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Unicorn's Blood (1998)

by Patricia Finney

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: David Becket and Simon Ames (2)

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272678,067 (3.64)6
Patricia Finney's outstanding literary thriller plunges into the vivid and deadly world of the 16th century: from the torture chambers of the Tower to the elegant artifice of court life; from the bawdy-houses of Southwark to the Queen's own bed. Why are the Jesuits, the Queen's Puritan councillors and even the Queen herself searching for the mysterious Book of the Unicorn? What ancient scandal threatens Elizabeth Tudor as she fights to avoid executing her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots? And what of the man waking up in the dungeon with no memory of who he is? David Becket and Simon Ames, the two mismatched heroes of FIREDRAKE'S EYE find themselves unwillingly in the thick of the struggle to unravel the plot.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Was ever a monarch so beset as Elizabeth I of England? Seldom in her long reign was she not feuding with someone, and few feuds were as bitter or prolonged as the one over the fate of Mary, Queen of Scots. Even after Mary was implicated in an assassination plot in 1568 and sentenced to die for treason, Elizabeth dragged her feet over the signing of the actual warrant for 19 long years, then suddenly relented and signed the document, only to remove from her court many of the councilors who had urged the action, once the execution had taken place.

Patricia Finney has built a complex tale of intrigue around this reversal, basing it on the search for a supposed diary kept by the young Princess Elizabeth, which would have destroyed her as a monarch and a woman.

This densely plotted tale is rife with espionage, double-dealing, turncoat agents, secret codes, hidden passageways, and disgraced clergy. It meticulously sets out pictures of both court life and the desperate struggle for survival of London’s poor, rich in detail and developing an all-too-plausible tale of events in Elizabeth’s life before she ascended the throne. It even toys with mysticism, assigning some of the narrative to the Virgin Mary, who manages to be almost as interesting as the mortal characters carrying the action.

Readers looking for a court-heavy tale of Tudor lives, loves, and feuds, may be disappointed at the emphasis on spies and double-dealings, while those attempting to winkle out just who among Elizabeth’s court was allied with whom may be impatient with a wandering subplot about an unfrocked nun desperate to make a dowry for her great granddaughter. And anyone coming to the novel as a stand-alone is apt to be dismayed that there is an earlier volume, ‘Firedrake’s Eye’, which introduces some of the main fictional characters in this tale.

Finney’s research is exhaustive, and there are many fascinating details about life at court and among the populace. Finding these nuggets may distract the reader from the fact that the pace is glacial and that there are more characters and subplots than hairs in one of Elizabeth’s wigs. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Oct 29, 2020 |
Most excellent! ( )
  a1stitcher | Jun 22, 2019 |
Patricia Finney's second Elizabethan espionage thriller is even better than the first (and the third is even better still, but we'll get to that.) Narrated by the Madonna herself, the Virgin Mary, who moves from scene to scene with grace and compassion, the muti-stranded narratvie concerns an old scandal from childhood of Queen Elizabeth, and the Book of the Unicorn, which contains the secret, and the factions searching furiously and ruthlessly for said book which promises to either destroy or grant absolute control over the Queen.

A Catholic priest hiding from the pursuivants hears an old woman's confession, and hatches a scheme. Protestant priest-hunters and courtiers, pressing for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots have a chance to put Elizabeth herself in her place. A man wakes in the Tower with no memory of who he is, Simon Ames comes back from the dead to rescue an old friend, and the Queen's Fool sets out to save her mistress.

A brilliant thriller that lays out life in the Westminister Court of the Virgin Queen, from the morning routines of the Queen and her women to the cut-throat world of the courtiers and counsellers, to the lowest cellar where the night-soil is collected and stored, the plots and counter-plots, the politics and the unforgiving religious hatreds are all brought to sinister, dangerous life.

Superbly written, full of detail and living, breathing characters and sly commentaries on religious extremism and misogyny, this is a top-notch novel of historical intrigue. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Did not like this book at all. Couldn't get past the first few chapters. Sorry. Can't recommend it! ( )
  dd196406 | Jan 10, 2013 |
Set in Elizabethan England – with Elizabeth herself as a major character – what impresses about this novel is not the convoluted, sometimes Disneyfied plot, but the details of life in Court in the 16th century. Everything down to the clothing and the slop in the streets is meticulously depicted (there’s even a glossary), so the reader does feel transported to another time and place. Elizabeth’s character is also meticulously depicted, as an often cold, headstrong, independent, sometimes lesbian woman well ahead of her time. I only wish the rest of the story had held up as well, but the plot to discover Elizabeth’s diary from her teenage years and protect the secrets held within does sometimes border on the type of playful, adventurous romp perhaps better suited to a light matinee rather than a serious work of historical fiction. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 24, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia Finneyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leister, BryanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Patricia Finney's outstanding literary thriller plunges into the vivid and deadly world of the 16th century: from the torture chambers of the Tower to the elegant artifice of court life; from the bawdy-houses of Southwark to the Queen's own bed. Why are the Jesuits, the Queen's Puritan councillors and even the Queen herself searching for the mysterious Book of the Unicorn? What ancient scandal threatens Elizabeth Tudor as she fights to avoid executing her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots? And what of the man waking up in the dungeon with no memory of who he is? David Becket and Simon Ames, the two mismatched heroes of FIREDRAKE'S EYE find themselves unwillingly in the thick of the struggle to unravel the plot.

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