The King At The Edge Of The World

THE KING AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Arthur Phillips, Random House, 2020

Guest post by writer extraordinaire, Terence Hawkins

Arthur Phillips is an exceptionally sly writer.  His celebrated debut novel, Prague, is set in Budapest.  The joke is that all its characters, late-eighties expats, long to get out of Hungary and to the Czech capital, where the post-Soviet good times roll.

Though the same whimsy colors aspects of his latest book, The King at the Edge of the World, its tone and subject are darker.  It opens in 1591.  A Turkish doctor, the sweet-tempered and essentially innocent Mahmoud Ezzedine, has been tricked into joining an Ottoman embassy to London by a court functionary with designs on his wife.  After he saves an English courtier from a seizure in Elizabeth’s presence, he is given to the Queen as a present when the embassy departs, leaving him the only Muslim in Britain.    Miserable years at court are followed by even deeper agony in the wilds of Cumberland, where he has been assigned as physician-in-residence to the epileptic noble.  ButEa things get shockingly worse.  In 1601 he is recalled from exile by Sir Robert Cecil’s espionage service.   It tasks him  with resolving the question critical to the inheritance of the childless and dying Elizabeth’s throne: Is James VI of Scotland a true Protestant or a closet Catholic?  If the latter, he cannot be permitted to succeed her.

Thus poor Mahmoud finds himself in Edinburgh, the only place on Earth more dismal for him than Northern England.  Eager to finish his mission and cash in the return to Constantinople Cecil has dangled, he hits on a stratagem: only on his deathbed will a man tell the truth about his soul.  How he gets James to his, and plucks him back, would be telling too much.  Let’s just say that the Scots King’s regrettable hygiene is involved. But the resolution is far more clever than Prague’s switcheroo.

On the way to it, Phillips convincingly portrays England’s true place in the world of 1600: pretty much nowhere.  Mahmoud longs for the warmth and vibrancy of Constantinople, its colors brighter and smells sweeter than the “diseased air and gruesome streets” of Elizabethan London.  He finds the courtiers effeminate and asks whether they are eunuchs.  Most powerfully conveyed is a sense of the island’s insignificance; the Ottomans are the powerhouse of the Mediterranean, who would less than a hundred years later reach Vienna, while England was the last stop before a boundless freezing ocean.  There are, of course, bright spots—Mahmoud’s friendship with Tudor magus John Dee, for example—but by and large the image is of Britain as a backward place.

The plot is tight and the prose lush without excesses.  Read this for a view of Elizabeth’s England through very different eyes.

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The Queen’s Spy

March 1584

As they stood up Tom could see a terrible incident being played out before the court. The key player, a man who unlike the courtiers was wearing plain garb in dark fustian and worsted fabrics, had been thrown face down on the floor. Whatever was being said to him was lost on Tom but he could tell by the Queen’s wild gestures, her hands balled into fists and her eyes flashing whilst she spoke through gritted teeth, that she was terrifyingly angry. The man had his head in his hands, congealed blood where his fingernails used to be and Tom could see his swollen face was bloodied and bruised. One of the guards hauled him to his feet and held him there as the man wobbled about as if his legs would give way. Tom felt his gut quiver in fright and for once he was relieved he couldn’t hear the screaming he imagined was happening, if the wincing from the other people around the room was anything to go by.

Finally, the Queen pointed to a door hidden in one corner of the room where the panelling had opened up to reveal a stone staircase beyond and the man was hauled off by his feet, his head dragging across the floor as if he were already a corpse. Tom caught a glimpse of the man being pulled away and down the stairs, the back of his head bouncing off every step as he disappeared from view. Hot acid bile clawed at the back of Tom’s throat. What on earth was he doing here? As he and Hugh were ushered forward it took everything he had not to vomit. As he knelt again, he could see specks of blood in front of him on the floor.

He turned his attention to the Queen. She was talking to Hugh but he caught the gist of what she was saying from the occasional word. Her mood seemed to have switched in an instant – all thoughts of the poor wretch dragged away just seconds earlier gone – as she exclaimed her delight for the vanilla flavouring which she’d never tasted before and insisted the two apothecaries sought out more. She got to her feet and turned towards Tom, her small dark eyes burning into his as if she could read everything tumbling through his mind; his thoughts and his fears laid bare before this diminutive woman who was the most powerful female in the world. His legs began to shake, her supremacy and confidence rolling from her in waves. Now they were closer he could see the pale face paint she wore was disguising a harsh pockmarked complexion and together with her hooked nose she was less attractive than the portrait he’d admired as he followed Hugh along the corridor a few minutes previously. 

‘I am told by my apothecary that you are responsible for bringing this new spice, vanilla, to my court.’ Tom had to watch her thin-lipped mouth carefully as she spoke. Thankfully she seemed to consider each word for a moment before she said it and he had little trouble understanding her. He bowed again from his waist, before standing up so he could watch her face once again. ‘And you can neither hear nor speak and yet understand what those around you say?’ Tom nodded, wondering what she was thinking and if his time at the palace was about to come to an end. He watched as she made her way back to her throne behind her, the weight of her gown almost swamping her tiny frame and preventing her from moving. 

Once she was perched on her throne and her skirts carefully arranged around her by a young girl with blond hair, dressed in a lovat green dress with simple ribbon decoration who’d spent the entire time stood silently to one side, the Queen addressed him once more. 
‘You intrigue me, Tom Lutton. You cannot hear and yet you are able to understand everything that I say. I have never come across someone like you before and I wonder if you may be of use to others at my court. And not just because you make a delicious bedtime drink.’ She looked over to Hugh. ‘You are both dismissed,’ she told him, before turning her attention to Tom and adding, ‘for the present.’

