Mum is in hospital again (though so far it appears to be minor) which is making it difficult to focus (plus I got word late last night which jolted me out of sleep) so as with yesterday, I’m too frazzled to write. So a bit of blogging instead (and some ranting from one of Mums prior stays here).
Gideon’s Angel by Clifford Beal is the kind of historical novel I wish I’d written. Literally. Ever since reading The Bloodless Revolution, I’ve been thinking about the religious ferment after the English Civil War and what a great setting it would be for a fantasy. So one thing I learned is that yes, if you have a cool idea, someone else may have it too.
The story: In the wake of the Royalist defeat, Richard Treadwell escaped to France where he’s spent the past two decades serving their king as a mercenary. As he finds his loyalties to the English court in exile bumping up against his duties to his employer, he welcomes the opportunity to go home and launch a counter-revolution against Oliver Cromwell. Turns out the revolutionary army he’s been told is waiting doesn’t exist. However, the Fifth Monarchy Men (who believed overthrowing God’s divinely appointed king could only be the prelude to the Second Coming and the End Times) are getting guidance from a supposed angel directing them to assassinate Cromwell with supernatural aid. Treadwell may not like England’s Lord Protector but he owes him a debt—and seeing England turned over to the forces of Satan doesn’t sit well with him either.
What Else I Learned: Contrary to my thoughts about Midnight Bluelight Special giving out lots of backstory may not be the new black. Although Treadwell narrates, he doesn’t keep sharing the backstories of his friends, lover, the Civil War itself more than we need to know to follow it. He mentioned Naseby, one of the major battles, but no details. We learn a fair amount about Cardinal Mazarin from his actions, but no more than that (Mazarin is a real historical figure an important player in the French government at the time). We don’t learn anywhere near everything about the sorceress Anya.
•If I like the book, I’ll forgive problems. The biggest one being that the ending pretty much makes Treadwell gratuitous to the outcome, due what’s close to a deus ex machina. But it’s not so close it doesn’t work (and it was foreshadowed) and the rest of the book is good enough I’ll forgive it. But as I’ve mentioned before, this is not a lesson I really want to apply in practice.
•There is a market for historical fantasy (though I don’t know if it’s a big one). An editor at Illogicon said historical fantasy and SF were dead as far as novels go; as both Brain From Outer Space and Southern Discomfort are set in the past, I found that depressing, so that Beal got published is conversely encouraging. Of course, it’s quite possible this book sank like a stone on its release (which would be a shame) but it’s still a sign of hope (though I’d be working on the books even without it).
As usual, nothing terribly deep learned, but still of value. Plus it really is a good book, and I recommend it (cover, by the way, is not the same as the paperback edition).