Cradle by James Jackson

Cradle Cover

Publisher: Zaffre

Australian Publication Date – 1 January 2018

World Publication Date – 2 November 2017

 

Death, despair and political espionage!  Welcome to the dawn of America in Cradle, the latest book from historical fiction veteran James Jackson.

1607 AD. Jamestown, on the shore of Virginia, is England’s first colony in the New World.  Life is a dangerous struggle for survival, with the settlers forced to endure starvation, disease and relentless attacks from the natives.  Worse, Jamestown has the ire of its namesake, King James of England, who is violently opposed to the settlement.

However, while Jamestown suffers from the king’s displeasure, Prince Henry supports the mission and views Jamestown as a symbol of England’s ambition and colonial intent.  Resolute that Jamestown must succeed, the young prince instructs intelligencer Christian Hardy to travel to Virginia and ensure its survival against any threats.  In response, the king instructs his chief advisor, Hardy’s former employer, the spymaster Robert Cecil, to sabotage the colony.

Hardy finds Jamestown near starvation and constantly under attack by warriors of the Powhaten nation.  The town survives only through the actions of a brave few, including the legendary John Smith, while split loyalties, incompetence and dissent ensure that the colony moves closer to destruction.  As Hardy works to save the town, a far more insidious threat approaches: his old foe, the deadly renegade Realm.

This is the ninth book from Jackson and his third to feature the character of Christian Hardy as its protagonist.  A fourth book, Blood Rock, featured the Hardy’s father, also named Christian Hardy, as its protagonist.  Cradle is a direct sequel to Jackson’s previous novel, the action-packed Treason, which featured a captivating account of the Gunpowder Plot.

Jackson continues his examinations of some of the more interesting and unique areas of history, this time looking at the initial days of the Jamestown settlement.  The early settlement of Virginia falls within a turbulent time in world history, and creation of Jamestown itself is a fascinating example of colonisation gone wrong.  Jackson does an amazing job of capturing and conveying the brutality and depravation that the inhabitants of the town experienced during their ill-planned expedition.  The descriptive writing provides the reader with a vivid picture of the violent battles, ghastly conditions, cannibalism and torture that the settlers were forced to endure.

Readers will be love the large amount of well-researched historical detail about Jamestown that Jackson has included in Cradle.  The story covers a number of key events which occurred in America and England which affected the colony, and Jackson has made sure to include a large number of real life historical figures who were part of the Jamestown community.  Jackson’s dedication to historical detail shines through, as some of the events incorporated into the plot only have minor mentions in the historical record.  One particular inclusion that many will find enticing is a more accurate and realistic account of James Smith and Pocahontas.  People familiar with the Disney version of the story will find this retelling of events particularly enlightening.

A noticeable feature of Jackson’s novels, whether historical or contemporary, is his love of spies and espionage.  Many of his novels that focus on historical events include subplots or detailed examinations of espionage going on behind the scenes.  This is extremely prevalent in the novels featuring Christian Hardy, as they focus on the intelligence-gathering that started under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  Fans of this historical espionage will not be disappointed, as a large portion of Cradle is spent examining the espionage that may have been manipulating Jamestown, both in Virginia and back in Europe.  In addition, Jackson has done a superb job of combining the political thriller storylines into this historical fiction novel and including alternative but plausible motives for the actions of real historical figures.  The fictional character of Hardy is seamlessly inserted into this historical novel, and readers will enjoy watching him influence and bring about real historical events, like the brutal death of John Ratcliffe, who many may remember as the main antagonist of Disney’s Pocahontas.

The ninth book from James Jackson is an over-the-top account of the circumstances surrounding the original Jamestown settlement.  Featuring highly detailed and brutal descriptions of the formation of America and making full use for Jackson’s propensity for thrilling spy stories, Cradle is perfect for those looking for some exhilarating action and adventure in their historical fiction.

My Rating:

Four stars

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