“Blood’s Game” — The reader wins

I enjoy swashbucklers and tales of intrigue, as you might guess.

Here is a brand new one, set in the court of Charles II with a plot culled from actual history. “Blood’s Game” is a novel centered on the audacious attempt by Colonel Thomas Blood to steal the Crown Jewels of England. Author Angus Donald takes the real personages involved, blends fact with a bit of poetic license and comes up with a story that could have been told by Dumas, or Sabatini.

Donald’s telling is a bit more earthy and his violence a bit more savage than anything those gentlemen would have produced, which is fine with me. What really intrigues me about this book, though, and what makes me look forward to the next book in the series, is the protagonist. Thomas Blood’s son, Holcroft, is the true hero of the tale, and is quite a departure from the usual soldier of fortune. We meet him as a young man living in the squalor of Shoreditch, socially awkward and, were he alive today, probably existing somewhere on the autism spectrum. He is intelligent, and sharp, but somewhat odd. His adventurer father, who has connections to the Duke of Buckingham, arranges for the boy to become a servant of the duke.

Holcroft’s extraordinary gift with numbers, ciphers and patterns soon becomes readily apparent to the duke, however, and Buckingham knows how to make use of such skills. Soon we have palace intrigues weaving like threads with Colonel Blood’s jewel heist. It takes a while to gel, but it all comes together in quite bloody and satisfying fashion.

The real Holcroft Blood went on to a fine military career, and Donald intends to build this series along those lines. With a strong sense of place and a hero who can fight when he needs to but who also can think his way through obstacles, this promises to be a fun, adventurous ride through history.

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