Having not read any Lindsey Davis books before, I decided to start with a stand-alone rather than a series book and chose Rebels and Traitors. I didn’t realise at the time that this book was not a very typical representation of Davis’s normal work.
The story is set during the English civil war, and while I find the antics of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell very interesting, the level of detail and the number of peripheral characters in this book was mind-boggling. And, with little prior knowledge of this period of English history, I also found it extremely confusing. It left me feeling totally overloaded with kings, aristocrats, peasants, soldiers, murderers, spies, royalists, parliamentarians and all the rest of the assortment involved in the civil war. From my independent research I have found it to be very accurate, so if you are after a history book, then this will probably do the job.
I absolutely loved the main characters in the story, but only started to get to know them quite a long way into the book.
Against the backdrop of the civil war, we have Gideon Jukes and his family who are tradesmen in London and Parliamentarian supporters. Orlando and Juliana Lovell are Royalist supporters living in Oxford and Orlando becomes the main villain of the story. Kinchin Kew is a poverty stricken girl from a family of no-hopers living in Birmingham.
Three separate stories run through most of the book, with Gideon fighting for the Parliamentarian side, Orlando fighting for the Royalist side, Juliana trying to survive as a wife and mother left on her own and being associated with the losing side, and Kinchin desperately getting involved in any crime that will keep her from starving. It isn’t until late in the book that these main characters finally come together (I loved the book when they did).
The last paragraph of the book was absolutely shattering (but, you had to read the rest of the book to feel the full impact), and I think it will haunt me for a while.
While I found this book extremely heavy going, there were parts that I enjoyed immensely. I’m still planning to read the Falco books, as Falco sounds a bit like a Roman version of Cadfael (my favourite character of all time).
Book Published 2009