Book Review: Fortune’s Hand: The Triumph and Tragedy of Walter Raleigh by R.N. Morris

Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Pub date: 17 August 2020
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Adventurer, soldier, courtier, poet, prisoner – outsider.

Drawn by ambition to Elizabeth’s court, Walter Raleigh soon becomes the queen’s favourite. But his meteoric rise attracts the enmity of powerful rivals.

Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen’s spy master, proves a dangerous enemy.

While the Earl of Oxford is an equally dangerous friend.

Even Elizabeth’s favour is an uncertain gift. It can be withdrawn on a whim as easily as it is granted and earns him as much trouble as it does profit.

Seeking gold for his queen and glory for himself, Raleigh launches a series of ever more reckless adventures.

The ultimate prize he dreams of is the fabled city of Eldorado in the New World. He is possessed by the dream.

After Elizabeth’s death, Raleigh fails to find favour with the new king and is imprisoned in the Tower.

To restore his reputation, he embarks on his most desperate venture yet.

By now an old and broken man, he risks everything to discover the city of his dreams.

As soon as I heard about this book I had to read it. I tweeted a while back asking for books about Raleigh but unfortunately didn’t receive any replies and then I saw this!

Walter Raleigh is a man I’ve been interested in for a while as he always seems to be mentioned when the Elizabethan era is discussed and is well known for his involvement in tobacco and his lengthy imprisonment at the Tower of London.

Morris tells the story of Raleigh’s life from his own point of view. I’ve never read a book like this, the narrative is almost poetic it’s incredible and highly engaging. Through the eyes of Raleigh we see his first sea voyage, a bloody massacre in Ireland, the discovery of Virginia and his relationship with the monarchy.

From Raleigh’s point of view we see how he came to be at sea, his introduction to court and of course his execution. Raleigh recounts his life with an amazing eye for detail, he sees the acorn that will become the tree which eventually becomes a part of his ship. The experience of being at sea is portrayed in detail, the sufferings of the crew to the weevils sustaining themselves on the ships provisions.

The dialogue is brilliant,  Morris incorporates the language used at court, regional dialects and of course the slang used at sea. As a reader I was immersed into Raleigh’s life through the vivid descriptives and dialogue.

Red and white Tudor roses sprout and bloom in the ceiling. Golden tendrils curl along the walls, shooting out to entwine themselves around marble columns. Golden leaves unfurl. Fabulous beasts frolic among the foliage. Greyhounds, bears, lions, unicorns, perfect in every miniature detail. We are walking through the very idea of heraldry.

Although Raleigh had successes he also had failures. Morris takes us through all of them whilst also adding a little humour  through the Portuguese navigator Simon Fernández, whose language is atrocious but hilarious.

Although I know how Raleigh’s story ends I couldn’t help but hope it would be different. He seems to have been loved and hated by many,  I would certainly like to read more about him and also hope to see the garden created by the Tower of London in his memory once lockdown is over as it wasn’t there when I last visited.

Reading this does make me think what would Raleigh have achieved if he hadn’t been held prisoner all those years? I have to agree with Prince Henry’s sentiments:

No king but my father would keep such a bird in a cage.

For those interested in Raleigh I recommend this book to discover the life of Raleigh through his own eyes. This is fiction but it is clear a lot of research has been done with a wonderful result.

I am pleased to say R.N. Morris has agreed to join me on my blog for a Guest Post which will be published very soon! Keep an eye out for it!

One comment

  1. […] Thank you so much for all those answers, I find it genuinely interesting to find out who authors would talk to if given the opportunity and which book they recommend. Shakespeare is a very good call, I’d be interested in listening to that conversation! I recently read and reviewed Fortune’s Hand and it’s absolutely brilliant! If you’d like to read my review, you can find it here […]


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