A Cruel Fate by Lindsey Davis book review

Posted on January 13, 2016

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The Storyline

A Cruel Fate by Lindsey Davis courtesy of Quick Reads

A Cruel Fate by Lindsey Davis courtesy of Quick Reads


We start the story with a bookseller getting caught in the middle at the beginning of the English Civil War of 1642-1651, four months after the war started between the Roundheads and Cavaliers.

Martin Watts is taken captive for trying to protect books from being burned and ends up in Oxford Castle gaol under the watchful eye of the notorious gaoler William Smith.

What follows is a fight for freedom and an daring escape and the woman, Jane Afton, who is looking for her brother and gives humanity back to Martin Watts as he strives to survive in hellish conditions.

The Review

I love history and the countless true stories that exist in it. I always fail to understand why Hollywood does not stick to the truth of an era and instead embellishes it for no real reason at all that it can do so and rewrite history. Braveheart is a good case point to make. It is full of holes and many believed most of the film to be true of fact when it was not.

A Cruel Fate though is set in a time of much fear and discourse and I always wonder what side I would have fought on had I lived in that time? Both had tyrants on either side in King Charles I who misjudged his people and Oliver Cromwell whose crimes against humanity are still felt today in Ireland and Scotland, yet strangely enough not from the English who both were especially cruel to. The English are a resilient lot and usually just get on with things, seeing no point in the past as a point of blame. That is left to others. I would have hoped that I would have either ‘run for the hills’ to where the fighting did not reach or chosen the right side and hoped to have got through it unscathed unlike many who did not.

The story gives a small but powerful insight into what it would have been like living under those conditions and I got the feeling that the writer, Lindsey Davis, would have been on the side of Cromwell who to me was Britain’s Hitler of the time. The damage he caused was immense and you cans till see it to this day all over Britain and Ireland where he set foot. They were dark times indeed.

My only niggle with it is that it did not tell you who was real and who was not at the end or offer any research suggestions if you were indeed interested in finding out more. That is a bugbear of mine where historical books are concerned but otherwise it does not detract from the story.

This is another book in the Quick Reads series and is worth a read to give you an insight into the Civil War of 1642-1651. Who knows, It could inspire you to look further into its history and history in general?

You can find more about Quick Reads here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter too.

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