Treason by Berlie Doherty

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Treason by Berlie Doherty

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: Treason is a rich piece of historic fiction, set in the Tudor period, written with great verve by an author who really brings to life the setting and characters.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Andersen
ISBN: 978-1849391214

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Forced by his power-hungry aunt and uncle to leave the comfort of his modest family home, Will Montague finds himself utterly overwhelmed, as he works as a page to Prince Edward under the keen eye of the temperamental King Henry, just as prone to unexpected bursts of compassion as he is to brutal cruelty. Just as he begins to find his feet in this new position, Will finds himself suddenly on the run, desperately trying to clear the name of his father, convicted of treason for failing to revert to the Protestantism led by the King, and simultaneously gaining more awareness of the world he lives in and the plights of the working class.

Within reading the first few chapters you will realise that Berlie Doherty is an accomplished writer, as she somehow brings to life the setting and the various historical figures very subtly, without having to resort to elaborate, flowery descriptive passages. The pacing of the novel is particularly engaging, never spending too much time on just one scene, transitioning swiftly from Will's superficial pride in appeasing King Henry so as to remain his favourite, to returning home and experiencing the harsh reality of the King's rule from a very different viewpoint, to developing a nascent understanding of the integral flaws of the class system as he is accompanied by the cheerful commoner Nick Drew in a desperate mission to save his imprisoned father. Through Will's position as a page to Prince Edward, the future King, you get to see various intriguing sides to the infamous King Henry's psyche. Religion was a provocative issue during the Tudor period and Doherty manages to handle this aspect of the period well, integrating it into one of the main driving forces behind the plot, as Will's father refuses to give up his faith despite the threat of execution looming over him. I don't remember any anachronisms, and even if there are any, you will find yourself enjoying the narrative so much that you don't notice them.

I also appreciated how a lot of emphasis was placed on character development, with even the secondary characters from the obnoxious Lord Percy, jealous of Will's initial success, to the enigmatic but kindly Widow Susan, all having unique interesting personalities that add to the entertainment value of the story. Will's gradual development from a troubled and weak child, plagued by the guilt of the death of his brother, to a young man with the passion and confidence to stand up to the temperamental and overwhelming King in order to save his father, makes for a wonderful story that is enhanced by the author's expert writing style really allowing you to connect and empathise with the protagonist. Will's narrative works very well to capture the atmosphere of his experiences, filled with imaginative imagery and suffused with genuine emotion. The adventure lacks action, but emotions are kept high and you become easily invested in the characters, thereby making the climatic moments, which are finely done by Doherty, all the more thrilling.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

The Devil and his Boy by Anthony Horowitz is a similarly page-turning read set in Tudor times with a young male protagonist. Meanwhile, Linda Buckley-Archer's Gideon the Cutpurse, is a fine start to a trilogy that combines historical fiction with some fascinating time travel conundrums that I would highly recommend.

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Buy Treason by Berlie Doherty at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Treason by Berlie Doherty at


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