The Cardinal’s Man by M. G. Sinclair
Publisher: Black & White Publishing
Publication date: 11 July 2017
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
The Cardinal’s Man is a spellbinding story portraying a very different kind of hero, a dwarf with the wit of Tyrion Lannister and the courage of several lions.
‘[M]any of his earliest memories were of distorted faces: the expressions of horrified relatives, visitors flinching as they caught his eye, the stares of unfamiliar children peering round doorways’
Set in Cardinal Richelieu’s 17th-century France, this is a story about how great figures of history can pass by unnoticed. Those that have been born in the wrong body, sex or society at the wrong time; reminding us ‘that for every Archimedes of Shakespeare, there have been other seeds which have had the misfortune to fall on far stonier ground’.
Sebastian de Morra is born with as difficult start as one would care to imagine. A dwarf, born to a peasant family, he has only two things going for him – a first-class mind and a determination to find refuge from the sharp edges of the world.
Using his disadvantage to his advantage, he becomes a jester at the Parisian court entertaining the nobility. Making enemies easily, he also makes a powerful ally when one of history’s most notorious figures, his Red Eminence – the Cardinal Richelieu – requires his services. Under the Cardinal, he finds himself facing and even crossing swords with some of the greatest names of state, until his final task – an undertaking on which the entire future of his country depends.
I am so thrilled to participate in the blog tour for The Cardinal’s Man, the debut novel by M. G. Sinclair! Promises of a gripping historical fiction featuring a Tyrion Lannister-esque hero immediately grabbed my attention.
There is nothing I love more than a clever protagonist fighting against the odds. This is exactly what we get with Sebastian de Morra, a man born with dwarfism in 17th century France. He should have every disadvantage in life, however he uses the resources and misunderstandings surrounding his condition to become an important figure among the French nobility. As a spy in Cardinal Richelieu’s employ, Sebastian makes enemies, discovers secrets, and fights for his save France.
I really loved Sebastian’s character — while we get the perspectives of other characters in the book, Sebastian is truly the star of the show. He is a sharp and well-written character, but he has his flaws. He makes many mistakes that endanger his life, but he can accept and acknowledge these missteps. Sebastian’s greatest strength is that he does not accept his lot in life. In fact, he uses his former poverty and time on the streets of Paris to propel himself into Louis’ court and into Richelieu’s employ. He is billed as a real-life Tyrion Lannister and I wasn’t sure he would live up to the Game of Thrones favorite, but he absolutely does. The parallels of Sebastian and Tyrion’s intellect and instinct are absolutely there, as are their senses of humor and internal conflicts over loyalty.
Sebastian is not the only colourful character in this book. I really enjoyed Cardinal Richelieu’s frankness when discussing his political decisions with Sebastian. The dynamic between the two is fascinating and compelling as mutual respect develops and Richelieu is able to open up. The fact that the book is set in Richelieu’s twilight years makes him all the more intriguing, as he fights to keep France safe while his body is ageing.
This book has it all — villains that you’ll love to hate (or just flat-out hate with a passion), a clever protagonist with a knack for making powerful people angry, infuriating nobility, an impending war, and the threads of unrest that will lead to the French Revolution. While I wish there were more time dedicated to Sebastian’s missions and strategies, The Cardinal’s Man is a well-rounded historical novel that will satisfy both lovers of history and newcomers to the genre. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the political underhandedness of Game of Thrones or similar fantasy novels, wants to read about an unusual protagonist, or is interested in this particular period in history.
So, one thing I absolutely love about historical fiction is the fact that you can often research the characters in the books and find out what they looked like and what their true story is. M. G. Sinclair was inspired to write about Sebastian Morra, a real character in history, when he saw Morra’s portrait:
‘I was inspired to write this book by Velázquez’s painting of the court dwarf Don Sebastian de Morra. Rather than a comic figure, I saw a genius, and it occurred to me how many individuals must have been forgotten or passed unrecognised over the centuries. Indeed, that it is still the case today – that the potential of millions of people is frustrated by no more than their sex, colour, appearance or indeed being three foot four inches tall’
– M.G. Sinclair
For the curious, like myself, this is the portrait of Cardinal Richelieu:
I highly encourage anyone who reads The Cardinal’s Man, or any other work of historical fiction, to go ahead and look up the back stories and portraits of the characters. It’s like an unintentional appendices to any historical novel!
About the Author
The only child of two writers, M.G. Sinclair grew up in a world that revolved around literature. Breaking the family tradition, he rebelled and joined the corporate world, where he worked as a copywriter and marketing executive. However, unable to escape the inevitable, he has now completed his debut, a historical novel inspired by a trip to the Prado in Madrid.
Don’t forget to check out previous posts on the tour, as well as the final stop on The Cardinal’s Man blog tour tomorrow!