Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Few Thoughts On The Final Sacrament by James Forrester


One Secret Will Be His Undoing.

1566. William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms, has risked his life to protect a secret document, which could endanger Queen Elizabeth’s place on the throne and plunge the country into civil war.  But when his family goes missing, Clarenceux is put to the final test.

Will he abandon queen and country to save the ones he loves, or sacrifice everything for the good of the nation?

Filled with Mortimer’s signature historical detail and vivid characters, The Final Sacrament delivers a dramatic close to the Clarenceux saga that highlights the adventure and spiritual struggles of Elizabethan England.

Sourcebooks Landmark | October 22, 2013 | 496 pages

My Thoughts
  • The Final Sacrament is the third and final installment in James Forrester's William Clarenceux trilogy, following Sacred Treason and The Roots of Betrayal (check out my review for the second novel here).  
  • Like the first two novels in the trilogy, The Final Sacrament centres around a secret marriage agreement that would render Elizabeth I illegitimate.  After agreeing to take possession of the document, Clarenceux spends much of the first two novels evading capture by enemies of the state who want to knock Queen Elizabeth off England's throne and replace her with a Catholic monarch.   In The Final Sacrament, however, Clarenceux's enemies strike at him right where it will hurt the most -- his family.   Does Clarenceux continue to keep the document from his enemies and help prevent a civil war?  Or does he sacrifice England's security to ensure the safety of the people he loves most? 
  • While The Final Sacrament isn't as action packed as Sacred Treason or The Roots of Betrayal, I think this novel is the strongest and best of the three.  Clarenceux is faced with some difficult, heart-wrenching decisions in this book, and Forrester does an excellent job of conveying and communicating Clarenceux's thought process as he seeks to determine an appropriate course of action.  Clarenceux's love for his family is clearly evident, but so too is his earnest desire to keep the secret document from getting into the wrong hands.  
  • Clarenceux's faith plays a large role in this novel.  Although Catholic, Clarenceux holds an important position within Elizabeth I's court, and is a close friend of Secretary Sir William Cecil.  Determined to maintain his faith even though England continues to become increasingly Protestant, Clarenceux is able to reconcile his faith with his support for the monarch, showing that being Catholic doesn't automatically make one an enemy to Elizabeth I.  Ultimately, it is his faith that helps Clarenceux determine a correct course of action in relation to the secret document.  
  • While they appear only as secondary characters in the novel, I enjoyed the interactions between Sir William Cecil and Francis Walsingham.  I especially liked Forrester's characterization of Walsingham, and would love to see him write a novel focusing on Elizabeth's spymaster.   
  • As a historian, Forrester (pen name for Ian Mortimer) is able to infuse his novel with a strong sense of time and place.  Through Clarenceux and his family, Forrester is able to provide readers with a glimpse into daily life in Elizabethan England.  Even though the narrative of this novel is fictitious, through Cecil, Walsingham, and their enemies, Forrester is able to showcase certain threats faced by Elizabeth during her reign. 
  • Even though Forrester provides enough background from previous novels to ensure The Final Sacrament can be read as a standalone, I recommend starting this series from the beginning. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy from the publisher 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 Traveler's Guide to Medieval England (a Sunday Times bestseller). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) by the Royal Historical Society for his work on the social history of medicine.

The Final Sacrament is currently on a blog tour, check out the following blogs for other reviews:

10/11 - Lori's Reading Corner
10/16 - The Girdle of Melian
10/18 - Found Not Lost
10/21 - Radiant Light
10/22 - Turning the Pages
10/23 - Confessions of an Avid Reader
10/24 - Broken Teepee
10/25 - Laura's Reviews

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