Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: The Roots of Betrayal by James Forrester


Your Choice. Your Faith. Your Fate.

1564: Catholic herald William Harley, known as Clarenceux, guards a highly dangerous document. It's a manuscript he'd rather not have—destruction and death have followed in its wake. But things get much worse when the document is stolen, and he plunges into a nightmare of suspicion, deception, and conspiracy. As England teeters on the brink of a bloody conflict, Clarenceux knows the fate of the country and countless lives hang in the balance. The roots of betrayal are deep and shocking, and the herald's journey toward the truth entails not just the discovery of clues and signs, but also of himself.

In this brilliant new Elizabethan conspiracy from the internationally acclaimed author of Sacred Treason, faith and fear stir up a powerful story of loyalty, lies, and secrets.

Sourcebooks | May 7th, 2013 | 448 pages

My Review

3.5 Stars 

The Roots of Betrayal is the second novel in James Forrester's Clarenceux trilogy, and picks up soon after the first novel in the series, Sacred Treason, ends.  Like the trilogy's first installment, The Roots of Betrayal centres around one man, William Harley, who serves Elizabeth I as herald Clarenceux King of Arms, and one document, a document containing a secret that, if revealed, would threaten the peace of the realm.  Charged by Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth I's principal secretary, with keeping the document safe, Clarenceux is shocked when it is stolen from his home, even more so when the evidence points to someone he trusts as the culprit.   Determined to get the document back at any cost, Clarenceux sets out to recover it.   Along the way he uncovers both truth and lies, and realizes that there is much more to the document's theft than he first believed.

The Roots of Betrayal is fast-paced and action-packed.  Many of the characters featured in Sacred Treason reappear here, including Sir William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I's spymaster.  Although they don't appear often, one of my favourite aspects of this trilogy are the interactions that take place between the formidable Cecil and the suspicious Walsingham.  This book also introduces several new characters, the foremost of which is pirate captain Raw Carew.   Many of these characters are more colourful that the trilogy's regulars and add quite a bit of excitement to the story.  Most of Clarenceux's actions throughout the novel are driven by his desire to prevent conflict, even if they put him at odds with some of the realm's most powerful men.  I didn't always understand or agree with Clarenceux's decisions, though I acknowledge they ultimately led him to discover the extent of the betrayal against him.  Forrester does a good job of keeping the truth of the theft hidden until the very end of the novel, which helps to keep the reader turning the pages.   One of the novel's greatest strengths is Forrester's attention to historical detail, which results in a novel that creates a strong sense of both time and place.  This isn't surprising given James Forrester is the pen name of British historian Ian Mortimer.  While I enjoyed this novel overall, the frequency with which Clarenceux is able to get himself out of difficult situations, often while injured, stretches the bounds of plausibility.  I am nevertheless looking forward to reading the trilogy's conclusion, The Final Sacrament.  

Recommended to fans of historical thrillers and fiction set during the Elizabethan era.  Given that The Roots of Betrayal follows events that occurred in Sacred Treason I do, however, recommend readers interested in this book start at the beginning of the series.  

Note: I received a copy of this novel from Sourcebooks via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

About the Author

James Forrester is the pen name of acclaimed British historian Ian Mortimer, author of nonfiction works including The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England (a Sunday Times bestseller) and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. As Forrester, he is the author of Sacred Treason (Sourcebooks, October 2012), the first novel in the Clarenceaux trilogy. The last installment, The Final Sacrament, will be published in the US in September 2013. Website: Twitter: @IanJamesFM
The Roots of Betrayal is on tour.  Check the links below for additional reviews and some giveaway opportunities:

May 1 - Passages to the Past
May 2 - Devourer of Books
May 6 - Confessions of an Avid Reader
May 8 - Radiant Light
May 9 - Historical Boys
May 10 - Bags Books and Bon Jovi
May 12 – The Girdle of Melian
May 13 - Psychotic State Book Reviews
May 14 - The Book Reading Gals
May 15 - Reading Reality
May 16 - Broken Teepee
May 17 - Booksie's Blog
May 20 - Found Not Lost
May 21 - Turning the Pages
May 23 - Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books

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