Gloriana's Torch

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Overview

The year is 1587. The Spanish are preparing to launch the Armada against the English and Queen Elizabeth. Ex-soldier David Becket, now responsible for the Queen's Ordnance discovers that large quantities of gunpowder are going astray. Can someone in the heart of the English government be selling it to the Spanish? Unaccountably he is plagued by vivid dreams of England invaded, an alternative story where the Armada is victorious. Patricia Finney's brilliant reworking of the Armada legend is an imaginative tour de ...

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Gloriana's Torch: A Novel

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Overview

The year is 1587. The Spanish are preparing to launch the Armada against the English and Queen Elizabeth. Ex-soldier David Becket, now responsible for the Queen's Ordnance discovers that large quantities of gunpowder are going astray. Can someone in the heart of the English government be selling it to the Spanish? Unaccountably he is plagued by vivid dreams of England invaded, an alternative story where the Armada is victorious. Patricia Finney's brilliant reworking of the Armada legend is an imaginative tour de force. Thrilling, intricate, and inspiring, this is a tale of courage, of love, and, ultimately, redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Third in a series of related but stand-alone historical thrillers (Unicorn's Blood; Firedrake's Eye), this brooding, multifaceted tale is set on the eve of the sailing of the Spanish Armada in 1588. David Becket, clerk of the ordnance and sometime spy for Elizabeth I, is ordered by the queen to discover the details of a top-secret Spanish plot dubbed the "Miracle of Beauty." In addition, Becket is commanded to rescue his fellow English spy and friend, Simon Ames, who has been condemned by the Spanish Inquisition as a heretic. Simon escapes burning as a Jew only to be consigned as a galley slave to a new and powerful Spanish warship that may prove to be England's undoing-especially when coupled with Spanish plans to take a key French port. Ames's wife, Rebecca, insists on traveling with Becket to find Ames, and when he tries to stop her, she outwits him and takes his ship, assisted by one of Becket's old enemies. Becket, undaunted, makes his way to France with Rebecca's former servant, Merula, a black woman with shamanic powers who has, by guile bordering on magic, worked her way north from Africa in search of her enslaved son. Becket was a deeply wounded soul after his wrongful imprisonment and torture in Unicorn's Blood, and Merula offers him spiritual healing. The various threads of this wide-ranging tale of intrigue do not come together neatly, but Finney's vivid prose and the high level of historical imagination on display make for a satisfying read. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Critics raved about Unicorn's Blood and Firedrake's Eye, the first two books in a trilogy set in late 16th-century England, and this last novel will surely elicit plaudits as well. Finney vividly animates the complexities of this period, in which religious issues continue to divide not only England but the rest of the known world, slavery extends its tentacles ever further into Europe, and the Virgin Queen is beset by both domestic and foreign threats to her rule. The immediate danger is that Philip II of Spain is intent on invading England and restoring a Catholic monarch to the throne. Two of Elizabeth's loyal subjects, David Becket and Simon Ames (who figure prominently in the earlier novels), are caught up in the events of the day. Becket, still recovering physically and emotionally from horrendous experiences as a prisoner in the Tower of London, discovers that large quantities of gunpowder destined for use against the invaders have disappeared. Has a traitor diverted them to the Spanish cause? Meanwhile, Ames is captured by the Inquisition in Lisbon while on a secret mission for the queen and is forced to serve as a galley slave on a boat in the Spanish Armada. Becket; Ames's wife, Rebecca; and her African slave, Merula (one of the best-drawn characters in the book), set out on the difficult task of rescuing Ames. Historical fiction doesn't come any better than this. Highly recommended for all collections-and buy the first two as well.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A richly imagined answer to a vexing question: Why did the mighty ships of the Spanish Armada fail in their mission? Finney, the Cambridge-educated author of dazzling Elizabethan-era historicals (Unicorn's Blood, 2001, etc.), swashbuckles right into the story: as Philip of Spain threatens to take England and all its riches by force, the equally bellicose English plan their defense. Alas, they lack sufficient saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder; English dealers in armaments may well be indirectly supplying the Spaniards, and Queen Elizabeth's court is crawling with Papist traitors and spies of all stripes. Is Simon Anriques-a Jew born in the New World, known in England as Simon Ames, and seemingly her Majesty's loyal servant-really a double agent? Just ask the pious Portuguese torturer into whose hands he falls and his silent minions, who pour gallons of water down Anriques's gagging throat, stopping just before his belly bursts. (Squeamish souls take note: Finney relishes brutality-the galley scenes, in which Anriques later figures, are rife with flogging, festering wounds, more torture, and a wee touch of forced sodomy.) Anriques's African slave, Merula, tends to his sickly wife Rebecca and offers incantatory, noble-savage speeches when not casting spells inspired by her bloodthirsty personal deity, Lady Leopard. Merula is able to call down terrible storms from the indifferent heavens, and Rebecca herself manages to blow up a galleon, with the aid of Thomasina de Paris, a wonderfully clever dwarf-in fact, a court fool to Queen Elizabeth. Pursued by English fire-ships, the Armada is routed in shameful defeat. In an epilogue, Finney admits to making up some of the details, but whocares? This is fiction-and the gorgeous, carefully wrought prose carries all before it. Ambitious, engrossing, full of melodramatic thunder.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312312862
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 1,011,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Finney attended Oxford, where she read history. Her first novel, A Shadow of Gulls, won the prestigious David Higham award. Gloriana's Torch is her fifth novel. She lives in England.

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Reading Group Guide

The year is 1587. The Spanish are preparing to launch the Armada against the English and Queen Elizabeth. Ex-soldier David Becket, now responsible for the Queen's Ordnance discovers that large quantities of gunpowder are going astray. Can someone in the heart of the English government be selling it to the Spanish? Unaccountably he is plagued by vivid dreams of England invaded, an alternative story where the Armada is victorious. Patricia Finney's brilliant reworking of the Armada legend is an imaginative tour de force. Thrilling, intricate, and inspiring, this is a tale of courage, of love, and, ultimately, redemption.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2008

    GREAT, WONDERFUL HISTORICAL FICTION.

    In Gloriana's Toch, several characters come to life in all their richness, complexity and flaws. The story is told from their different points of view. And there's a dreamlike, what-if alternative history (what might've happened if the Spanish had landed in England)that makes it an even more compelling book. I couldn't put it down. Great reading. Wonderful historical fiction on the Spanish Armada and Elizabeth I of England.

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