Review: Gideon's Angel by Clifford Beal

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002

The Raven's Banquet serves as a prequel to Gideon's Angel, so after enjoying the former, I finally got the opportunity to delve into the latter...

The plot

Richard Treadwell exists at the French court, exiled from England, his home, and his family. As a staunch Royalist, he remains dedicated to returning the Stuarts to the English throne, and removing that one main obstacle - Oliver Cromwell.

The promise of an English revolt draws him back to familiar shores, despite the sentence of death on his head - all the time pursued by Lieutenant D'Artagnan, to bring this loose cannon back to Cardinal Mazarin.

However, it all soon becomes clear that Richard Treadwell has stumbled into something much bigger - a supernatural plot to open the gates of hell itself upon England...


What I love most about Beal's writing is his sense of time and place - he makes the 1600's seem real and authentic beyond what most writer's achieve.

There's nothing archaic about the text, which at times I found simply wonderful - quite a few times I found myself imagining the voice of Richard Burton reading out passages.

There's also a keen sense of tension and mystery that grows through the book that kept me engrossed.

Although the story is a kind of historical fiction/supernatural horror hybrid, it doesn't sink to the depths of splatterfest and gore I might expect from the horror genre, and the book is free of sexual violence and torture, which was a relief.

But I wasn't entirely satisfied, especially with the ending - which seemed to lose pace and clarity, and then conclude with deus ex machina. Although many writers employ the same tactic, not least in supernatural horror, I really felt this story could have risen above that.

The journey there, however, was immensely enjoyable. I continue to be a fan of his writing style (which I previously commented on here) and very much look forward to Clifford Beal's next novel.

For more context, try the reviews at Amazon:
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I sort of gather from this, Brian, that it should be fine to read The Raven's Banquet first even though it was published second?
Yes that's what I figured.

Seems like I'm on a bit of a historical gig at the moment; just read The Name of the Rose (which was actually a little disappointing) and I've started Life in a Medieval City (promising start and if it's good I might just have to get the other two!) and am about to start Raven's Banquet in parallel.