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The Secret Lion (The Spymaster Chronicles #1)

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  2,354 Ratings  ·  353 Reviews
Meticulously researched, filled with the pageantry and perils of Tudor England, THE SECRET LION begins the story of a man's rise to power in the Elizabethan secret service, the first book in The Spymaster Chronicles.
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published September 30th 2004 by Heliographica Press
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Asteropê No, the TV show is not based off this book or any other previously written novel(s). Tudors was written and created by Michael Hirst. There are a…moreNo, the TV show is not based off this book or any other previously written novel(s). Tudors was written and created by Michael Hirst. There are a number of tv-tie-ins of novels based off the TV show, but not the other way around as far as I can find. See here:
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Community Reviews

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B the BookAddict
Sep 03, 2015 B the BookAddict rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction/faction lovers
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Diane S's review

Set in those fractious days both preceding and following the death of Edward VI, C.W. Gortner places his fictional squire, Brendan Prescott, into the story. A foundling at birth and brought up in the Dudley household, he seeks to unearth the secrets surrounding his birth. Tasked with a clandestine errand to Princess Elizabeth by Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, he simultaneously finds himself escorting Princess Mary, and acting as a spy for Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, the Master Sec
This is the first Gortner novel I've read and while I love reading novels set during this period this one hasn't turned out to be a favorite of mine.

Brendan Prescott, foundling raised along side the powerful Dudley family, comes to court to serve Robert Dudley. In his attempt to follow his master's first command he meets Princess Elizabeth Tudor and finds himself captivated, then pulled into the complicated world of politics during the reign of Edward VI.

I thought the mystery was decent enough
Although I have enjoyed other works by Mr. Gortner, I could only read a chapter of The Tudor Secret before I put it down telling my boyfriend, "This is much too fake to read". Perhaps it is because I have been in more of a actual history kick for the past year versus historical fiction or perhaps it is because of the fact that book was reading more like a high school drama club play. Granted, if I had stuck it out, then it may have progressed better. Call me a quitter, but I just couldn't read a ...more
Oct 15, 2008 C.W. added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
A rousing historical adventure set in the Tudor court, during final days of Edward VI's reign- a time of danger, deceit, and courage. Brendan Prescott, a foundling reared in Dudley household, arrives at court to serve as a squire to the arrogant Lord Robert Dudley. Keen and ambitious, Brendan hopes to gain advancement in his new post - until Lord Robert dispatches him on an illicit mission to the King's enigmatic sister, the Princess Elizabeth, and Brendan discovers that nothi
KJ, Madame Librarian
A young white boy discovers he is *~special~* in this ground-breaking tale. In a stunning turn of events, all the major female players (which include Elizabeth I, Mary I, and Frances Brandon of Suffolk) are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs who exist only to help this *~special~* young white boy find *~the truth~*.

Ever author who blurbed on the back of this book should feel bad about themselves.

PS: The cover wardrobe is inaccurate. Just for the record.
**2.5 stars for plot/0.5 star for narration**

The Tudor Secret was more historical fiction than anything, unless you count the "mystery" of Brendan Prescott's birth, which I don't (when I read a mystery, I'm looking for dead bodies.) The book was set at an interesting time in history, during the last days of Edward VI and the fight for the throne among all the Tudors, including Jane Grey, Mary Tudor and of course, Elizabeth.

The whole mystery of Brendan's parentage was pretty obvious (I could tell
Amy Bruno
I am a huge fan of C.W. Gortner’s The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Last Queen and so when the opportunity to review The Tudor Secret came my way, I quickly seized it! And I was not disappointed!

As a newborn babe Brendan Prescott was abandoned on the grounds of the powerful Dudley family. Taken in and raised at Dudley Castle, Brendan is tormented daily by the Dudley brothers, in particular the handsome, yet arrogant Robert. As the book opens, we find Brendan riding towards the court
Feb 19, 2008 Holley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once you step into the luxurious pages of The Secret Lion, you will find yourself on an excursion full of intricate plots, rich settings and historical themes. The time is sixteenth century Tudor England, during the riveting and exquisite renaissance period.
Ravin Maurice
Jan 23, 2013 Ravin Maurice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to force myself to not finish this book in one sitting, and even then it kept me up till the wee hours of the morning.
But I can't say enough about C.W. Gortner. He's remarkable in so many ways, and weaves the most amazing stories!

The Tudor Secret revolves around Brendan Prescott, a foundling who was reared in the Dudley household, and what happens to him when he comes to the court of Edward VI to serve Robert Dudley. Gortner kept very close to the facts as I understand them in and surrou
Feb 03, 2011 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction readers should thank Mr. Gortner for choosing to take us along with his imagination and give us such tales of what might have been. It takes a strong knowledge of time, place and history to be able to weave a story that at its core is completely based in fiction but populated by icons. Yet that is exactly what Mr. Gortner does with this first book in his Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles.
We meet young Brendan Prescott as he is making a journey to London. A foundling, Brendan w
Feb 14, 2011 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I won this in a Goodreads first reads giveaway, which I was very excited about. Free books; yay! They asked for a review, so here it is.

