sisters Katherine and Mary. Well written with sensitivity ,it was easy to relate to the main characters.would recommend.