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Doctor Dee is on the Case - an Editorial Review of "The Conjurer's Apprentice"

Book Blurb:

When a battered body is more than heralds the end of a dynasty.

Pulling the battered body of a young boy out of the Thames was not unusual in the cruel England of Bloody Mary. But this was different. The messages on his body tell of a plot which will take the queen’s sister, Elizabeth, to The Tower heralding the end of the Tudor dynasty and England’s freedom as a nation.

Margaretta Morgan, apprenticed to Doctor John Dee for her strange gifts of seeing the thoughts of others, will face her first murder mystery. Guided by her master’s brilliance and ability to commune with the other side, she will uncover the evil and intrigue which goes to the very heart of Court.

Book Buy Link: Coming Soon!

Author Bio:

G.J. Williams is the author of The Conjurer’s Apprentice, the first in the Tudor Rose Murders series.

G.J. Williams is a Welsh woman living in Somerset, England. She is a doctor of psychology and ran an international consulting business for 25 years before putting her love of writing to the forefront of life. She lives between Somerset and London and is often found writing on the train next to a grumpy cat and a cup of tea.

Life is always busy. When she is not writing, she is researching, travelling to historic sites or plotting while sailing the blue seas on her beloved boat.

Her dream is to be chosen by readers who love the books of CJ Sansom, SJ Parris and Rory Clements.

Editorial Review:

One day, the body of a stable boy serving Lord Cecil's household shows up on the banks of the river Thames in London with a yellow woolen ribbon on his body. John Dee, a mathematician and astronomer is called to investigate the corpse and explore the circumstances. By his side is Margaretta Morgan, a young apprentice disguised as a maid.

It is 1555 London, and the rumor is that Mary Tudor, the queen of England, is pregnant and expected to give birth soon. Her sister Elizabeth has been summoned to assist and witness the birth, thus giving up any hopes that one day she may claim the throne for herself. Queen Mary, who had restored Catholicism in the English kingdom, had married prince Philip of Spain, whom she loved very much.

These are the settings of G.J. Williams's murder mystery novel, The Conjuror's Apprentice, where the detective is a sorcerer and his apprentice an empath, abilities both dangerous and thrilling.

From the first pages, I knew the book was different from other crime books I read, not only because it takes place in 16thcentury England, a time of turbulence and struggles for power, but because Margaretta, the protagonist, has a rare talent. This she needs to cultivate on the street of London, witnessing the persecution and execution of believers of the Protestant faith that opposed the Catholics. When he sends her out, her teacher John Dee thinks this is the best way to learn.

"If you are to hone your gift, you have to understand the full spectrum of men's feelings, fears, and fallacious thoughts. The good, the evil, the kind, the cruel, the intelligent and the witless. It is all part of our soul and you need to see them all."

Thus, she can help John Dee solve the mystery and expose the criminal. But the crimes continue as the two uncover clues incriminating royal family members and overseas spy agents. Their investigation relies only on interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence. None of the modern forensic techniques were available to them. But what they have proved to be more valuable: a handful of crystals and a deck of tarot cards, mastered by John Dee, and the gift of mind reading that Margaretta possesses. They use these tools only sparsely as they can also kill.

With a keen eye for historical accuracy, the author portrays her characters with a fine brush, giving them distinct personalities and strong voices. Our protagonist, Margaretta, is only nineteen years old, but she's witty and humble at the same time. And when the stakes are high, by the end of the book, her courage saves not only the day but the future of the English royalty. But Margaretta is not an ordinary girl, and she knows it.

"The doctor did my cards the day he found me and they told him I am an old soul. In the religion of our ancestors, they would believe I have been born many times and had walked this earth before in numerous guises. But we dare not to speak of such things these days for fear of being called heretic, conjuror, witch…all the names which strike fear into the soul in Queen Mary's terrible reign."

And indeed, these esoteric methods help Doctor Dee and Margaretta investigate and solve the series of crimes, and the two of them struggle to keep it a secret as their lives and loved ones' lives depend on it. But such gifts must come out and shine sooner or later, and that is when the plot diverges, higher stakes being now at play. However, the author skillfully ties up loose ends and stirs the readers to an ending that, although predictable to a history buff, has a satisfying ending and promises that the characters may return in another book in the series.

The novel is written in an alert and assertive tone, with episodes of inner dialog, and it is clear of unnecessary descriptions or filler dialog that sometimes clutter a book. To portray the people in their historical context, the author often uses historical details rather than archaic words, sometimes with an amusing result like this:

"Just as before, Lottie refused to wash as it was a church day. Not even Margaretta's insistence that she should try to smell sweet for Sam would shake her fear of water on Sundays."

G. J. Williams mastered the arching plot and character development by layering the subplots and intertwining the secondary characters, improving the storyline and making the experience more gratifying. And because the book is a well-crafted mystery with elements of romance, set in a thoroughly researched historical period, with some real characters, I would recommend the book to any reader of historical fiction.


“The Conjurer's Apprentice” by G. J. Williams receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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