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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/13/2008 Archived Entry: "Novel review: The Firemaster's Mistress"

The Firemaster's Mistress
Written by Christie Dickason
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN-10:  0061568260
ISBN-13:  9780061568268

Review by Jilly Gee

In the early 1600's, uhappy with the way the new government was treating them, a group of overzealous Catholics and people unhappy with the spinelessness of King James I, formed an elaborate plan to blow up the House of Parliament, now known as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.  Francis Quoynt, son of Boomer Quoynt, known in the area for making explosives, gunpowder, and the like, would have been perfectly satisfied using his talents to make dramatic light shows that would bring awe to people's faces rather than dangerous weapons that would bring pain to the same faces.  His desire for a future secure enough to enable him to confidently take Kate Peach as his wife, however, pushes him to accept a position as a spy from Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury, who promises him that secure future.

Not cut out to be a spy, Francis walks a fine line between between being a traitor and being a hero.  Unwilling to betray the friends who have put their trust in his ability to get them the gunpowder needed for the explosion, he gives Cecil only enough information to know that an attempt on Parliament will be made and not enough to tell the man the perpetrators.  Even with this information, though, Cecil seems unwilling to make any moves.  Perhaps Cecil is really in league with the Gunpowder plotters after all?  Torn between helping his friends and staying loyal to the crown, Francis agonizes over who he can trust.  The strongest aspect of the novel, the suspense over what Francis would ultimately decide, will draw readers in with its urgency and excitement.

Making matters worse is Francis's love for Kate Peach.  Unable to tell her of his secret mission, he can only allude to danger for the Catholic girl, who takes the warnings as a kind of veiled threat.  Thinking that she cannot trust Francis, Kate plans her escape, an escape that does not involve Francis, from her current life working for Hugh Traylor, who has trapped Kate into a plot of his own.  The romantic subplot is not half as exciting as Francis's struggle with being traitor and being a loyalist, the two seeming more like two friends who no longer know how to talk to each other rather than lovers passionate about each other, but considering that it is just that, a subplot, it is understandable.  It is an important catalyst for Francis's actions, but not the end all be all of his universe.

Not being a history buff, just a person who likes stories of far away places and far away times, most of the factual references were lost on simple little me.  It is clear, though, from the author's notes and the helpful list of real figures used in the novel that Ms. Dickason did her best to make the story as conforming to history as possible while still able to draw an intriguing story around all those facts.

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