I absolutely adore historical fiction novels. They are so much more powerful than textbooks because we not only learn about events, but also the minds, hearts, and living conditions of the people involved in and around those events.
In a historical fiction novel written right, we feel everything like the people living in the time would feel it.
When I read “Born to Treason,” by E. B. Wheeler, I learned about the fear, violence, desperation, and confusion surrounding the Welsh Catholics during the English Reformation. I never knew anything about the cruelty and violence of this time period. In fact, when researching about it online, it was really hard for me to find information about Protestant violence towards Catholics. It was easy to find information for the opposite, though. The author makes it clear in her explanation of the time, though, that violence happened on both sides.
I think it is easy when reading history to make judgments about one group of people or one religion based on certain events. But, reading a book like “Born to Treason,” reminds you that there are good people who want what is right everywhere. Perhaps more importantly, you are reminded that what is “right” doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone, and that the true answer is sometimes unclear.
This book was a quick read, and drew me in right away. I really couldn’t put it down, and always wanted to know what was going to happen next. I loved the complexity of the key characters, Joan, Hugh and Nicholas. Wheeler did a wonderful job of making each character unique. Even characters who were a part of the same cause did not always agree with each other. The choice between treason to the crown and staying true to faith, the choice between fighting and staying silent, the choice between helping friends or turning them in to preserve your life and what you hold most dear, was never easy to make.
Joan struggled throughout the book to find peace in her heart and mind. Her father had died from the effects of torture due to his Catholic devotion. She wanted to help the cause of freedom for her religion and for her beloved Wales. Her heart was also torn by the affections, or lack thereof, from two friends who were so different in their passions, manners, and beliefs.
“Born to Treason” will make you worry, make you cringe, make you angry, make you despair, make you blush, make you hope, make you fall in love, and make you ponder what true courage entails.
I highly recommend this book for its historical value, brilliant images of landscape, insight into life in 16th Century Wales for all stations of people, and for the times you will find yourself clutching your chest, unable to breathe steadily for anticipation of what will happen next, or for dreaming of who the man is behind the mask…