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Sometimes I really should be more careful when buying books as there are so many sequels that it is easy to get a book that is part of a series and I have not read the first one. I did this with Blood Ties by C. C. Humphreys not realising that it was the second book and I had not read the first. Being impatient I decided to have a quick look on Amazon and see what had happened and then read Blood Ties.
I was looking forward to it as the previous book about the French Executioner got rave reviews so I felt I had made a good choice. This tells the story of the beheading of Anne Boleyn and Blood Ties starts after this event.
There were rumours that Anne had six fingers on her left hand and when he body was exhumed it appeared that the hand had been removed. As Anne was worried that this would be used to persecute her daughter Elizabeth she had asked for her executioner to take to away.
There were parts that I struggled with and by and large it could have been my own fault for not waiting and getting the first book. There were things I also found strange and they did not seem to be anything to do with the first book.
The executioners son is a strict Catholic and feels he must make up for the wrongdoings of his father yet he finds murdering Jews an acceptable pastime. It is due to his strict Catholicism that he is chosen to search for the hand and do what Anne feared most. If Elizabeth could be damaged by it, she would not be able to make England a protestant country of she ever became queen.
A lot of the book revolves around the search for the hand and also whether or not there will be a use for it if it is found. The hand is taken around the world as different "owners" move it from place to place and this is where the book lost its interest for me. There were too many characters and too much movement although the slow start was not ideal either.
There seems to be a clear interest in different religions as there seems to be a lot of knowledge about the Catholic faith and the way of life of Canadian Indians. I think that this is the thing I liked the most - the fact that he bothered to research these points.
There does not seem to be a clear end to the story so I am left wondering if there is going to be a further book. I have not found one but to be honest I did not look very hard.
I had my hopes built up buy the reviews of the first book but do not feel that this has been a great read. I can't imagine that I will read it again. Although there are a lot of historical characters involved this is a novel.
Paperback - 400 pages
Publisher by Orion in 2003
It is quite difficult to review the second book in the series without giving too much of the first one away, so apologies if I do!
Chris Humphreys, better known by his pen name C C Humphreys is an author of 'historical adventure' novels. He used to be in The Bill before publishing his first book, The French Executioner, a fictional story about the man who came over to behead Anne Boleyn. Blood Ties is the sequel to this. If you haven't read The French Executioner, I advise you to read it first, or this book would be very confusing!
Blood Ties starts at The Tower of London, where the body of Anne Boleyn is exhumed to see if there is anything missing from her tomb. There is - her six fingered left hand! It was removed by Jean Rombaud, the French executioner who beheaded Anne and who secretly severed her hand at the same time to fulfill a promise made to Anne prior to her death. Anne knew that there was a chance that her deformed hand would be used against her daughter in the future, so made arrangements for it to disappear! Nineteen years later, this was discovered!
The book then moves on to the siege of Siena. I found this bit incredibly confusing. There was no recap of the characters from the previous book, and I could not picture the scenes inside Siena, especially all the gunpowder explanations etc.
We then meet Jean Rombaud's son, Gianni. Estranged from his family, Gianni is convinced he needs to atone for the sins of his father. He is an ardent catholic, and when we first meet him he is roaming the streets or Rome as one of the Grey Wolves, assassinating Jews. He has been brought to the attention of Cardinal Carufa who then sends Gianni to go and find the hand of Anne Boleyn, buried by his father. His mission is to collect it and take it to The Tower of London, where it will be used against Princess Elizabeth, to ensure that if she should ever become Queen upon the death of her sister, Mary I, she would keep the country as a Catholic country.
The story continues in the quest for the information that will lead Gianni to the burial place of the hand by kidnapping the daughter of his fathers friend and then a daring plan to break her out of prison by his father supporters. It is then a race to see who will get the hand first, and whether or not it will be used against the Princess Elizabeth.
The hand travels from its burial place in France, to London where Jean Rombaud plays the main role, back to France and the court of Henri II, before his daughter Anne (named after the famous Queen) takes up the story and takes the hand all the way to Canada with Tagay, a young man of Indian descent brought over in his mothers womb by voyagers who kidnapped a group of Indians to bring back to France. There she spends time amongst the Indian tribe of the Tahontaenrat, of which Tagay is a descendant, and where the climax of the story takes place.
After the incredibly slow start which I didn't particularly enjoy, the book became faster paced and a lot more exciting! The story can get quite confusing as it swaps between characters and countries, and at first I found the whole Canada part totally unbelievable and tried to figure out where Humphreys was going with this story line. Humphreys does an excellent job of describing the beliefs and the rituals of the Indian people so that I found myself totally transfixed, from the warriors death to the feast of the dead. The battle scenes are well written and even with the occasional scalping, not too gory!
The end of the book is left to allow for another book. I think I would read it out of curiosity, but think that perhaps this story has run its race for Humphreys and that it couldn't be as good.
The book is available from Amazon new for 1p, plus £2.80 postage. The paperback is 433 pages, published by Orion in 2003.
All in all, I would recommend it, but only after reading the French Executioner. You also need to remember that it is a historical story, with many facts, but that it is also a fantasy so I would not recommend to those opposed to a strange story line! Also, if you want a story about the Tudors and Anne Boleyn, this is not the book for you either! Due to the slow start I am giving it 4 stars.