The Secret Lion
In this, the first installment of Gortner’s Spymaster Chronicles, we are introduced to a wonderful new character, Brendan Prescott. Is he really a foundling with no pedigree, raised in the Dudley household – or is there more to Brendan than meets the eye?
It is the summer of 1553. Brendan is summoned to Court to serve as squire to the arrogant Lord Robert Dudley. One of Brendan’s first duties is to deliver an illicit message from Dudley to the elusive Princess Elizabeth. Soon, Brendan realizes that nothing is what it seems, for there are plots, counterplots, and conspiracies swirling around him. Brendan’s survival skills are considerable, but even then, he quickly concedes that he is in over his head. Smartly, he enlists the aid of one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting and an astute stable boy.
There are many series featuring Elizabeth and Dudley. There are numerous mysteries where Elizabeth is the heroine, investigator, crafty politician. But in no other series has such a clever and engaging personality as Brendan Prescott pulled all the elements together – Tudor intrigues, Tudor pageantry, the treachery and ingenuity of Court politics – and delivered it to us in such a delightful package. The characters are beautifully drawn (Elizabeth and Dudley are wonderful, and Cecil is, well, Cecil!) and Gortner’s interweaving of plotlines is skillful. I haven’t been this excited about a new series and a new author in a long time, but I take my figurative hat off to C.W. Gortner. He has captured the very essence of Tudor glitz and glamour, and the depravity of it all as well. The book ended much too quickly for me, and I can’t wait for the second installment to arrive.
Oh, and no, Brendan is not a poor foundling. Of course. But then again, nothing is what it seems!