These days vampires, werewolves and demons inhabit modern-day settings, not towers or dank dungeons, thus enabling them to make pithy statements on our lack of “humanity.” The combination has been amazingly successful, as you can see from a glance at the TV schedules. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before such a tale was set into an historical context.
The main protagonist is an ageing Royalist called Richard Treadwell, in exile following Parliament’s victory in the English Civil War. He ekes out a meagre existence as a spy and mercenary while trying to avoid becoming entangled in wildly optimistic royalist conspiracies, the latest of which is a madcap scheme to assassinate Oliver Cromwell. Unfortunately his secret employer Cardinal Mazarin has wind that something very evil is at the heart of this plot, and Treadwell is ordered to take up the commission.
Treadwell duly travels to England, where he discovers his family have been dealt with harshly by the fanatical Fifth Monarchy movement, who believe Christ’s return is imminent. Their leader Gideon is trying to help this process along by black magic rituals. The “angel” summoned instructs him to kill Cromwell too. So Treadwell, ordered to assassinate Cromwell for the king, now has to save him to frustrate those dabbling in the brimstone.
I thought the union of historical novel and supernatural horror story didn’t fit very comfortably. A country full of religious zealots doesn’t seem to mention God all that much, and surely they would spot the Lucifer allusion? The storyline develops too slowly and there are far too many subplots involving Richard’s family, his mistress, the Freemasons and the Jews that don’t really go anywhere. On the plus side, Treadwell himself is an interesting and very different kind of hero.