Review: Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

Friday, November 6, 2015
Title: Sisters of Treason
Author: Elizabeth Fremantle
Genre: historical fiction
Series: The Tudor Trilogy #2
Pages: 496
Published: May 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness -- and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante. 

But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

The Tudors are a popular subject for historical fiction writers to tackle and retell. Elizabeth Fremantle presents her new view of the Tudors, and does so from a certain distance with her trilogy's main characters. For the second time, we view the lives of the royal family from someone connected to them but not born into the infamous family.  And it works pretty well; there are some interesting/different ideas applied to the lives of the Grey women (a better relationship with their mother, Katherine's bisexuality, etc.) but Sisters of Treason is also far too long at nearly 500 pages.

This is an entertaining read for anyone who enjoys Tudor-era specific historical fiction. The Grey sisters may not be as famous as their royal cousins but they were an interesting and memorable bunch of characters. Fremantle is generous with their characteristics and interactions; these fiction versions feel real and authentic to their historical selves.They are far from perfect but it's fascinating to read learn about each of the sisters throughout Sisters of Treason. Though the novel focuses most on Katherine and Mary, Jane has a definite effect on her sisters and the main political plot of the story.

Elizabeth Fremantle has grown with her second novel; the plotting is more intricate and the characters are more dimensional. Despite the length, this is a novel that moves quickly. Partially because what happens to the sisters is so dramatic but the novel rarely lags. In that also, Sisters of Treason is superior to The Queen's Gambit. I did enjoy this but often found myself less involved with Levina's storyline. I usually appreciate the inclusion of a different kind of POV but her story was distracting when I was much more interested in the Grey girls themselves.

This is a series of historical novels that combines rich characters and an eye for detail. The author has a talent for humanizing scandalous historical figures and filling in historical blanks. Her view of history is unique and it's always a memorable read with her novels. Sisters in Treason was a good secondary novel -- it left me satisfied with what I had read and eager for the final book in the trilogy  -- Watch the Lady


  1. Sounds like a good one. I haven't read any by this author, but I do enjoy Tudor fiction.

    1. She really is worth it, historical fiction of the top drawer!

    2. Watch the Lady, her most recent one is written with much more confidence

  2. this is a good series if you like that kind of historical! Definitely recommend.


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