Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cova Reviews ARCs | The Cardinal's Court, by Cora Harrison

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book via the publisher (The History Press). This does not affect the content of the following review in any way, which expresses my honest opinion on the book

Hello, everyone! Today I bring to you Cora Harrison's new novel, The Cardinal's Court, which will hit bookstores in just a couple of weeks - July 1st this year. It is a historical mystery set in the Tudor medieval time, with real historical characters like Anne Boleyn or Henri VIII, as well as fictional ones like our protagonist - lawyer Hugh Mac Egan. It is the first novel to what is going to be called the Hugh Mac Egan MysteriesUp until this book I hadn't read any fictional works set before the XX century, and I found it very informative. It gave me an itch to look for more historical fiction about this period!

I found Goodreads' synopsis to be quite confusing, to be honest, so I've written a much simpler one myself for you (you're welcome 😎):

Hugh Mac Egan - an Irish Brehon lawyer who works for the Earl of Northemberland in Ireland, travels to Hampton Court to legally arrange the marriage between the Earl's son, James Butler, and Anne Boleyn. However, when he gets there the Instructor of the Guards is murdered while the King himself is in the palace, and all clues point towards James as the suspected murderer. It is in Hugh's hand to find the real murderer to clear his employer's son of the harsh punishment implemented by the English law of the beginning of the 16th century. 

First of all, let me just comment on the amount of research that has been put into this book - there are details that are amazingly precise, as is explained at the end of the book. Because the story is set in a very well documented and known age (Tudor's) -which I have to admit I am far from being an expert on-, as I was reading I wondered whether what I was being told actually happened in real life. I was confused as to what parts of the novel were real and which were the product of the author's imagination, and I was gladly surprised to find a few pages at the end of the book in which you are explained just that. Those were super useful, although I would have liked the explanation to be a bit more thorough. A lot of my questions were answered nonetheless! Moreover, the author has kindly left a list of history works to check out in case we want to know more about particular areas of the history, which I thought was really sweet :)

The mystery we're given is intriguing - someone has killed a man and is trying to put the blame on a boy who has nothing to do with it, and, according to English law, he is guilty until proven otherwise. So the true murderer has to be found. I thought it was smooth how Hugh finds out about certain stuff that can certainly be taken as a clue but is not presented to you that way - you're just being told it as a fact, and left to decide whether that should be counted as a clue, which I liked. Also, I found quite funny that the one trying to solve all of this is not a detective but a lawyer - and that seemed to be the ways according to what you're told in the book! 

About the characters,  I thought it was a great idea to mix together historical figures and fictional characters. The choice of historical characters was very varied - some very widely known and others not as much, which I appreciated. I liked that they were presented with their historical pasts but with fictional actions, but I thought they lacked some development - I would have liked to know more about Cardinal Wolsey's real feelings, about Harry Percy (whom I found very intriguing) or about the Queen's doctor, Ramirez -who was one of my favourite characters in the whole book! Nevertheless, there were some characters I really liked and connected with, like the Queen or the before mentioned Dr. Ramirez; and some others I really came to dislike! Regardless, I did find myself a bit lost with all the character's names - trying to figure out who was who.

About pace and writing, I have to say the book starts off quite slow, although it does take a little run at certain moments. I think the pace was the main issue I had with this book. It is an interesting read with a nice mystery to have you think and a surprising ending which, honestly, I did not see coming, but I think it took too long for things to actually happen. I feel like I read too many pages for the amount of stuff I learnt. 

Overall, I found The Cardinal's Court to be enlightening about the Tudor period, but, although I did like it, I think I probably would have enjoyed it more had I been more informed on the Tudor period as it includes some details that you'll gladly notice if you've studied the history, but that you'll barely realise if you haven't. Nonetheless, I do encourage people to read this novel if they're into this time period, because it is a fine read!

Any thoughts on The Cardinal's Court? Have you read any of the other books by Cora Harrison? I'd love to know! 

Happy reading!

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Let me keep you posted!

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