Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gortner


Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner's The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the
queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

St. Martin's Griffin | July 16, 2013 | 352 pages (United States and Canada)
Hodder & Stoughton | July 18, 2013 | 352 pages (United Kingdom)

My Review

4.5 Stars

Full of rich detail that helps to bring the Tudor period to life, The Tudor Conspiracy, the second Spymaster Chronicles novel, illustrates why C.W. Gortner is one of the finest historical novelists writing today.   First introduced in The Tudor Secret, Brendan Prescott, trusted friend to Princess Elizabeth, once again takes centre stage in this novel.  Living away from court after his previous adventures there almost cost him his life, Brendan is called upon by William Cecil to insinuate himself back into court life in order to investigate a possible plot by the Spanish ambassador to discredit Elizabeth.   Operating under the name Daniel Beecham, Brendan isn't long at court before he is called upon by Queen Mary to uncover evidence of Elizabeth's plotting.  Determined to protect Elizabeth from the scheme to bring her down, Brendan quickly realizes that there is much more to the plot than meets the eye, and he must act quickly if he hopes to save Elizabeth from her very determined foes. 

Much like Gortner's previous novels, The Tudor Conspiracy contains all the elements I look for in great historical fiction.   Not only is the book filled with the right amount of historical detail needed to create a strong sense of both time and place, it is evident that historical accuracy is important to Gortner, who takes liberties only where necessary to advance his story.  Basing the characters of both Princess Elizabeth and Queen Mary on what is known of their personalities, Gortner does a commendable job of bringing both of these formidable women to life.  I especially enjoyed Gortner's portrayal of Mary.   The novel's hero, Brendan Prescott, is well-drawn and, even though he has his faults, easy to root for.   The narrative itself moves quickly, is well-written, and keeps the reader turning the pages.   The mystery at the heart of the story is both interesting and, given the intrigues that were part of life in the Tudor court, entirely plausible.   Although The Tudor Conspiracy is the second novel in a series, I think it can be read as a standalone given Gortner does a good job infusing necessary background into the story.   Nevertheless, given I'm not the type of reader who likes reading series out of order, I do recommend starting with The Tudor Secret.   I'm looking forward to finding out what Brendan Prescott gets up to next.

Recommended to historical fiction enthusiasts who enjoy historical thrillers, as well as those who like novels set during the Tudor era. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Tudor Conspiracy is currently on tour!  Click here to check out the tour schedule. 

About the Author

C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at for more information.  You can also follow Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.

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