Friday, 23 March 2012

The Colour of Treason - Book Review

Book Review

The Colour of Treason - S.M Harrison - Kingmaker Press 2011

This is Su Harrison’s first published novel and I excitedly knew that it was going to be a great read. I have known Su for some time as an active member of Towton Battlefield Society, re-enactor and creative writer and understood that this work was a life dream come true and I grabbed my copy and launched myself into the volume with great anticipation.

Fifty pages in and I was at a crossroads, I just couldn’t get into the story and I found myself a with a decision to take, “do I put the book down and pretend that I had read it, or do I hope for the best and keep going?” I was frustrated because I couldn’t comprehend the problem I was experiencing. The writing style was fluid, fast paced
and with reminiscent touches of the Gothic and the narrative, and crafted together in small sections which flowed with the fabric of the story. The subject matter was a labyrinth of intrigue, murder, lust, treason, greed and conspiracy which kept me turning the pages. The historic detail was beyond reproach and exquisitely researched and took you back to a time gone by. Su has been a long time student of the Wars of the Roses and passionate creative writer and I should be loving this work and the fault must be all mine.

The lead character, Elizabeth Hardacre, did not fit into my niche thinking of how a young medieval woman would behave and act in this period and these circumstances. To me she was headstrong, driven by lust, held and dropped allegiances like leaves in the wind, far too independent and too strong willed and I just didn’t like her. I explained this to a friend and was bluntly told that this was a time when England had gone mad, the age of chivalry was gone and the recognised order had been thrown upside down. This was a moment when a light was turned on, a moment when you realised that in an age where Englishmen slaughtered Englishmen, royal brothers conspired against royal brother, allegiances were formed with traditional enemies, commoners became noble and king makers became traitors that a character portraying a stereotypical English rose full of politeness, blushes and fluttering heart beats was not going to work.

When I saw Elizabeth Hardacre as a women of her times, avaricious, opportunist and determined, striving to succeed in a dangerous world which was 1470 England, I began to cherish the words and found that I just couldn’t put it down. Elizabeth Hardacre is born into a family with allegiances to both the king and Warwick the Kingmaker and she is plunged into the sea of conspiracy at a high level, as the tale ebbs and flows between Middleham, London, Calais and the maelstrom of the Battle
of Empingham. The major characters of Warwick, Clarence, Hastings and King Edward are realistically brought to life and this tale, firmly grounded with historic detail, is a pleasure to read.

I bought my copy expecting a tale of historic courtly love and intrigue championed by a damsel in distress and what I got was a tale of cold blooded treason and conspiracy from a dark time in history with a feisty character you might not like, but one you had to admire and one which made the novel work.

This work is really the crowning moment of years of research and craft, and the flawed Elizabeth Hardacre doesn’t fit the usual romantic heroine stereotype, and because of this flaw she sits perfectly alongside the other flawed gems of Warwick, Hastings, Clarence, Edward and many more in those troubled times.

Mark Taylor, Chairman Towton Battlefield Society

4 comments:

Deborah Swift said...

That's a lovely review Su. And how true, that a reader must try to see the past through the eyes of those that lived then, not through our contemporary eyes.

Su_H said...

Thank you, Deborah.

Paula Lofting-Wilcox said...

Brilliant review Su. Its made me eager to get hold of a copy as soon as I can. And its lovely to know that not only are you academically researching oyur book but also hands on in your re-enactment society. Great stuff and I look forward to when i can read this.

Su_H said...

Thanks Paula. I've found the re-enactment so useful. You often read how women in particular did this or that and let me tell you in a 2ft hennin and a gown with a 4ft train she bloomin' well didn't!!!