The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez by Ann Swinfen

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Brian G Turner, May 8, 2016.

  1. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I've no idea how I stumbled across this series on Amazon, but I ended up being intrigued by its promise of Tudor-era espionage. I've borrowed it and am only a few pages in, but am already taken by the sense of period in the author's voice:

    The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez Book 1) eBook: Ann Swinfen: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

    Ann Swinfen herself appears to be a remarkable woman in her own right, studying Classics and Mathematics at Oxford - like you do - before doing both at more advanced levels:
    Biography - Ann Swinfen

    Anyway, I'm hoping to enjoy at least the first book in this series. :)
     
  2. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

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    Looks like a great novel and goes into my too read pile. I enjoyed the character though they come off a bit unreliable because of the secret and had the secret not been revealed before the third chapter I might have still been scratching my head wondering how much it might be worth it to see the reveal of that which seemed evident from the vary first paragraph; yet still with the deception had me wondering until it became evident.
     
  3. thaddeus6th

    thaddeus6th Well-Known Member

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    I bought this for my mum for Christmas. She really liked it, read it in three days (which is super-fast), and my dad then read and liked it too.
     
  4. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I think the "secret" was pretty obvious from the start -
    but it's clever that the voice was so indicative of gender.

    @The Judge - this could be something you may especially enjoy.
     
  5. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

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    I agree but as things progress the reader is anxiously waiting for someone::
    anyone-talk about the elephant in the room.
     
  6. thaddeus6th

    thaddeus6th Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes (not clicking the spoiler in case I ever read the book), having an obvious secret or suchlike can work, because it can shift the tension from "What will happen?" to "How will it happen?".
     
  7. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Finished this, and mostly enjoyed it, with a few reservations.

    The big plus is that it does a superb job of recreating everyday life in Elizabethan England. There's a dedication to detail here that really brings this world alive.

    But that's also its biggest flaw. At times the detail came too much to the foreground and slowed the prose.

    Writers such as Colleen McCullough do this, too. However, I didn't get a great feeling of plot and character in this book to make up for that.

    Ann Swinfen has said previously that she basically wrote a huge book, and then split it up. But IMO it shows - The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez feels like a first episode, rather than a complete novel.

    That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, but I couldn't shake the feeling of something missing.

    A couple of niggles: it's revealed early on - and is obvious before that - that Christoval is a girl disguised as a boy, which felt like a farcical plot device to me. Also, even though they were supposed to be Portuguese Jews, at no point did Christoval or her family ever comes across as really Jewish - very well educated, but no sense of piety or awareness of the vast number of Jewish commentaries, not least in the Torah.

    But a splendid job on the historical side - I was easily convinced that everything else I read was the result of painstaking research, not least the various named inns.

    I would be happy to read the following books, but I'd need to be in the mood for something very Elizabethan.
     
  8. Cayleb

    Cayleb Elderly book lover.

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    I have just read the first three novels and thoroughly enjoyed them. Yes, there are a few minor niggles (very minor in my view) but they should not be allowed to get in the way of enjoying the story. Waiting for more.
     
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  9. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I think I'll probably return to this series soon - it was light and easy reading with only minor complaints, and I loved the sense of setting she brought to the stories.

    On that point, she's just started a mediaeval mystery series, and I'm really looking forward to exploring her depiction of Mediaeval England: The Bookseller's Tale (Oxford Medieval Mysteries Book 1)
     
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