A Far Horizon (Broken Kingdom)
This is the sequel to Vantrease’s The Queen’s Promise, a narrative of King Charles I, Queen Henrietta Maria, and the English Civil War. Readers who have not read the first volume will find that Vantrease begins this volume very much in media res; most of the main characters are suspended between the losses they have suffered so far and their determination to survive the disasters to come. The feeling of regrouping, unfortunately, carries through most of the novel, as the large cast of point-of-view characters waits, quite literally, for the axe to fall. The impending demise of England’s monarchy eliminates any kind of suspense in the plots that concern the Queen or her children’s loyal protector, Lucy Hay, the brave and passionate Countess of Carlisle. The only characters with choices to make are her fictional ones, James Whittier and Caroline Pendleton, a dashing gambler-turned-printer and a determined street vendor-turned-titled widow, whose affection for each other is obvious to everyone except Caroline.
Vantrease, while a master at evoking the everyday challenges of living in war-torn London, is less adept at romantic tension, and unfortunately, there’s little else to give this narrative any kind of forward motion. The military and political turmoil of the 1640s was astounding, but in this novel it only serves as a muted backdrop to the wary courtship of two frustratingly reserved lovers.