Sisters of Treason – Elizabeth Fremantle

TreasonFrom Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

Published: 2014

Why I Chose It: I’ve always been intrigued with stories about Lady Jane Grey, particularly after reading The Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford as a child; yet I have never read anything about her two younger sisters, so I was very excited about this book!

The Review:

The book follows the lives of Ladies Catherine, Mary, and their friend Levina. It was very nice being able to read from the three women’s perspectives, as it gave different views of the court and the events taking place. It also kept me involved in the story, as all three women are quite different, and I was never able to get bored with any of the characters.

I didn’t particularly like the timeline of the book as it is quite long, covering the years 1554 – 1572. There are vast gaps in time, and the narrative would pop into a year to give us a single scene when needing to communicate a minor event; ie a marriage, a death. This became increasingly evident closer to the end of the book, where not many things are happening to either sister, and the narrative is clearly trying to wrap up their lives. I appreciated that I was given an encompassing look at their lives, but sometimes it was a jolt to read about someone’s death, and on the next page read “It has been a year since so-and-so died…”

While I think this book did a very good job at capturing different events in the women’s lives, I do think it failed to bring to life the fear that these women really held of the Queen and throne. While it often showed one woman scolding another for not being cautious or more fearful, it did not manage to make me feel fear for the characters at any time. And while I did see Mary as being fearing, angry, and sometimes quite bitter, I never felt those emotions for her. I felt a little removed from the narrative and would have liked to be more emotionally invested in the book.

Unfortunately the book does not quite have an overarching plot beyond the lives of these girls. While it follows them around, there is no particular climax to the narrative. It’s a slow read, and while I found it interesting, I did not find it particularly engaging. I still enjoyed it because it carefully chronicled the events in these women’s lives, and gave a very interesting window into the court life. I would recommend this book for history lovers, particularly of the Tudor era.

Rating: 4 / 5


“The fear has got inside me like a fever, so I close my eyes firmly and force myself to think of another kind of future: a simple life, a quiet place, where girls are not used as pieces in this game of crowns.” p 35

“The Queen’s hand is a claw. It clasps at my shoulder, and it is all I can do to stop myself from shrugging it off.” p 46

“I do imagine it sometimes, being Queen and all that goes with it – the jewels; the dresses; the splendid chambers, the men fawning, but even I am not silly enough to suppose it to be entirely pleasurable; I have watched the present Queen crushed by it until she is barely herself anymore.” p 99

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