Review: The Son in Shadow by Karen Heenan

The Son in Shadow by Karen Heenan

Bjørn reviews The Son in Shadow, the fourth book in the Tudor Court historical fiction series by Karen Heenan.

Review(s) of the previous book(s): Songbird (Bjørn, Timy), A Wider World, Lady, in Waiting

Disclaimer: Karen Heenan and I are friends. I am the reason (he said modestly) why this book exists, because I whin– inspired Karen repeatedly until she gave in. Therefore, I choose not to rate the book.

About the Book
Series:Tudor Court #4
Genre:Historical Fiction
Date of Publishing:June 15, 2024
Trigger Warnings:bodily harm, violence, death
Page count:468
Book Blurb
The Son in Shadow by Karen Heenan

In a world of dark intrigue, one man risks everything to find the light and save the woman he loves.

Will Hawkins has spent his life under the thumb of powerful men, but no more. He’s finally carved out a comfortable existence for himself, working in Elizabeth’s court for the esteemed Cecil and Walsingham. His future appears secure and full of potential, especially with his burgeoning love for the delightful Kit Rowan, his niece’s governess.

But Kit unknowingly harbors a dangerous secret, and when she comes under the watchful and unforgiving eye of Walsingham, Will’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble. He’s forced to make an agonizing his future or the woman he loves.

Desperate to save Kit from the spymaster’s clutches, Will embarks on a perilous journey, navigating a web of deceit and political intrigue, and finds himself partnering with the last person he ever expected – his domineering father. Can they find a way to free Kit from Walsingham’s grasp, or will their efforts be in vain, costing them not only their hearts, but their very lives?

Prepare to be swept away by this captivating tale of love, loyalty, and survival in the treacherous world of Elizabethan England.

Start reading today and discover if Will and Kit can outsmart their enemies and find a way to be together, against all odds.

Quote of the Book
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“Your father died when you were five and twenty,” I pointed out. “You haven’t given me the same consideration.”

Song of the Book

When I was first introduced to Songbird, the first book in The Tudor Court series, and I saw a perfect 5.0 average score on Amazon and Goodreads, it put me off. 5.0 scores are suspicious. “She must have a lot of friends,” I thought. Then I read the book and had no choice but to add another 5* to the list, because Karen Heenan is disturbingly good at what she does.

The Son in Shadow, the fourth book in the series, suffers from unusual fate: people choose not to read all the books, or don’t read them in order. (Why would somebody do that to themselves?!) This made Heenan’s work harder, because The Son in Shadow has to work both as book four and as a standalone, in case of weirdos. I mean… each book is written in first person, with a different protagonist, but don’t people understand how series work? The first part took me the longest to read, because there is a lot of information scattered here and there that I simply already knew. There is no infodump – Heenan’s writing was already scary good when her debut came out, and let’s say she hasn’t gotten any worse since. But for every paragraph that moves the action, there is another one that explains who, what, when, and why. Luckily, this doesn’t last long. Nonetheless, it’s the first time when I blame the readers. Shame on you. Robin is a slappable delight.

But I was reviewing The Son in Shadow, not the readers. *clears throat*

Will, Nick Hawkins’s son, has all the daddy issues. So do I, and I haven’t caught my father cheating on my mother when I was a kid, and then again when I was an adult, and then with a woman I loved, and also my father was not powerful and popular, and neither my stepfather nor I worked for any queen (although it just dawned on me that my ex-manager, who shares his first name with Will’s dad, probably counts as one). For obvious reasons, Will resolves to never become anything like his father. Unfortunately, that means not becoming powerful, popular, or learning how to talk to women. He’s unlikely to cheat on his wife if he avoids ever finding one, even if it makes him feel desperately lonely.

What surprised me the most about Songbird was that the actual Tudor court was just a backdrop, with Anne Boleyn making a brief appearance as a character that only had a name because that name was Anne Boleyn. The Son in Shadow is full-on political intrigue in England torn between Protestants and Catholics, Elizabeth I vs Mary, and Will is a Royal Messenger who might not be entirely happy with his life, but doesn’t feel ready to die for someone whose chair stands higher than his. Resentment and a few friends keep him going, so does the occasional female company, until he finds himself in love. Which forces him to realise that both he and the woman he loves are pawns. Their feelings, or lives, are of no importance. They can be replaced or tossed aside, or separated, like other characters certain readers don’t know, just because someone can do it.

While Will doesn’t have the riches or the sort of power his father has, or experience, he has knowledge that comes from being reliable and unattached for so long that his superiors have begun to take him for granted. He’s not stupid, either, and there is suddenly something he wants more than his father’s love he knows… Will ‘knows’ a lot of things… he’ll never get. Life’s harder when you have something to lose, though. You can become more useful, more dangerous, and more hated. And sometimes more dead.

Towards the end, I started reading slower again, because I was terrified. Cecil, Ned, Queens Mary and Elizabeth I, are historical figures, and their fates are well documented. I simultaneously wanted a happy ending and feared I wouldn’t get it. The last 10% or so of The Son in Shadow was one massive rollercoaster of plot twists (and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep at night). AND THEN THAT SCENE which requires a wee bit of suspension of disbelief, but honestly? WORTH IT.

Does The Son in Shadow have a happy ending? 

Depends. That’s all you get from me.

The rest you get from Karen Heenan.

Our Judgement

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