I am immensely grateful to Frances Gough at Headline for a review copy of ‘The Protector’ by S J Deas in return for an honest opinion. It was published in hardback on 30th July 2015.
William Falkland is desperate to find his wife and children whom he has lost following the Civil War in 1640s England. Creator of the New Model Army, Oliver Cromwell, however, has other ideas for him and sets William the task of finding John Milton’s missing sister Anne. So begins an adventure of treachery, danger and frustrations.
I was captivated from the first sentence of this novel. It is completely accessible but at the same time totally authentic in its portrayal of England in 1646. The dialogue conveys the period so realistically but still feels entirely natural to the modern ear. What works so well is the attention to detail so that all the senses are treated to a wide range of descriptions, placing the reader at the scene in an immersive experience. It is so easy to visualise because of the skilful writing and I could easily see ‘The Protector’ as a film or television series.
The first person narrative makes the writing somehow intimate, as if you’re reading William Falkland’s private diary. This makes his character so interesting and lifelike. It is as if he’s a microcosm of the era, wrestling with his conscience, sometimes being brutal and occasionally tender. Whilst William is created by Stephen Deas, other characters are historical and the quality of research to create a seamless balance between fact and fiction is outstanding. It’s one of the elements that make this such a brilliant read. S J Deas illustrates a passion for, and perfect knowledge about, the era. I had no idea, before reading this, that Milton had a missing sister.
However, where ‘The Protector’ really triumphs, is in the storytelling itself. The plot is rapid and exhilarating to read with twists and subtle hints so that this is a hugely satisfying thriller as well as an historical novel.
Although this is the second novel, after ‘The Royalist’, to feature William Falkland, it is a perfect stand alone read. I haven’t read the first but I will do as soon as I can. I found ‘The Protector’ exciting, authentic and totally absorbing. A brilliant must read.