Cromwell Association: review of This Deceitful Light.
February 28, 2018
A fantastic, honest and constructive review from the Cromwell Association. These really are the kind of reviews/feedback that make an author's day, and it's definitely made mine. It will be in this quarter's edition of The Protector's Pen.
Book Review: This Deceitful Light by Jemahl Evans.
This Deceitful Light is the sequel to The Last Roundhead, and continues the story of the delightful buccaneer, Blandford Candy. It is supposedly his ‘autobiography’, written in his dotage in the early years of the 18th century when, as the ‘Last Roundhead’, he is reminiscing on his amazing career during the civil war spent dodging bullets, fighting duels, chasing women and withstanding the increasing puritanical zeal of the time. Like all the best heroes, Candy finds himself at the heart of many of the major events of the period, meeting Cromwell and fighting against Rupert at Marston Moor.
This is a real page-turner; the pace of the story is fast and furious, the characters well rounded and believable (even lovable) and the historical detail is impressive. I particularly liked the battle sequences which were gory and brutal but very well drawn. The depth of research in Evans first novel met with generous approval from other historical novelists; he has maintained his high standards here. I was especially impressed by his knowledge of 17th century cursing! Towards the end of the novel, Candy commits to a duel with his great enemy, Sir John Hurry. Rejecting the chance to recant his insults to Hurry, he repeats and builds on them in a wonderfully colourful display of 17th century invective. In fact, throughout the book, the language fizzes with ribaldry and bawdiness, which makes for a very entertaining read.
Occasionally, Evans is a little heavy-handed in his efforts to show off his knowledge. A friend has Leveller tendencies; Candy has a black servant; his sister accompanies Henrietta Maria to France (the family loyalties are divided) and he meets or mentions so many ‘celebrities’: Moll Cutpurse, Margaret Cavendish, both Fairfax’s, Manchester, Henry Jermyn, Godfrey Kneller. However, maybe this is churlish of me. I have read so many novels from this period that were riddled with mistakes that it was a pleasure to read such an erudite and carefully researched piece. Indeed, there are copious footnotes throughout the book and at the end for readers who wish to know more.
The main plot concerns an old-fashioned murder mystery, but this is overlaid with ripples of family disloyalty and the treacherous undercurrent of divided loyalties endemic in the civil war period. Evans is excellent at portraying the men in his story, especially his flawed, fallible but very engaging hero, Candy. His portrayal of Cromwell is much better than the caricature that most novelists of the period achieve too. However, his women characters are pretty woeful, tending to conform to stereotype – a bossy sister, a treacherous lover, an open-hearted barmaid and so on. Evans has left a few mysteries still to solve so it’s a safe bet there will be a third in this series. I hope he can create a fuller female character this time.
This is an excellent read for anyone interested in the period. I would urge you all to buy it!