Is there a better setting for time-traveling assassins than the brutal and tumultuous Tudor court? Absolutely not. Donna Hosie has merged science and historical fiction in her newest novel, THE 48, and the result is one murderously good time.
Charlie and Alex are twin brothers and the newest Assets for The 48. A covert organization that trains “weapons of historical manipulation”, or, Assets. Their first mission takes them to the bloody Tudor court at the end of Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. They’ve been sent to stop the King from marrying the Lady Jane Seymour.
From the very beginning, their mission goes awry, with assassins attempting to kill one or both of them, a lady in waiting with her sights set on Alex for marriage, and the ever conspiring Thomas Cromwell, well, conspiring. But when an Asset trainee is unexpectedly, and violently, sent to them with no explanation, the twins begin realize there is something far more devious at play.
Told through the three perspectives, the twins, plus Lady Margaret, a ladies’ maid to Queen Anne, we get a well-balanced view of how different life in King Henry’s court could be. Especially how markedly different those lives were depending on rank and gender. Lady Margaret gives us the terrifying and frustrating life as a woman, not just in Henry’s court, but also during that time.
I loved the gritty details Hosie brings to life. This novel is an excellent introduction to the stressful and erratic tension that was notorious throughout the Tudor reign, but there is delightful added texture for those already familiar with this part of history. Many scenes are so vividly reconstructed that you can hear, smell, and see the surroundings. It is an immersion in history that is a compelling and complete introduction while also being a rich visit for those already well versed in the more known elements.
While the historical detail was lavish and detailed, the time-traveling portions were a bit lacking. Unlike many time traveling novels, the intent is to rewrite history, yet very little in regards to how that impacts future events, or changes the future was discussed. It did feel that the time travel was a convenient plot device to take these modern teenage assassins into history. Which makes this a fun novel to read, but will likely frustrate science fiction readers.
I also felt that the details regarding the actual organization fell a bit short. There was a brief page that outlined the history, but not what their aim actually was. In fact, I was left with more questions than answers in regards to the organization as a whole, and as it appears that this was written as a stand-alone and not a series, again it felt like more of a plot device, than an attempt for a full science fiction plot line.
THE 48 is a fast-paced fun ride. There are descriptions of torture, and while they’re mild, they are a bit vivid. In addition, some descriptions of the sights and smells, in particular, may be too much for a sensitive reader.
The Tudor court is one of my historical obsessions, and I will devour anything written about that time, and in regards to those aspects, this novel did not let me down at all. I would love for Hosie to write more in this world. I think more detail of who and what The 48 actually are would be spectacular. Overall, readers who enjoy historical fiction with fun twists, will revel in the detail of this novel.