The Fallen Angel is the final book in Tracy Borman’s trilogy that follows Frances Gorges’ story through the twists and turns of life at the English court under the Scottish king, James VI and I. Having thoroughly enjoyed The King’s Witch and The Devil’s Slave, I was looking forward to The Fallen Angel, and I was not disappointed.
Although by this point, James has lost his fervour for hunting witches, the Stuart court remains a perilous place for a woman who has been accused of witchcraft – even one who has been pardoned – and being on the wrong side of the king’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, is a most dangerous position to be in. Frances’ husband, Thomas, now well-established as a favoured servant in the royal household, suffers under the rule of his new master, Buckingham, and Frances finds herself increasingly at odds with the man. George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, is the stuff of which 'classic' villains are created. Using his relationship with the king to create great power for himself, his angelic good looks belie his depraved behaviour.
Some of the familiar figures from the first two books – James and his queen, Anne of Denmark, Princess Elizabeth, Walter Raleigh, and the Earl of Rutland – are joined by new ones – I was particularly taken with the quietly clever Francis Bacon - but it is the malevolent Villiers that dominates. In this final volume, Frances, despite her best efforts, is drawn back into the world of intrigue and a final bid by Sir Walter Raleigh and his network of Catholic supporters to replace James with a Catholic monarch. While we know the way the history plays out, Borman deftly uses the historical facts to construct a richly-detailed background to Frances’ gripping story, bringing to life the strong and differing religious factions of the period. The intensity of belief and the great danger that many Catholics put themselves in by plotting to rid the kingdom of James underpins Frances’ world.
Borman is a natural storyteller. The story ebbs and flows in an absorbing manner and her detailed knowledge of the historical detail of the period is well-used. She evokes vivid images, sights and smells and her skill at conveying a sense of place, with few words or unnecessary description, brings Whitehall, Greenwich, and Stuart London to life in such a way that they, and Whitehall, in particular, become another character in the story.
Highly recommended – as, indeed, are the first two books in The King’s Witch trilogy.