Based upon real events and real people, the latest by P.F. Chisholm is a wonderful addition to the reading lists of anyone who enjoys historical fiction, political machinations, espionage, and murder mysteries. Using the actual diaries of Sir Robert Carey, Deputy Warden of the Border between Scotland and England, The Clash of Spheres, enters an interesting arena. The King of Spain, even after the massive defeat of his armada, is not done with trying to unseat Elizabeth I of England.
Here we find our intrepid courtier back in Scotland facing an interesting and a disconcerting effort to thwart another conspiracy against the English Queen. We are also invited into the Court of King James VII, soon to be King James I of England. We get a glimpse of the world of Elizabethan England. It’s laws. It’s beliefs. It’s fears for the future.
Carey, cousin to the Queen through his father, has been one of her most loyal supporters. He has fought for her. He has spied for her. And he has lost at cards to her majesty (for if you know what’s good for you, you loose). This time he enters an arena where he has to deal in international politics, and at the same time keep himself safe from harm. For his last foray into danger has left a sour taste in the border world between Scotland and England, where even his second in command has taken exception to his choices. And unfortunately for Carey, such exceptions are tantamount to a blood feud.
Then there is James. The feeble. The weak-willed. The frightened, unkingly King James. Who is at the center of a conspiracy that could ignite the entire Island and bring England into civil war. We are brought into the world of the Scottish Court and allowed to ponder at it’s opulence, it’s decadence, and it’s political strife. We meet the Danish Queen, who is caught in a loveless marriage, but knowing that her future resides in her ability to provide Scotland and England with a male heir. We find Lady Elizabeth Widdrington, Carey’s secret love, biding her time, away from her abusive husband, as lady-in-waiting, to the Scottish queen.
Along with Carey, her majesty enlists the help of Andricks. A tooth-puller. A journeyman. A philosopher. A learned man. A spy. He is to help uncover the plot to undermine Elizabeth’s realm. He is charged with a philosophical discussion of the position of the planets, especially the Earth vis-a-vis the sun, as a ruse to deliver an important letter to King James. Moreover, along the way we learn something else about this man and the choices he has to make for his own family’s safety and well-being. Something that is all too real for many in the world of Christian Europe.
The philosophical discussion, and the plot against England and Scotland, come to a head New Year’s Day 1593. Alchemy, duels, scientific arguments, and political reality all mesh together to provide an exciting conclusion.
Filled with the cast of characters that readers have grown to know and love, and many pulled from the annuls of history such as Robert Cecil and Frances Walsingham, this latest foray into the Elizabethan England does not disappoint.