My Weekend’s Booked #8: The Cardinal’s Man by M.G. Sinclair

Does anyone else here just love Game of Thrones? Books, TV series, for me it doesn’t matter. And of all the characters that make up the series (over 150 major characters) Tyrion Lanister is one of my hands down favorites. The dwarf underdog is a fiery man with a wicked sharp wit and a dark sense of humor. Tyrion is a social pariah, but he doesn’t let his differences stop him from rising to be one of the most powerful characters in the entire series.

imagesSo when I saw The Cardinal’s Man by M.G. Sinclair (out July 11) compared to a real life Lanister I knew I had to read it. Inspired by the 1645 Baroque masterpiece Don Sebastian de Morra by Diego Vazquez the novel takes place during The Thirty Years’ War in the royal French court. Sebastian Morra is a dwarf turned jester for the king and having made enemies with one of the nobility at court seeks refuge under the protection of Cardinal Richelieu: one of the most hated men in the country. In turn for the cardinal’s protection and due to his small size Sebastian must turn spy. The future of France lies in his hands.

And make no mistake: Sebastian Morra was witty and charming, but he was strong in his own right. His character was unique and individual, so it would be unfair to call him a Tyrion transplanted into a different setting. The similarities are there, but it would be reaching to call them one in the same.

Historical fiction is a hard genre to write well, I have seen examples that were both deep and profound, and other examples that were shallow and poorly written. The Cardinal’s Man was somewhere in between. A debut for Sinclair, the book was interesting and entertaining, but not life changing. The writing was eloquent, but the transitions sometimes seemed simple. It is a novel to be enjoyed in the moment, when the reader is in need of an escape or distraction.

It was obvious that Sinclair had done his research for the book, and it was rife with events and details from the time of the Thirty Years’ War, spanning some fifteen years of the period. Sinclair did not glamorize the time period: he embraced the squalor and filth of the working folk, contrasting it against the decadence and luxury of the royal class. Sinclair also successfully highlighted the unrest of the lower class at the period, a tension that would boil over a century later in the form of the French Revolution.

Overall it was a good story with an interesting premise, and right up the alley for the person who enjoys books based off of paintings. See my review on A Piece of the World for a story along similar lines.

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite historical fiction novel or time period? The Alienist is easily in my list of top five favorite books, and I love anything set during the Victorian and Industrial periods.

*Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions stated here are my own.

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