The Eyes of the Queen if Oliver Clements’s first book in the Agents of the Crown series
Oliver Clements starts his Agents of the Crown series with The Eyes of the Queen. It focuses on the first MI6 agent, which should suggest that it’s a fast-paced exhilarating novel. Sadly, it doesn’t quite meet the mark.
I received an advanced copy of The Eyes of the Queen from Netgalley in return for an honest review. The blurb and the period setting certainly drew me in, but this wasn’t one of those novels that lived up to my expectations.
What is The Eyes of the Queen about?
The first novel in the Agents of the Crown series picks up in the 1550s. Britain has been through the difficult rule of Mary Tudor. Now the reign of Elizabeth Tudor has begun.
It’s viewed as the Age of Enlightenment, and not just in Britain. The whole of Europe is becoming more accepting of scientists and philosophers. However, that doesn’t mean everyone wants them around. Spain tries to quash this educational growth, and it also wants to bring Europe back under the cover of Rome and the Catholic Church.
A young Elizabeth knows that she can’t defeat Spain by brute force alone. She needs spies in and around Europe.
This is a story of John Dee, Francis Walsingham, and many others who would eventually become known as Elizabeth’s greatest spies and allies. There’s also a little focus on some of the women of the time, mainly Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots.
A slow-paced journey with too many plot points
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Spy thrillers are my thing. Period books, especially around the Tudor period, are certainly ones that pique my interest. I thought the two genres together would be perfect.
Sadly, Clements couldn’t quite gain the urgency in his writing to make this a fast-paced, thrilling read. In some cases, there was too much detail, drawing out of the action and the events that meant the story sometimes dragged.
On top of that, there were multiple plot points going on. The promise was a look at John Dee at the head of the original MI6. However, parts jumped around to other characters and other events at the time. It was hard at times to keep track of who was where and why. There were times I had to jump back to chapters to double-check I’d originally read something as another plot point came up.
The women weren’t developed enough
Oliver Clements did a good job of developing his male characters. That wasn’t quite the case when it came to the women, especially Mary, Queen of Scots.
I’ll admit that Mary is one of my all-time favorite monarchs to read about. I have books everywhere about her life. I will devour anything that mentions her. It has set me up for this complex woman who is always one step ahead, but sadly, her flaws in following her heart catch up with her.
That’s not something I get when reading her character in The Eyes of the Queen. She’s not been developed enough, focusing constantly on her own pleasure and passing the time, rather than remaining focused on her role in attempts to break her out of prison.
When there are sexual exploits in a book, especially historical fiction like this, they need to have a purpose. Instead, they were thrown in as if Clements wasn’t too sure what to do with this character. They served no purpose after the first one to get the idea that she was trying to pass some time, and even then, it seems a little pointless when the overall story is supposed to be about the spymasters and the original MI6.
Elizabeth was developed a little better, but there were still moments that fell short. The problem is she’s relatively softly written when she is one of the strongest women in history. This is the woman who had everything to prove with so many against her. She wouldn’t have shown weakness, even around those she trusted.
It picked up closer to the end
This is a novel to start a series, though. Sometimes, they can be slow to begin with. There are multiple characters to introduce. However, this one was just a little too slow.
It was only in around the last 20% of the novel that I felt things picked up. The focus was more on the task at hand instead of all the extra plots. This is clearly to push readers into the next book, which could very well end up being deeper and better.
Overall, it wasn’t the most thrilling read I’ve read, but it does have a lot of detail and there’s clearly been a lot of research into the events.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.