Its the summer of 1643 and the Royalist cause is in the ascendency. With the defeat of the rebel army at Stratton and then the bloody capture of Bristol, it seems that the Royalists are close to overall victory.
At this point divisions with the royal court surface with some calling for an immediate march on London and Parliaments heartland, while others call for the capture of Gloucester and securing the West of the country.
With the Governor of Gloucester hinting he may surrender the town to the Royalist cause. Prince Rupert asks Stryker to enter the city undercover and gauge the mood of the Governor and the citizens of the town.
As Lisette is on a important mission in London, Stryker is a reluctant spy but with no choice to obey orders he deserts the Royal army and makes his way into the town.
Inside the town he will face unexpected dangers and will be saved from a painful death by a face from the past, someone who Stryker regards as a father figure.
Along with the implacable determination of Governor Massie and the citizens of Gloucester this unexpected appearance will cause Stryker to question his loyalty to the Royalist cause.
Only when he learns that an assassin is loose within the Royalist lines does Stryker realize where his true loyalty lay but can he escape the besieged town and find the assassin before the assassin finds King Charles?
Assassin’s Reign is the fourth book in a planned ten book series from Michael Arnold.
I have been a fan of the Stryker books from the very first book (Traitors blood) and in my humble opinion each book gets better and better.
Stryker is a fantastic character to follow, with his badly scared face and dour demeanor he is a lot darker than your average hero. In Assassin’s Reign this darkness takes a further twist as he struggles with the grief from the death of a young officer under his command. This gives him an anger that is terrifying in its intensity and even scares the men under his command.
It can by quite easy to write a character that is too dark to really enjoy, even if he is the hero and the two things that stop him from becoming too dark is his friendship with Sergeant Skellen and his love for the Queen’s agent, Lisette.
This lighter, more human side is a perfect counterweight to the battle sacred and weary solider Stryker has become over the years of war.
I also enjoyed the added back story to Stryker’s life as we learn more about his adventures in the European wars and again it just adds another layer to his character.
Assassin’s Reign brings to life the long and bloody siege of Gloucester. It really captures the defenders extra incentive to protect their loved ones and homes from the marauding Royal army and shows the frustration of that army as the town continues to resist and cause casualties amongst them. It makes you understand why armies ran wild when they finally captured towns and cities after a long siege.
I think he author has done a clever thing by placing Stryker within the walls of Gloucester because he has switched the allegiance of the reader from the Royalist side to the defenders. I ended up routing for them even though I’m a royalist at heart!
With an interesting side story of Lisette’s mission to London and her desperate escape this is a fast paced and well rounded book that kept me entertained on the train over two days.
In year of great books on the English Civil War this book easily holds it own. I would recommend starting from the beginning so you get to enjoy Stryker’s growth over the four books but you could read this as a stand alone.
Michael Arnold’s interest in British history is lifelong, and childhood holidays were spent visiting castles and battlefields. He became a Sharpe junkie at the age of 13, and his particular fascination with the seventeenth century was piqued partly by the fact that his hometown Petersfield is steeped in the history of the period. Michael is the bestselling author of Traitor’s Blood and Assassin’s Reign. He is also the author of the short story Stryker and the Angels of Death.
Michael is the first historical series novelist of our time to have used the English Civil Wars as his backdrop, and, in his exclusive new sequence of Highwayman novellas, turns his attention to the period when England was a republic.
You can find out more about Michael Arnold, Captain Stryker and The Civil War Chronicles by visiting http://www.johnmurrays.co.uk, Michael Arnold’s website http://www.michael-arnold.net, his facebook fanpage at http://www.facebook.com/MichaelArnoldBooks, or by following Mike on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/MikeArnold01