Book Review: “Of Blood Descended” by Steven Veerapen

60293344._SY475_The year is 1522, and London is in a jovial mood. King Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon are to play host to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V as he visits England. As one of King Henry VIII’s most loyal advisors, Cardinal Wolsey had the great honor of hosting a grand masque featuring King Arthur and the Black Knight for the distinguished company. Unfortunately, as preparations for the luxurious masque are in full swing, Wolsey’s historian is horrifically murdered. The only one who can solve the case is Anthony Blanke, the son of John Blanke, the trumpeter before the masque is ruined, and Henry VIII discovers the truth. The story of this case is told in Steven Veerapen’s latest novel, “Of Blood Descended.”

I want to thank Steven Veerapen for sending me a copy of his latest novel. I am always in the mood for a good Tudor mystery, and when I heard that the main character was the son of John Blanke, I was intrigued to see how Veerapen would portray his story.

Veerapen begins this novel by introducing Pietro Gonzaga, Cardinal Wolsey’s historian, and his family as Gonzaga is on the cusp of revolutionary discovery. We then cut to Anthony Blanke returning to London after his father, John Blanke’s death. He is reluctant to go back to court and all of its intrigues, but it is necessary as Cardinal Wolsey himself summoned him. Wolsey is hosting a grand masque in honor of King Henry VIII and the Imperial Emperor Charles V; the theme is King Arthur and the Black Knight, and he has decided to cast Anthony as the titular Black Knight.

Progress with the masque goes smoothly until someone discovers Signor Gonzaga’s body after being brutally slain. Gonzaga’s murder sets the stage for a whirlwind chase to find the murderer, but the monster leaves a trail of blood behind him, and no one is safe. The action, intrigue, and mysteries will keep you guessing until the final pages to figure out who the mastermind was behind it all.

I loved the mystery behind the murder and how Veerapen was able to weave the Arthurian legends and prophecies with the story of the Tudors. I enjoyed the cameos from Thomas Boleyn and Anne Boleyn, but my favorite cameo was Henry VIII’s historian Polydore Vergil, who does not appear that often in Tudor historical fiction. I thought Anthony was such a fascinating protagonist as he gave a different perspective on the diversity of London life. Even though characters like Anthony Blanke, Sister Jane, Mark Byfield, and Harry Gainsford are entirely fictional characters, they feel like they would fit exceptionally well in the Tudor world.

I thoroughly enjoyed every twist and turn that Veerapen included in this novel. I hope to see more stories with Anthony, Jane, Mark, and Harry. If you enjoy Tudor murder mysteries, you will be enthralled with “Of Blood Descended” by Steven Veerapen.

Book Review: “King Arthur: Man or Myth?” by Tony Sullivan

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Myths and legends have come to define the legacy of kingdoms. Stories of men like Robin Hood who did not have magical aspects have captured the imagination of Englishmen for generations. However, there is one legend whose legacy is synonymous with the English people; the legend of King Arthur. We all know the story of the mythical king who ruled over Camelot with his beloved wife Gwenivere, his magical sword Excalibur, and his trusty Knights of the Round Table. Yet a question arises when we study this legend; was there ever a historical King Arthur? This is the central issue that Tony Sullivan has chosen to investigate thoroughly in his book, “King Arthur: Man or Myth?”.

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this book. I was curious about this book after reading a previous book about Robin Hood. I will say that I did not know much about the Arthurian legend except the popular aspects that tend to appear in novels and films. Of course being a Tudor nerd I knew that Henry VII had a fascination with the story, since he named his eldest son Arthur, so I wanted to explore what made this tale so intriguing for many centuries.

To understand the origins of the myth, we must go back in the past, but not to the medieval period that many would expect after reading the legend. Sullivan’s main focus is on a period much farther back in time, Roman Britain. This is not an area of history that I normally study so I was unfamiliar with the people and the battles that Sullivan mentioned in connection to the “real” Arthur. It did feel a bit dense to me and it took me a while to get through this portion of the book, even though I did find it rather interesting to read about Roman Britain.

What impressed me about this book is Sullivan’s passion for this subject and his willingness to go the extra mile to show both sides of the argument, that there was a historical Arthur and a mythical Arthur. He dives deep into the sources, from the earliest annals and chronicles to the 11th and 13th centuries legends and romances. It was extremely fascinating to see how he treated this book like a criminal investigation, using different fields of study to figure out the origins of the legend, how it evolved, and whether or not there was a king named Arthur.

Overall, I found this book intriguing and rather challenging. If you are a novice when it comes to the academic world of the Arthurian legend, it might be a difficult read. I would suggest that if you are interested in reading this book, take your time and take plenty of notes. This may not be the best introductory book for those who want to know about the Arthurian legend, but I think that it will give you a better understanding of Roman Britain and the academic side of studying such a legendary figure. If this piques your interest, you should check out, “King Arthur: Man or Myth?” by Tony Sullivan.