I’m very fond of historical fiction and would like to thank Nikki Griffiths for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Robert J. Lloyd’s The Bloodless Boy and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. It’s a privilege to share that review today.
Published by Melville House on 4th November 2021, The Bloodless Boy is available for purchase online and in all good bookshops including here.
The City of London, 1678. New Year’s Day. The body of a young boy, drained of his blood and with a sequence of numbers inscribed on his skin, is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River.
With London gripped by hysteria, where rumours of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound, Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, the powerful Justice of Peace for Westminster, is certain of Catholic guilt in the crime. He enlists Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, and his assistant, Harry Hunt, to help his enquiry.
Sir Edmund confides to Hooke that the bloodless boy is not the first to have been discovered. He also presents Hooke with a cipher that was left on the body.
That same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out. A disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II.
Wary of the political hornet’s nest they are walking into – and using evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth – Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken. Moreover, what does the cipher mean?
My Review of The Bloodless Boy
A young boy’s body is found.
What a tour de force The Bloodless Boy is. I read it with a mixture of fascination and complete admiration for Robert J. Lloyd’s superb writing, it being both eloquent and entertaining. The narrative style fits the historical era perfectly but is still completely accessible to the modern reader.
The 1678 setting is magnificent. Descriptions place the reader so firmly at the heart of the action that it really is as if you’re there with Harry and Robert. Every sense is catered for and the level of authenticity this adds to The Bloodless Boy makes it a wonderfully immersive read. Not only is this historical writing of the best kind, but in The Bloodless Boy there is mystery, politics, religion, science and intrigue all rolled into one totally absorbing narrative. The assiduous level of research, added to the cast of real and imagined characters makes The Bloodless Boy an authentic read too. I found it mesmerising.
The plot races along. Short chapters make for a snappy pace as it’s hard not to read just one more because the story is so engaging. I loved the chapter headings that draw in the reader too. The events that are familiar to the reader, engaging them with the story, are overlaid with invented occurrences so that The Bloodless Boy really is the perfect blend of fact and fiction. That said, anyone not especially interested in history, but who loves a brilliant mystery would thoroughly enjoy this narrative. A reader doesn’t need to love historical fiction to be royally (pun not intended) entertained here.
I appreciated the inclusion of a character list at the beginning as there are several people to keep abreast of in the story. I loved the way real people are scattered through the pages because it made The Bloodless Boy feel all the more powerful a read, knowing that some of these people really existed. I’d never before heard of Robert Hooke but had studied John Locke at university so that I accepted without question Robert J. Lloyd’s convincing presentation of character. In amongst the schemers, the villains, the wealthy, the criminals, the insane and the ordinary people who leap from the pages here, it was Harry Hunt who engaged me most. His integrity and vulnerability balanced against his strength and ability to dissemble if needed made him a true hero.
Themes in The Bloodless Boy leave the reader reeling. Certainly aspects steeped in historical fact have the benefit of hindsight, but there’s so much to consider and ponder so that I keep thinking about the book now I’ve finished reading it.
The Bloodless Boy is multi-layered, beautifully written and deeply textured so that it is a magnificently entertaining and rewarding read. I thought it was excellent.
About Robert J. Lloyd
Robert J. Lloyd grew up in South London, Innsbruck, and Kinshasa (his parents worked in the British Foreign Service), and then in Sheffield, where he studied for a Fine Art degree, starting as a landscape painter but moving to film, performance, and installation. His MA thesis on Robert Hooke and the ‘New Philosophy’, inspired the ideas and characters in The Bloodless Boy. He lives in Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons. This is his first book.
You can follow Robert on Twitter @robjlloyd.
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