This is a bit like the Champions League of Tudor-era detective novels, not because it’s particularly top level (the storyline isn’t overly convincing, and Robyn Young’s books about the Crusades were much better generally) but because it features lots of big names from various different countries 🙂 . Whilst it’s not one of the author’s best books, it’s much better than Sons of the Blood, to which it’s the sequel, and it’s worth reading for the cast list alone.
Our hero, Jack Wynter, finds himself in Florence, where he’s taken into the household of Lorenzo de Medici, gets to know the entire Medici family, meets up with Amerigo Vespucci, and rescues the future Ottoman Sultan Dzem. Dzem – as we know from watching The Borgias 🙂 – would almost certainly have been in Rome, not Florence, but Robyn Young, unlike certain other authors, does clearly explain in an afterword where and why she’s taken slight liberties with history. Meanwhile, Jack’s baddie half-brother, Harry Vaughan, is dispatched by Henry VII as an ambassador to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, but accidentally volunteers to join their Reconquista army, fighting alongside Edward Woodville, who did actually join the army deliberately, and considering killing Christopher Columbus but not going through with it.
I didn’t particularly enjoy Sons of the Blood, because there was way too much gratuitous violence and it included a ridiculously implausible Princes in the Tower escape plot, but this one was much better, and hopefully the third book in the trilogy will be too.
The basic idea is that Jack and Harry’s late father had a map which showed the way to what was to become known as the New World, and that he was involved in a secret society which wanted all religions to work together. It’s not entirely clear what the two things have to do with each other, and a lot of other things aren’t entirely clear either, but presumably all the loose ends will be tied up in the third book. This book’s quite disjointed, with Harry’s unintended adventures at the Siege of Loja, Jack’s romance with a girl in Florence, and frequent references to the Princes in the Tower not seeming to have very much to do either with the basic idea or each other, but it’s worth reading for the brilliant descriptions of both Renaissance-era Florence and Reconquista-era Andalusia, and for all the big names we meet along the way.
Incidentally, I could have lived without the Reconquista being made to sound so heroic – the destruction of the great Islamic and Jewish cultures of the Iberian peninsula was a tragedy – but, OK, we’re meant to be seeing it through the eyes of 15th century Christians.
This is definitely a distinct improvement on Sons of the Blood. Even so, Robyn Young’s brilliant books on the Crusades, the Templars and Robert the Bruce, straight historical novels rather than having quite so much about Dan Brown about them, were much, much better; but, as I’ve said, it’s worth reading because it’s got some of the biggest names in early modern European history all in the same book. And that rarely happens. The Renaissance, the Reconquista and the Voyages of Discovery all tend to be taught separately at school, and books usually reflect that. So this makes an interesting change.