Title: Sisters of Treason
Author: Elizabeth Fremantle
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
The year is 1554. Lady Jane Grey has just been executed after her 9 days as the reigning monarch of England; Queen Mary Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VIII is now on the throne. Jane’s sisters, flighty beautiful Catherine and the dwarf Mary, must find a way to survive the court intrigue and find some semblance of happiness during these tense times.
Elizabeth Fremantle brings Catherine and Mary Grey to life on the pages of her latest historical novel, Sisters of Treason, successfully delivering a suspenseful read full of the claustrophobic atmosphere of court life.
It’s always interesting to read historical fiction about the people left behind, rather than those who are at the center of historical drama, and Sisters of Treason fits that bill very well. I’ve read pretty extensively about the Grey sisters, from Alison Weir’s fictional A Dangerous Inheritance to the excellent Leanda de Lisle biography The Sisters Who Would be Queen, but I was curious about Elizabeth Fremantle’s interpretation of the Grey sisters’ story.
The first thing that struck me about Sisters of Treason is the difference in language from her first, Queen’s Gambit. While that book was absolutely fascinating and well-written, this one seems easier to read somehow, which is good, given its length. Fremantle sucks the reader in from the first page, involving the reader in the lives of these two young women, as well as Levina, a painter who is also a friend of the Grey family and takes it upon herself to look after the girls at court.
Fremantle writes her characters well, bringing them to life on every page of Sisters of Treason. Catherine is more flighty, less serious and studied than her pious sister, Jane. She wants to love and be loved more than anything, yet she doesn’t feel like a shallow character. Catherine has a depth of her own, even as she makes mistakes that have serious repercussions. But it’s young Mary that captures the reader’s full attention. Older and wiser than her years, Mary has had to live under the pitying gaze of others her whole life. Her misshapen form means that she isn’t taken seriously, that her needs and wants are disregarded completely. But it also means that those around her underestimate Mary; she’s shrewd and knows how to play the politics of court life well.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, then Elizabeth Fremantle’s novels are ones you should take a look at. She writes engaging books, giving the reader a fresh take on a story that I’ve heard before. Fremantle excels at atmosphere, conveying the uncertainty of the time period, as well as the close nature of court life in which it was difficult to keep anything a secret. Whether you know how the story turns out or not, the author offers a tense, page-turning historical novel that fans of the genre should absolutely seek out.
Other books by Elizabeth Fremantle: