The Tudor Secret
C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) is an intriguing mystery – a labyrinth of a story that twists and turns us well and surely, deep in an intricate maze set in Tudor Times. Pulled along by this well-plotted tale with a wonderful list of characters, the reader journeys with the main character, Brendan Prescott, to discover the truth whilst keeping hold of the author’s “What if?” thread. Historical possibilities are rendered possible through a carefully choreographed story.
Gifted writers conjure words into magic: with a few words, a well-crafted sentence, a door opens and we’re taken to another time and place. In his first published novel, C.W. Gortner shows himself a gifted writer and a magician at his craft. His prose brings alive Tudor England; prose also making us smell the evil of ambition and the lust for power emitting from the final days of the dying boy King, Edward VI.
His story, taking us swiftly into the midst of Tudor intrigue, hooks the reader from first page to last – and becomes almost impossible to put down, especially when the story gets us thinking like a detective, who, what and why? Similar to the very likeable Brendan Prescott, whose life and identity are struck to its very core by the events of this story, we too seek for answers.
Gortner depicts the Tudor personages from this time with insight, skill and confidence. His Elizabeth Tudor is an absolute jewel of creation, portrayed so powerfully and vividly.
In her own times, and hundreds of years later to our present time, Elizabeth caught many in her web of enchantment. With great passion for his subject, Gortner does her justice – we see her charisma, her strength, her intelligence, her vulnerability and her loyalty to those she loves – all reasons why she too was loved.
Brendan says to the reader on first really meeting Elizabeth:
“There are moments that define our existence, moments that, if recognized, are pivotal turning points in our life. Like pearls on a chain, the accumulations of these moments will in the end become the essence of our youth, and provide solace when our end draws near. For me, meeting Elizabeth Tudor was one of those moments”.
This passage struck a true chord for me, for I too have a pivotal turning point in my own life when a history of a dead queen set my feet on the road I walk today. I fell in love with Elizabeth as a child and I have never stopped loving her. It was a joy to see C.W. Gortner’s vision of her so akin to mine.
Tears came to my eyes when Elizabeth appeared early in the story leading a hound she called Urian. Those of us knowing the history of her mother, Anne Boleyn, know she too had a dog by this name. In The Tudor Secret, this scene conveys so vividly the depth and kind of emotion Elizabeth still feels toward the mother, a mother taken from her before the age of three.
Elizabeth isn’t the only Tudor character I enjoyed meeting in The Tudor Secret. Gortner’s Mary Tudor is spot on – the good woman whose life’s tragedy was to be born Tudor. Barnaby, childhood friend of both Elizabeth and her brother Edward, also comes vividly to life in this story, as too did Lady Jane Grey and her terrible, heartless mother.
The first in a series, The Tudor Secret is a superb introduction to a gifted Tudor writer so clearly passionate about this period and its people.
- Treasures of the Royal Courts, Tudors, Stuarts and Russian Tsars – opens March 9th at the Victoria and Albert Museum (winningreview.co.uk)
- Leeds Castle (theprinceinthetower.wordpress.com)
- Queen Elizabeth I Biography (mademan.com)
- The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien (readinginthesunshine.wordpress.com)