PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Lucy Jago is a historian and the history here is very good. The London settings are precisely evoked; the sexual ambiguity of King James I’s court, along with its stiff hierarchies of rank and familial hostilities, are convincing. So too is the powerful undertow of religious divisions – with the Catholic Guy Fawkes and his band’s attempt to blow up Parliament – and the way they co-exist with pagan superstitions such as magic potions, necromancy and witchcraft. In the mental world of most Jacobeans, a woman’s worth is measured by her obedience to kin and custom; self-assertion is the devil’s work ... What doesn’t work is the choice of narrator and the words she is given ... She must explain complicated matters so that we follow a story about real people while absorbing a revisionary version, no longer misogynistic: one that emphasizes female friendship and rewrites the values attached to crimes and misdemeanours. Sometimes she recounts scenes she hasn’t witnessed ... While the muscles behind my eyes ached from the sense that every scene was written with a view to a screen adaptation, I was ultimately moved by a complex and intelligent interpretation of a story that bears retelling.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... a cast of characters who flickeringly evoke the turbulence of the times ... both shocking and convincing ... [an] impressive novel.