Saturday, August 29, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Destroying Angel by S.G. MacLean

 England in the mid 1600s, under Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, was a scary and oppressive place to be. I don’t know much about that time period, but S.G. MacLean’s historical thriller series featuring the captain of Cromwell’s Guard, Damien Seeker, is teaching me quite a bit.

Seeker is utterly loyal to Cromwell and works closely with the chief government spy, Thurloe. In the previous two books, starting with The Seeker, the reader is introduced to this strong, complex military man who is feared and hated by many on both sides for good reason. However, we also learn that he can be gentle and kind to those in need. And that he certainly does have a heart.

At the end of book two, Seeker is forced to walk away from the woman he has come to love because he can’t serve Cromwell and look away from her brother’s treasonous leanings. 

In book three, Destroying Angel, Seeker has been sent north to the Yorkshire moors to connect with the Major-General sent there to keep order and to look into the possible return of a banished Loyalist, Thomas Faithly. Faithly had been in exile with the young King, and it is supposed that he has returned to his ancestral estate to drum up support. This sort of thing, rooting out Royalists, is all in a day’s work for Seeker, but there are complications.

Seeker is originally from Yorkshire—not Faithly Moor, where he has been sent—but the area around it. And it was in Yorkshire, as a young man, where personal tragedy changed the course of his life. I don’t want to introduce spoilers for the first two books, but Seeker’s marriage was destroyed and he lost contact with his daughter. With nowhere else to turn, he fled to join Cromwell’s Army and the bitterness and cruelty of that life made him what he is today. He is very, very good at soldiering--cold, demanding, and relentless. (He’s also very good at solving political mysteries.) 

Now that he is back in his old stomping grounds, his past comes back to haunt him.

There is a lot going on in this book. Seeker not only has to search for Faithly, but he also becomes involved in solving a murder of a young girl, the ward of the town constable, a loyal Cromwell supporter. The town is also undergoing an upheaval because of the arrival of a “trier,” a rigid Puritan examiner who has been called in to try the local rector who has been accused of not being Puritan enough. Bitter, long-held grievances between villagers are at play, and Seeker has to sort through what is important and what is not. There is also fear of witchcraft and those who would hunt witches. Although at first it is a lot to take in and keep track of, the reader just needs to keep following the protagonist. Seeker is as clever as ever at untangling the threads until it all comes clear.

These are fascinating novels. Thrilling and disturbing. We keep rooting for Seeker even as the cause he serves becomes more and more corrupt. At some point, there will have to be a reckoning as Cromwell’s England becomes just as evil as the regime it replaced, moving farther from the ideals that drew Seeker to the fight. I’ve got the next book on hand and am anxious to see what comes next.

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