The Queen’s Spy 

By Clare Marchant

Blurb

1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne.

There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England.

Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

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Author Bio:

Clare Marchant

Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT, before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweller.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins, or visiting the nearby coast.

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Marbeck and the Double Dealer

England, 1600.

In the twilight years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign the nation is at war on two fronts, and fears of a Spanish invasion are never far away.

In this febrile atmosphere, spymaster Robert Cecil calls in Martin Marbeck – his best, if most undisciplined intelligencer – to unmask a double agent who is feeding secrets to the enemy. Marbeck has been under a cloud since a failed mission in Flanders, and is eager to be on the trail.

But the traitor – codename Mulberry – proves maddeningly elusive. Soon Marbeck must leave England for France and venture into the lion’s den, following a tortuous path that winds back to London. With the help of his fellow-agent, the unruly Joseph Gifford, a trap is laid to ensnare Mulberry – with deadly and unforeseen results.

The spy network has been compromised, which means all intelligence reports could be suspect, and the nation is in grave danger. Marbeck must use all his skills to confront the secret forces of the mighty Spanish empire, which pits him against the cleverest and most ruthless opponent he has ever faced.  [ENDS]

UK link to the book  www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B092JP1LSC

US link is www.amazon.com/dp/B092/dp/B092JP1LSC

BIO:

John Pilkington

Having given up trying to become a rock star after playing guitar in various bands, John Pilkington turned to writing and found his true vocation. His first works were radio plays, followed by stage plays and scripts for BBC television. But his venture into historical fiction proved crucial, and it continues to be his lifelong passion. He has published more than twenty books including seven in the Elizabethan-era Thomas the Falconer Mysteries series (now republished by Sharpe Books), four in the Marbeck spy series (Severn House) and two in a Restoration-era series featuring actress-turned-sleuth Betsy Brand (Joffe Books). His last series was the Justice Belstrang trilogy (Sharpe), set in the years 1616-1618. The Marbeck series is also republished in omnibus edition by Sharpe as Blade of Albion. 

Born in the north-west of England, he now lives in a quiet village on a tidal estuary in Devon with his partner Lisa, and has a son who is a musician and psychologist. When not at his desk he may be found walking by the river, doing a little carpentry, watching rugby or listening to music – and reading, of course. He is currently sifting ideas for his next project.  

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The Queen’s Rival

England, 1459. 

One family united by blood. Torn apart by war…

The Wars of the Roses storm through the country, and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, plots to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne.

But when the Yorkists are defeated at the battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own.

Stripped of her lands and imprisoned in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit. One that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King Edward IV.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Page Length: 554 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Essex – Tudor Rebel

Book two of the Elizabethan Series

New from Tony Riches, Author of the best-selling Tudor Trilogy

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Author Bio

Tony Riches at Pembroke Castle

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling Tudor historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

Purchase sites:

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

Katherine-Tudor Duchess Now on Audible

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Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Audible and iTunes

Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby is one of the most unusual ladies of the Tudor court. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Katherine knows all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and his son Edward, as well as being related by marriage to Lady Jane Grey.

When her father dies, Katherine becomes the ward of Tudor knight, Sir Charles Brandon. Her Spanish mother, Maria de Salinas, is Queen Catherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting, so it is a challenging time for them all when King Henry marries the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Following Anne’s dramatic downfall, Katherine marries Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen. After the tragic death of Jane Seymour, and the short reign of young Catherine Howard. Katherine and Brandon are chosen to welcome Anna of Cleves as she arrives in England.

When the royal marriage is annulled, Katherine’s good friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king’s sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine’s young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince Edward, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine’s Protestant faith puts her family in great danger – from which there seems no escape.

Katherine’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Tony Riches

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Tudors. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches

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Shadow of Persephone: The Story of Catherine Howard

February 1542
A young woman awaits her execution in the Tower of London, sent to death on the orders of her husband, Henry VIII.

Daughter of the nobility, cousin to a fallen Queen, Catherine Howard rose from the cluttered ranks of courtiers at the court of Henry VIII to become the King’s fifth wife. But hers is a tale that starts long before the crown was placed on her head. A tale of tragedy and challenges, predators and prey; the story of a young girl growing up in a perilous time, facing dangers untold.

The fifth wife of Henry VIII would end her life on the block, like her cousin Anne Boleyn… But where did her story begin?

Shadow of Persephone is Book One in the series The Story of Catherine Howard, by G. Lawrence (Gemma Lawrence)

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The Most Happy

Synopsis: 

A wonderful window into the mind of the iconic Anne Boleyn. Step into her world as she retells her story. We know what history has told us. But we are yet to know the woman behind the legend. Take a peek inside and see what she has to say about her life and legacy. “Many have tried to tell my story … but none have told the truth. I will have my say.” The book is written from a first person perspective and is a fresh look at the well known story of Anne Boleyn. Find out the truth about her love for Henry Tudor and the truth about how the tragedies in her world affected her.

About the author:

Holly-Eloise Walters is an author from Bristol, England. She debuted with her first book, The Most Happy on the 4th October 2019. She has always enjoyed writing and intends to continue her work within the historical fiction genre.  Holly is 26 years old and has lived in Bristol her whole life. Her first book, The Most Happy is a historical fiction based upon the life of Anne Boleyn.

Holly wishes to breathe new life into historical figures and has quoted that her goal for The Most Happy was to “Give Anne back her voice.”  She goes on to say.

“I have always disliked how some of our history is seen as nothing more than a name in a book. We forget that Anne, like many others was a real person with real thoughts and feelings.”

Holly-Eloise Walters

The Most happy is now available to purchase at these sites:

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