Gideon’s Angel – Clifford Beal
1653: The long and bloody English Civil War is at an end. King Charles is dead and Oliver Cromwell rules the land as king in all but name. Richard Treadwell, an exiled royalist officer and soldier-for-hire to the King of France and his all-powerful advisor, the wily Cardinal Mazarin, burns with revenge for those who deprived him of his family and fortune. He decides upon a self-appointed mission to return to England in secret and assassinate the new Lord Protector. Once back on English soil however, he learns that his is not the only plot in motion.
A secret army run by a deluded Puritan is bent on the same quest, guided by the Devil’s hand. When demonic entities are summoned, Treadwell finds himself in a desperate turnaround: he must save Cromwell to save England from a literal descent into Hell. But first he has to contend with a wife he left in Devon who believes she’s a widow, and a furious Paris mistress who has trailed him to England, jeopardising everything. Treadwell needs allies fast. Can he convince the man sent to forcibly drag him back to Cardinal Mazarin? A young king’s musketeer named d’Artagnan.
Black dogs and demons; religion and magic; Freemasons and Ranters. It’s a dangerous new Republic for an old cavalier coming home again.
Every book that is presented to me as a mix of historical fiction and fantasy gets me very excited. I love reading both genres and mixed together they mostly make an exciting story. It came as no surprise to me then that I enjoyed this book very much.
We are transported back to France and England in the Seventeenth century, just after the Civil War. Richard Treadwell, a royalist, is banned from England facing a death sentence if he ever tries to return. Against better judgment he does return to seek out his family, but most of all, to murder Cromwell, who won the war and executed the King. What starts out as a plan to aid an uprising takes an unexpected turn when he makes the worst decision ever when undercover in a land you’ve been exiled from: he murders someone. The victim’s twin brother, Gideon, sets out to hunt him and reclaim the two mysterious items Richard stole. But what Richard finds in Gideon’s wake forces him to changes his plans completely. All of a sudden it’s very important to save Cromwell.
The group of characters Clifford has thrown together to fight the evil that has come to England couldn’t have been more varied. All of them have their own quirks and value that added the right amount of entertainment to the story. There are even some familiar names that give the story more authenticity: Oliver Cromwell of course, but also d’Artagnan, a haughty French musketeer, sent by the Cardinal to stop Richard’s initial plan. The Freemasons and the Ranters also get a mention, with the lodge playing a subtle role in the unfolding of the events.
Da Silva and his daughter, Portuguese Jews, who are hiding their true beliefs in fear of retribution are of great importance for their knowledge about the more mystical parts of their religion. These two characters, who represent an oppressed part of the population, may be the key to saving them all. I loved reading about these two. Da Silva’s belief is unwavering and he’s willing to do anything to save everyone. His daughter is a fierce, but caring woman that, though she was opposed to the plan at first, stands by her father ‘till the very end.
Margueritte, Richard’s Parisian mistress, follows him to England in fear of being left behind. Though Richard is far from happy about this, because this obviously complicates his mission, he does see that she must truly love him. I liked her character, she’s a very softhearted woman with that spark of defiance in her. I might have wanted to see her some more in action throughout the story, she might have made a strong addition to the little group that set out the fight evil.
Clifford’s writing is superb. He writes fluently and makes the story come to life with ease. The dialogues sound just right: with that bit of the old language in there, but not too much, making sure that it still reads fluently. His descriptions of characters and places were detailed and delightful to read. Not over the top, as many others make the mistake of doing but just the right amount to create a vivid image.
The fights Clifford describes were fantastic and his knowledge of 16th-17th century rapier combat really shone through in these passages.
Religion and especially the Good vs Evil, God vs Devil, Heaven vs Hell plays a central role. Religion is often a core plot device and I’m not always a big fan of it, but I didn’t mind at all here. It fit the story and it was executed really well. The demons that were summoned from hell even gave the story a bit of a horror twist, which I thought made the book even better.
‘Gideon’s Angel’ is a great book for everyone that likes Historical Fantasy. Clifford seems to have a solid knowledge of the Historical facts and gives them that extra spin of the fantastical that makes this a very interesting and most of all, a very entertaining book. I look forward to reading more of his work!