Author: Matthew Reilly, 2013.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Mystery. Timey-Wimey Alert.
Other Details: ebook. 80 pages.
February 1546. Roger Ascham, tutor to the young and headstrong Princess Elizabeth, is called before the king during a royal visit to Cambridge. Henry has a pressing problem and he needs Ascham to investigate. His favourite girl, the beautiful Isabella, is missing and his best man, sent in pursuit of her, has met a grisly end. Now it's up to Ascham to piece together the fragments of clues at his disposal and restore Isabella to the king. But as he delves deeper into the case, Ascham discovers that Isabella is just one of many missing women and the clock is ticking to save her life. - synopsis from Goodreads.
This short prequel to his historical thriller The Tournament was issued as a Christmas 2013 freebie. The actual story is quite short, about 30 pages, with the balance of the e-short taken up by a preview of Reilly's new historical thriller, The Tournament. Now I tend to be quite strict about historical fiction not taking too many liberties and my trusty timey-wimey detector sounded right at the start as while Roger Ascham was Princess Elizabeth's tutor he didn't take up the position until 1548, two years later. However, by that time Henry VIII was dead and his mission for Roger Ascham in this prequel as well as allowing Elizabeth to accompany Ascham to the Continent in The Tournament is essential.
Despite this I found it an entertaining romp and the taster for The Tournament looks like it will equally be fun and so I will likely get it when it reaches the library shelves in the UK. I was amused by a review in the Sydney Morning Herald that summed it up as "an entertaining, implausible thriller that is based on research yet never lets historical accuracy, or anything else, get in the way of a fast-paced and action-packed story".
I thought Princess Elizabeth being 13 in the prequel and novel sounded very young yet then recalled the portrait below of the young princess painted circa 1546, shows a young self-possessed woman.