Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Mantel's Wolf Hall (2009) took the literary world by storm and was quickly seen as an exceptional interpretation and depiction of Henry VIII's times and troubles as relayed through the career of Thomas Cromwell, the king's all-powerful secretary and chief task-enforcer. This new novel, the second installment of a planned Cromwell trilogy, can easily stand next to its predecessor as a major achievement in historical fiction. Mantel now tells the story of the fall of Anne Boleyn, Henry's second wife. As the novel opens, Queen Anne has enjoyed her exalted title for only a short time, but already the winds of change are blowing through the court. The king is tired of her (she hasn't produced a male heir, and her unpleasant personality is wearing thin) and finds lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour a much fresher face. Consequently, Secretary Cromwell, the king's enforcer, steps in, drawing the battle lines between himself and Queen Anne. The conflict will be deadly and, for the reader, edge-of-the-seat gripping. Like its predecessor, this is a rigorous read. One must get used to Mantel's intricate storytelling, and inattention will quickly derail one's grasp of events. Mantel's seductive, almost hypnotic, style is both formal, which is appropriate to the time, and exquisitely fluid, while beautifully articulated dialogue serves the story well, lending depth to characterizations and advancing the rich plot. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Mantel's previous novel won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and appeared on best-seller lists; anticipation for the sequel is high.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
When last we saw Thomas Cromwell, hero of Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, he'd successfully moved emperors, queens, courtiers, the pope, and Thomas More to secure a divorce and a new, younger queen for his patron, Henry the VIII. Now, in the second book of a planned trilogy, Cromwell, older, tired, with more titles and power, has to get Henry out of another heirless marriage. The historical facts are known: this is not about what happens, but about how. And armed with street smarts, vast experience and connections, a ferociously good memory, and a patient taste for revenge, Mantel's Cromwell is a master of how. Like its predecessor, the book is written in the present tense, rare for a historical novel. But the choice makes the events unfold before us: one wrong move and all could be lost. Also repeated is Mantel's idiosyncratic use of "he:" regardless of the rules of grammar, rest assured "he" is always Cromwell. By this second volume, however, Mantel has taught us how to read her, and seeing Cromwell manipulate and outsmart the nobles who look down on him, while moving between his well-managed domestic arrangements and the murky world of accusations and counteraccusations is pure pleasure. Cromwell may, as we learn in the first volume, look "like a murderer," but he's mighty good company. Agent: Bill Hamilton, A.M. Heath. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
In her sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Mantel has succeeded in doing what only the most gifted novelist can do. She has fleshed out an enigma-the historical cipher that was Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's fixer-and made us accept her interpretation of him as valid. Cromwell helped Henry to annul his marriage to his wife of 20 years, Katherine, so he could marry the younger Anne Boleyn. But it is three years later now. Anne has committed two fatal errors: she hasn't given the king a son and she has become shrewish. Henry's eyes are on a younger, more placid woman, Jane Seymour. He wants to be rid of Anne. It is up to Cromwell to bring Henry what he wants. Verdict It is Mantel's crowning achievement to make Cromwell not just powerful but sympathetic. Mantel is a consummate setter of scenes: descriptions of stunning poetry are embedded amid savagery and earthiness. The historical novel does not come any better than this. It will be as much of a success as its predecessor. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/11.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Second in Mantel's trilogy charting the Machiavellian trajectory of Thomas Cromwell. The Booker award-winning first volume, Wolf Hall (2009), ended before the titular residence, that of Jane Seymour's family, figured significantly in the life of King Henry VIII. Seeing through Cromwell's eyes, a point of view she has thoroughly assimilated, Mantel approaches the major events slantwise, as Cromwell, charged with the practical details of managing Henry's political and religious agendas, might have. We rejoin the characters as the king's thousand-day marriage to Anne Boleyn is well along. Princess Elizabeth is a toddler, the exiled Queen Katherine is dying, and Henry's disinherited daughter Princess Mary is under house arrest. As Master Secretary, Cromwell, while managing his own growing fortune, is always on call to put out fires at the court of the mercurial Henry (who, even for a king, is the ultimate Bad Boss). The English people, not to mention much of Europe, have never accepted Henry's second marriage as valid, and Anne's upstart relatives are annoying some of Britain's more entrenched nobility with their arrogance and preening. Anne has failed to produce a son, and despite Cromwell's efforts to warn her (the two were once allies of a sort), she refuses to alter her flamboyant behavior, even as Henry is increasingly beguiled by Jane Seymour's contrasting (some would say calculated) modesty. Cromwell, a key player in the annulment of Henry's first marriage, must now find a pretext for the dismantling of a second. Once he begins interrogating, with threats of torture, Anne's male retainers to gather evidence of her adulteries, Mantel has a difficult challenge in keeping up our sympathy for Cromwell. She succeeds, mostly by portraying Cromwell as acutely aware that one misstep could land "him, Cromwell" on the scaffold as well. That misstep will happen, but not in this book. The inventiveness of Mantel's language is the chief draw here; the plot, as such, will engage only the most determined of Tudor enthusiasts.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.