What I liked about the book: I find the time period absolutely fascinating. I thought the author did a great job interweaving fiction with non-fiction. The Tudors are the ultimate dysfunctional family that you hate to love or love to hate. That always makes for great reading. I also liked most of the characters, flawed as they were.

What I didn't like: Wow. I rea
Rio (Lynne)
Feb 16, 2011 Rio (Lynne) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my third Gortner book. The Last Queen is one of my favorites. There is no need to rehash the plot on this one. This book was originally released as The Secret Lion. Gortner has the right recipe in the way he writes his novels. They just flow. From page 1 you feel like you are there living in his world and he gives you a great "fictional" story intertwined with historical facts. The Tudor Secret was a fun read. I give it 3 and 1/2 stars
Lindsay (Little Reader Library)
3.5 Overall an intriguing and enjoyable take on this period.
Sep 20, 2016 Marnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled on this first of a trilogy because I just read The Vatican Princess by this author. I really am liking her books. I have always had interest in the Tudor era along with the Elizabeth era. Another work of fiction based on some true facts. Seems that the Tudor family has many secrets, and the Dudley family is full of some bad seeds indeed. This novel takes place during the era of Elizabeth and Mary half brother Edward is king. He falls to his demise, and the Dudley family is trying to s ...more
Feb 15, 2016 Jewel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
Even though I like Gortner writing and how he brings the period to live, i didn't like the story line much.

The main character Brendan Prescott who is an orphan reared in the Dudley household is brought to court, and suddenly he is thrust into the politics of the court and is trusted by all the powerful people, be it Princess Elizabeth or Mary.

I found that the main fault in the book was Brendan, he was not a clear character, at times a bit naive and un informed, at the other times too smart.
And i
Here's another in a long string of books that serve only to make me wonder why on *earth* I'm still reading historical fiction, especially pre-Victorian histfic. I didn't document the read much as I went along, but the notes I did make on Goodreads are about anachronisms (Renaissance insomniacs!) and typos (Amy Robart? That one seems to have been a narrator error) (and the Captain Obvious moment "Papists were Catholics". There you go). (I just checked: says earliest use ...more
Isabel  Almeida (Os Livros Nossos)
Leia a crítica completa no Blog Os Livros Nossos em

(...) O protagonista da trama é Brendon Prescott, um jovem abandonado e acolhido pela poderosa família Dudley, é chamado a assumir as funções de escudeiro de Robert Dudley, em Londres na corte de Eduardo VI, o jovem rei que vive sob o jugo manipulador do seu perverso e astuto conselheiro - João Dudley - Duque de Northumberland - pai de Robert.

Tendo sido confiado aos cuidados de uma serviçal - a saudosa D
Xulieta NeveraDeLibros
Una vez más me he encontrado con un libro que puedo encasillar en mis favoritos. El secreto de los Tudor no solo es historia sino que es una gran obra con una buena trama por el que sus personajes bien definidos caminan aportando mucho más de lo que se puede apreciar en la sinopsis.

Una historia que comienza un verano de 1553 con el escudero (Brendan Prescott) de uno de los hijos de la familia Dudley, Robert, en la corte. Personas importantes y una Inglaterra en vilo velando por su rey y queriend
Kathleen Kelly
Feb 24, 2011 Kathleen Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
I love the Tudors!! What can I say? This is a period in history that is so intriqing to me. The politics, the machinations of the court, King Henry and all those wives, his children ,Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth. The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner, is the first book in the trilogy 'The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles'. It starts when sickly King Edward is on the throne and Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth are hidden away for their protection from the Dudley family. Enter Brendan Presc ...more
Won on Good Reads First Reads Jan, 25, 2011. Received on Feb 01, 2011. Can't wait to read it!

"The Tudor Secret" is a novel set in the Summer of 1553 in Tudor England. Brendan Prescott is a fondling (an orphan) who was raised in the Dudley household as a stable boy. At the age of twenty he is brought to court to further serve the Dudley family as squire to one of their sons, Robert. Squire Prescott is sent on an illicit mission to deliver something to Princess Elizabeth. While engaged in this mis
Mar 06, 2011 Misha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Everyone has a secret.
Like the oyster with its grain of sand, we bury it deep within, coating it with opalescent layers, as if that could heal our mortal wound. Some of us devote our entire lives to keeping our secrets hidden, save from those who might pry it from us, hoarding it like a pearl only to discover that it escapes us when we least expect it, revealed by a flash of fear in our eyes when caught unawares, by a sudden pain, a rage or hatred, or an all-consuming shame.

