Not-very-Civil War adventure

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TGittins's review of Andrew Swanston, The King's Spy


“Not-very-Civil War adventure”

Written on: 25/11/2012 by TGittins (5 reviews written)

In “The King’s Spy”, Andrew Swanston has crafted an, almost, un-put-downable story!
It is the adventure of Thomas Hill, an unassuming man who reluctantly assumes the mantle of Cryptographer to King Charles I, during the English Civil War, after Hill’s predecessor and former Mentor is found dead in mysterious circumstances, in an Oxford that bears no resemblance to its modern equivalent.
The Civil War is not a period of History of which I am fond, and, consequently, haven’t read much about, so I approached this novel with some trepidation. I’m glad to say this proved to be uncalled for, as I found the story-telling fluid, intriguing and interesting, even though it painted a picture of some squalor and deprivation; and not a little uncomfortable in its portrayal of human behaviour, forced to endure such unnatural hardships.
I knew some of the mechanisms of codes and cryptography before I began this book, and I feel that – probably my single criticism – these are introduced to the reader a little too quickly, and in a slightly contrived fashion. Nevertheless, this is an important factor in the story, and, as the narrative developed, it swept me along to what, I hoped, would be a successful, and crucial, outcome.
Throughout the book, the author has managed to create a handful of main characters which are totally believable, and a strong support cast of extras, in which I include Oxford itself. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of either the description of the City, or the historical events, as they unfold to flesh out the author’s story.
A hugely enjoyable read.

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