Clements isn't a great writer. Let me say that from the outset. He uses all the right words, but his tone still ends up on the dry side. Nevertheless, "Martyr" is a good enough story, all on its own, that the book is well above average and well with reading.
The main character carries a famous name. But, the name Shakespeare is famous in our time, not in his. No one stops John Shakespeare in the street to gasp and say, "You're related to the guy who wrote 'King Lear'?"
So, in a sense, the protagonist could as well have been John Smith as John Shakespeare. It's true his brother, William Shakespeare, makes a brief appearance in the book (well, come now, you knew he had to turn up at some point, didn't you?), but the brothers don't seem very much alike. So, I think the naming of the main character had more to do with marketing than with plot.
I do think it was bold of the author to make John Shakespeare not wholly likable. What I mean by that is that John is an enlightened man for his times, but he still is very much a man of his times. That means many of his beliefs and actions are unsavory to a modern audience with our pesky "due process of law" views.
Clements also chooses to paint an accurate picture of Elizabethan London with all of its ills. There's no "Tudors" glamour here. You do feel a bit sick from the squalor of it all.
I also have to say that I didn't like Catherine Marvell much. She seemed more like a caricature than a character. From head to toe, she was merely the standard beautiful, spunky girl who spars with the hero and then wins his heart with her fiery spirit. Also, considering her faith, I doubt she would have made many of the personal decisions she did.
Despite all of that, the book is a top-notch thriller and mystery. Once it got going, I was compelled to race through to the end as soon as possible. I will also pick up the second novel. I hear the series is up to five. I don't know if my interest will last quite so long, but I certainly have enough left for the next book.
- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division; 1 edition (21 January 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848540787
- ISBN-13: 978-1848540781
- Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.8 x 20 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 299 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 146,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)