The Tudor Secret is t
"The Tudor Secret" isn't my usual type of historical novel. I have a tendency to prefer novels about real people, not created characters. Having said that, "The Tudor Secret" was well written and very entertaining, in a boys-own, rollicking tale sort of way.

Brendan Prescott, squire to Robert Dudley is a man with a secret. A secret he doesn't even know about! As the book progresses, we learn part of what that secret is. Enough that I am hoping for more books in the series, so I can learn more.

I c
First Sentence: "Everyone has a secret."

Brendan Prescott is an orphan raised in the Dudley household in the mid-1500s. The Dudleys are at the height of their power during the reign of the young king Edward VI. Brendan is brought to court to serve as Robert Dudley's squire, but soon finds himself caught up in plots and missions for Lady Elizabeth's protector, William Cecil, in the tumultuous year of 1553. Amid all the intrigue and danger, Brendan finds time for romance and friendship and starts t
Colleen Turner
The first book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles, The Tudor Secret introduces the reader to Brendan Prescott, a foundling raised in the Dudley household and one who's very blood hides a secret many would do anything, even kill, to keep hidden.

When Brendan arrives at court in the summer of 1553 to be squire to Robert Dudley, he finds his life instantly turned on its head when he begins working as a spy for William Cecil, Princess Elizabeth's most trusted advisor. He is charged with finding
Jan 14, 2012 Bat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently this book can be found under two titles: "The Secret Lion" or "The Tudor Secret". I can't tell if it didn't find an audience when it was originally published or recent Tudor-mania made it a hit.

I picked it up under the "The Tudor Secret" title. Here's my problem: if you know *anything* about Tudor history (or even farther back then that, in the many twists and turns of the monarchy of the British isles) you're going to be very... confused. Unless you can *completely* suspend reality a
Oct 30, 2010 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Secret Lion is the first novel in the Spymaster Chronicles by C.W. Gortner, writer of historical fiction.

The Secret Lion is set in 1553 at the height of scandal in the Tudor dynasty and follows Queen Elizabeth and her lover Robert Dudley. Our main protagonist is Brendan Prescott, a man of lowly rank who serves the Dudley household and becomes part of a plot to save Queen Elizabeth when her brother King Edward VI mysteriously disappears. The loyal Brendan functions as a spy, and we soon learn
Laurel Bradshaw
Setting: England, London, Whitehall Palace

Time: 1602, 1553

Main characters: Brendan Prescott - an orphan raised in the Dudley household, Princess Elizabeth, Edward VI, William Cecil - Baron Burghley.

First paragraph: "Everyone has a secret.
Like the oyster with its grain of sand, we bury it deep within, coating it with opalescent layers, as if that could heal our mortal wound. Some of us devote our entire lives to keeping our secret hidden, safe from those who might pry it from us, hoarding it like
Tudor Book Blog
Aug 30, 2013 Tudor Book Blog rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A The Tudor Book Blog Review(


This story follows an orphaned stable boy, Brendon Prescott, on a search to discover his past, as well as save the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth.

Found abandoned as a baby, he is taken in by the powerful Dudley family. When he is old enough, he is called to the Royal Tudor Court, ruled by the young Edward VI. Though Robert Dudley has shown his obvious distaste for Prescott, Prescott is assigned to become his squire. His first m
Aug 12, 2013 Marg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have long been a fan of C W Gortner, not only because of how much I enjoy his books, but also because of the gracious way in which he interacts with his readers. I really enjoy the way that he has previously focused on not necessarily unknown characters but rather lesser known characters from European history like Juana, queen of Spain (sister to Catherine of Aragon), or Catherine de Medici. Right from when I first read him I have enjoyed his voice and his portrayal of powerful, flawed women.

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Historical Myster...: The Spymaster Chronicles by C. W. Gortner 5 52 Sep 18, 2015 01:51AM  
  • In a Treacherous Court (Susanna Horenbout and John Parker, #1)
  • His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester
  • At the Mercy of the Queen
  • Young Bess (Elizabeth Trilogy, #1)
  • In the Shadow of Lady Jane
  • The Queen's Rival (In the Court of Henry VIII, #3)
  • To Serve a King
  • Her Mother's Daughter: A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor
  • King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew All Their Secrets
  • The Poyson Garden (Elizabeth I, #1)
  • The Sixth Wife
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court
  • The Queen's Gamble (Thornleigh, #4)
  • Her Highness, the Traitor
  • To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (Ladies in Waiting, #1)
  • Three Maids for a Crown
  • By Royal Decree (Secrets of the Tudor Court, #3)
  • Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn
Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit him at for more information.
More about C.W. Gortner...

Other Books in the Series

The Spymaster Chronicles (3 books)
  • The Tudor Conspiracy (The Spymaster Chronicles, #2)
  • The Tudor Vendetta (The Spymaster Chronicles, #3)

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