If you are just joining us, this blog is part of a book tour promoting a new historical fiction novel by Pamela Taylor, Prestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3.
Note: The author sent me an autographed copy of the book in exchange for this review.
Pamela Taylor’s book series, Second Son Chronicles, is a historical fiction series using familiar historical settings to tell the story of a family that is fictional. It is not a reimagining of actual people or events–like some historical fiction–and readers may have to remind themselves of that as they read.
The book opens with the sudden death of a beloved king and his rapid replacement by an impetuous son. It doesn’t take long to see that this new king is going to lead the realm in a downward spiral. The story is all told to us by a second son and brother of the new king who has some mysterious destiny of his own yet to be fulfilled.
This book begins mid-action with characters and plots that have been brewing for two books prior to this one. Though the writer does provide a family tree and a sketch of the kingdom at the start of the book, it is hard to understand what is happening if you haven’t read books one and two first. If you read excerpts of the books on the author’s website, linked here, you get a sense of the story without the full depth of it. This is about a family of royals where the second sons–unlikely to become kings–have value and voice. This is also a story that rarely sits still; some scheme or battle is always in the middle of happening or being plotted.
Though there are uncanny resemblances to Henry VIII in some of what happens in Pestilence, the author makes it clear that this is a work of fiction inspired by events of the past but not about any person(s) in particular. The author responds to this idea in the book:
Readers will note similarities with northern Europe, but my decision to fictionalize the setting was a matter of practicality for my characters. European history from this period and its major actors are too well known for it to be plausible that a different set of kings and nobility might actually have existed.Taylor, Pamela. Pestilence: Second Son Chronicles Volume 3, “Author’s Notes”, Black Rose Writing: Texas, 2020. pg 218.
Pamela Taylor’s work is particularly well designed to showcase language. At one point, the narrator creates a historical record of the new king’s reign that looked and sounded like an actual document that I could research and find. The characters, too, feel real because of the depth of research behind authenticating them within their era. Taylor transitions seamlessly from formal to casual speech; she is surprisingly eloquent as a noble as well as an accented servant. I can only imagine this book series would come to life in full cast audio production.
Taylor’s work would have every right to be laden with words we cannot understand outside of the context, but she makes it a particular point not to do that. Language is intentionally modernized slightly to save readers from referencing dictionaries to understand her work. It is a subtle nod to the audience that does not affect the story but greatly assists the reader.
I greatly respect the work Taylor has put into creating this entertaining series, and I plan to order books one and two to get the full story. If you are looking for an adventurous, mysterious, historical novel full of scandal and glory, check out the Second Son Chronicles. It will not disappoint.