Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book review: The Shadow of the Tudor Rose


The Shadow of the Tudor Rose, the ninth adventure that twins Jemima and Joe Lancelot and their friend Charlie find themselves undertaking, starts off in a typically mysterious way. Catching a quick breath of fresh air outside one evening, Max, their handsome, big boned (certainly not fat!) talking Tonkinese cat, hears a strange voice calling across time and space ... “El Gato!” Of course, everyone know that means cake, right? But somehow the voice, the words, combined with a storm make Max hurry back inside, hoping that the scenario does not presage another adventure back in time, back to usually uncomfortably dangerous situations. Max is not cowardly, just cautious, and although he also wants to help the twins locate their parents, who had gone back in time and are now lost in the past, the reader is ever mindful that a cat only has nine lives. Max might have used up eight already ... who knows? And if this is their ninth adventure, well, it could be the final one.

Every time the twins, Max, and Charlie step into history, using the magical book and key, along with clues in a poem, they manage to experience some dramatic event or other, and several of the events have been particularly hair-raising. This latest adventure is no less exciting than all the others. It is the year 1588 and a dastardly plot is being hatched on the part of the Spanish to invade England using the Spanish navy, the Armada. Although the twins are desperate to locate their parents, of course they can’t ignore the fact that this event is of the upmost importance, even though they already know the outcome. However, this is a three-pronged plot that involves more than just a naval battle. Sabotage, treachery, and assassination are involved! And what of the mystery of the Tudor Rose, since the price of treason is the ultimate punishment...

Once again, under the skilled pen of author Wendy Leighton-Porter, history comes to life! The dangerous intricacies and machinations of court intrigue, the enduring animosity between England and Spain, and the life of people in Elizabethan England are clearly laid out. From the (disgusting) lack of sanitation, to problems involving having no local money, to where to sleep, to how to get food, to how to survive being maybe considered a spy (horrors!), to meeting people now famous for their achievements, young readers get lots of history woven into an incredibly fast-paced and exciting plot that has Max really shining as the ultimate hero. He even gains royal favour! Max has a particularly poignant relationship with young playwright Christopher Marlowe (Kit) that is very special, and very moving.

I enjoyed how the author included so much of the Elizabethan flavour in both the language and phrases (very easily understood) and the events of the times. The twins meet Shakespeare himself, and this does annoy Kit more than a little because, after all, wasn’t Shakespeare just a country bumpkin? Readers who have been following the kids’ adventures, as well as Max’s own independent adventures, will learn more about the Guardians of Time. Once again, lovely word play ensues as characters misunderstand certain words, or else significant clues are embedded in phrases – all very important in foiling this plot. The end of the book contains a glossary of words and phrases, plus details of the major characters who were real life people of the era.

Max is by far my favourite character, and in this story he outdoes himself in terms of bravery and his importance in foiling the plot. To his great relief, he was not required to don a disguise, although he cannot understand why so many ancient prophecies abound which all make mention of some hero’s extreme courage that is necessary for all to end well. And, in this tale of conspiracy and derring-do, “all’s well that ends well!”

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to teachers as well as parents because there is so much interesting information, wrapped up in an exciting, suspense-filled package, to get young readers eagerly delving back into the past. Young and of course young at heart readers are in for an incredible treat.
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