December 16th, 2012

dog knotwork

The Armourer's House

Having read one book about Tudor England very slowly, with mixed feelings, I read another, this time very fast, set in exactly the same time period but otherwise very very different. I was feeling badly in need of something cheering and upbeat, and despite being by Sutcliff, this did the job admirably.

It's a children's book - Ok, so is Song for a Dark Queen, and nobody could accuse that of being excessively cheerful - but here, she has pulled out all the stops on 'sense of wonder' to paint a picture of a beautiful half-magical Tudor London, with a warm cosy family at the heart of it, and surrounded by a world full of peacocks, lost South American kingdoms, stately Spanish galleons and brave little British trading ships.

It's not completely rose-tinted, although I'm sure some people would find it both slow and sugary. People get lost at sea, sailors wear thin ragged clothes, apprentices riot, and the viewpoint character, Tamsy, is an orphan, although one born into a well-off extended family. But it still all works, for me, as a world that is beautiful and full of wonders when seen through the eyes of an optimistic child.

OK, I could see the twist at the end coming from about page 10, but I think it still counts as a genuine Tolkienien eucatastrophe. Hurray! And Tamsy is written with a lovely Bideford accent which is a nice touch. It reminded me most of Sutcliff's other works, of 'Simon', which also has that specifically Torridge-side flavour.