The Tyrant's Shadow by Antonia Senior

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The Tyrant's Shadow by Antonia Senior

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A slice of post-English Civil War life from three viewpoints showing Cromwell's governmental dilemma vividly alongside the chaos and fear of everyday life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1782396611

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Warning: spoilers ahead for Treason's Daughter. Patience lives with her widowed brother, William, helping to care for his son Richard (nicknamed Blackberry). Despite the Civil war ending, the times are still uncertain. Cromwell is increasingly annoyed with a parliament of rebels refusing to go to the electorate for ratification. William sees this problem at close quarters once he's effectively forced to become Cromwell's legal advisor in an atmosphere poisoned by espionage and religious factions. However when Patience comes across Shadrick Simpson, a charismatic preacher, all becomes clearer for her at least. Meanwhile Sam Challoner, William's brother in law, comes home after privateering with Prince Rupert and realises that the fight at sea is better than peace at home. At least when you're privateering you know who your enemy is.

In this, her third novel, Antonia Senior goes back to the characters she featured in her debut Treason's Daughter. William still mourns his beloved Henrietta who died, ironically, on the same day as Charles I. However his sister is looking forward, marrying an enigmatic itinerant preacher.

It's via him, Shadrick, that we witness the part that religious extremism plays when it comes to filling a vacuum of fear and insecurity. (Sound familiar?) He's a Fifth Monarchist believing that the only true king is Christ therefore anyone on the throne or in government should be preparing the way for the imminent (they thought then) Second Coming. We know Shadrick is less than romantic (that proposal!) but it turns out that's the least of Patience's problems.

Meanwhile we look on as aghast as William at the hassles Oliver Cromwell has acquired. This is the time of the 'Rump Parliament': the transition between monarchy and Commonwealth with no one wanting to complete the switch. The standing MPs feel that the nation has moved on, the moment has passed and no one will vote for them so why call an election? Cromwell isn't pleased, to say the least.

We also reacquaint ourselves with a firm favourite of mine. He may be on the wrong side of the law but Sam Challoner lights up every page on which he appears. We may feel that he's there to be a predictable dénouement but sometimes there's comfort in foreknowledge, even if that foreknowledge isn't a reliable guess. As Henrietta's demise proved, Antonia isn't averse to turning our expectations around from time to time.

Antonia once again brings history alive by melding the facts with the emotions of the moment. We feel the fear, anger and frustration of a nation that has been riven by the pursuit of a better world which now seems even more distant. It must have been a depressing era to live through but in the hands of an historical fiction expert like Antonia, it's a fascinating and incredibly plot-rich era to visit.

Thank you, Corvus, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like to read more of Antonia's work, we highly recommend the Celtic hist-fict The Winter Isles. Interested in another hist-fict around the hassles of Cromwell? SG Maclean brings us exemplary Cromwellian crime thriller in The Black Friar: Damian Seeker 2.

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