Monday, 17 June 2013

Gideon's Angel

I need to make something clear. As a general rule I don't read books about the supernatural and I don't read historical fiction set before the Napoleonic Wars. So why have I just read GIDEON'S ANGEL by Clifford Beal (published in 2013 by Solaris Books [ISBN 978 1 78108 083 2])?


The simple answer is that I know the author ... but I don't want to give the impression that the following review of this book is favourable just because it was written by someone I know ... it is favourable because it is a very good novel.

The main character is Richard Treadwell, a professional soldier who supported the defeated – and subsequently executed – King Charles I, and who now serves in Cardinal Mazarin's Guard. The Cardinal gets wind of a plot by the exiled Royalists to overthrow Cromwell's regime, and that it might involve the use of some form of necromancy. Treadwell is given the task of investigating what is happening, but uses the opportunity it provides to go back to England – for which he has been exiled for life – to see his wife and family. In the process he becomes involved in a plot to kill Cromwell ... and then to save him from being killed by members of the Fifth Monarchy movement who think that they are doing God's work, but who have been duped into using supernatural forces to ensure that England falls under Satan's control. He is aided in his battle against the Forces of Darkness by a French lieutenant (none other than D'Artagnan), the daughter of a fellow exile who is also Treadwell's mistress, a former Parliamentarian soldier (who is also a member of the Ranters), Elias Ashmole (the famous English antiquary, astrologer, and student of alchemy), a Jewish wine merchant (who is also a rabbi), the wine merchant's daughter, and a gypsy-like wise woman.

All the characters are believable, well-rounded, and reflect the numerous contemporary beliefs and scientific/philosophical understanding of the period, so much so that I found it easy to believe the supernatural elements of the book as seen through their eyes. The fight scenes are all exceptionally well described and sound technically correct ... which is hardly surprising as the author is a renowned swordsman. The depictions of seventeenth century Plymouth, Exeter, and London are obviously based on high-quality research, and one could almost smell the sweat and the stench of rubbish and manure that permeated the atmosphere of those places. The story also clips along at a vigorous pace, and I did find it difficult to put down once I started to read this book.

I will certainly read any other books about Richard Treadwell's adventures in seventeenth century Europe. I understand that at least one more book is almost complete and that there may be plans for a third.

PS. My copy of the book came from Amazon UK ... but had the cover intended for the US/Canada edition (ISBN 978 1 78108 084 9).

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like my sort of gig. I don't "do" supernatural myself, but I really enjoy historical novels of any historical period (less enthusiastic about pre-historical - the authors tend to use them to peddle some pet new-agey anthropological "theory" or other).

    A fine and informative review, Bob. I'll keep an eye out for it.
    Cheers,
    Ion

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  2. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    I certainly did not expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. I bought it because I know the author ... but once I began to read it that fact became purely incidental.

    All the best,

    Bob

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