Ferret: The Reluctant King

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Sean O’Neil is a young boy living in Ireland in the late 1600s. When his father is killed in front of him, however, he embarks on a journey that will take him not only to the Netherlands and the New World but also into a new identity: Ferret, a reluctant but inevitable king.

In the preface, Samuels mentions how many years he has worked on this book and how much research went into it. Even without reading that, it would have been obvious. The historical detail shines through in every page. Each chapter, no matter the setting, is rich enough to seem real, and the world is populated with compelling and fascinating characters. Ferret is far from the only exciting person in the book. There’s Strongbow, a trickster with his own agenda, Maureen, a strong-willed Irish woman, and Heather, a fey child with powerful passions. Each has a dry realism about them which makes them not always likeable but ever intriguing.

Unfortunately, the historical detail doesn’t always ring true. The Gaelic and Dutch phrases thrown in for flavor are at times distracting and at least on one occasion blatant gibberish. When compared with other moments in the book which show strong attention to detail and a clear love of accuracy, it’s disappointing.

Aside from that, I was completely sucked into the book. Ferret’s growth as a character from scrappy and strong-willed to the titular reluctant king shows the changes brewing at the turn of the eighteenth century and the contradictions in the world and society at the time. Europe was on the brink of the philosophical revolution now known as the Enlightenment, but many people still held onto the old ways. Old monarchies and fledgling democracies were prepared to clash, and people everywhere were choosing sides, whether they knew it or not. In Ferret, the conflict plays out in miniature, making him the perfect pair of eyes to see the story through.

For those who want more than philosophy in their historical fiction, don’t worry. There’s plenty of action, too, for these were violent times. The conflict between the English and Irish plays out from the very beginning, touching every part of Ferret’s life, but other battles play out closer to home, and closer to his heart. He clashes with friends and allies. In a world torn by both philosophy and war, sometimes it’s impossible to trust anyone at all.

Ferret: The Reluctant King is a book heavy (sometimes too heavy) with history. For any who love this period as I do, it’s an intriguing read.

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Star Count 3/5
Format eBook
Page Count 393 pages
Publisher Freeland Press
Publish Date 2020-01-23
ISBN 9780961589325
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue May 2020
Category Historical Fiction


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