Miles's Reviews > The Roots of Betrayal

The Roots of Betrayal by James Forrester
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's review
Oct 13, 2011

really liked it
Read from October 13 to 15, 2011

1564: Catholic herald William Harley, Clarenceux King of Arms, is the custodian of a highly dangerous document. When it is stolen, Clarenceux immediately suspects a group of Catholic sympathisers, the self-styled Knights of the Round Table. Francis Walsingham, the ruthless protégé of the queen's Principal Secretary, Sir William Cecil, intercepts a coded message from the Knights to a Countess known to have Catholic leanings. He is convinced that Clarenceux is trying to use the document to advance the cause of the Catholic Queen. And soon Clarenceux enters a nightmare of suspicion, deception and conspiracy. Conflict and fear, compounded by the religious doubts of the time, conceal a persistent mystery. Where has the document gone? Who has it and who really took it? And why? The roots of betrayal are deep and shocking: and Clarenceux's journey towards the truth entails not just the discovery of clues and signs, but also the discovery of himself.

A little over a year ago I read Sacred Treason by James Forrester - the Pen name of Ian Mortimer – and was immediately hooked into the trials and tribulations of William Harley and his family in 16th century England. In The Roots of Betrayal, the second of a trilogy featuring Clarenceux King of Arms, Harley is back with a vengeance determined to ensure the safety of not only his family but a document that would have serious repercussions around England – the Percy/Boleyn marriage agreement – should it be discovered and used to bring down the reign of Elizabeth.

In his author notes at the end of his book, James Forrester reemphasises that The Roots of Betrayal is a work of pure fiction and should not be considered historically accurate. That’s all well and good but for someone – me - with incredibly limited knowledge of the Elizabethan era I absorbed his narrative with gusto and found myself living the life of a gentleman in the late 16th century. For me, the main goal of an historical fiction book is to entertain and give the reader a flavour of what life could have been like, I stress could. In The Roots of Betrayal the sights, sounds and incredibly pungent aromas come alive and you – as the reader – are effortlessly transported back into a time when religion played a key role in shaping a country where Catholicism was illegal and various conspiratorial gatherings necessary to keep the religion alive.

Full review on my blog

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