Cradle by James Jackson - book review
When the early 17th century settlers arrived in Jamestown in faraway Virginia, America wasn't the land of plenty some had imagined.
Food was in desperately short supply, disease was rife, and the local native tribes were more than ready to wage a brutal, bloodthirsty war on the ambitious English interlopers.
In his pulsating new historical action thriller, James Jackson imagines this remote colonial corner of a little-known world as a perilous ‘place of hell,’ a swamp-encircled enclave where survival is paramount and knowing where your real enemies lie is the difference between life and death.
A military studies graduate who has advised film director Guy Ritchie, Jackson certainly knows how to bring the past to life in all its gritty visual reality and atmospheric authenticity, and this heart-pounding adventure once again features maverick court spy Christian Hardy.
We have followed the blood-curdling antics and extraordinary heroics of daredevil intelligencer Hardy in Blood Rock, Realm and Treason, and now the fearless agent is back and knee-deep in danger with the founders of America’s first colony.
It’s 1607 and American is a nation born in blood. With King James I on the throne, thousands of miles away up the James river in Virginia, the English have established Jamestown, a tiny foothold on a vast, untamed continent and a powerful symbol of their colonial ambitions.
But trouble is brewing. The settlement has the support of England’s teenage heir Prince Henry, but it is despised by his father, King James, who resents the popularity of his son and fears the existence of the colony will spark a war with King Philip of Spain, ruler of the greatest empire on earth with remote territories of his own.
Undeterred, the prince secretly sends his most trusted spy Christian Hardy to Virginia to protect the new settlement and preserve it for England and posterity.
When he arrives in Jamestown, Hardy finds the small fort besieged by natives, beset by danger and sabotaged from within. Even worse, a ship arrives which is harbouring Hardy’s arch-enemy, Realm, the deadly English renegade and now agent for Spain who will stop at nothing to wreak vengeance on Hardy.
Amid starvation and bloodshed, a desperate fight for survival – and the battle for America – begins.
If it’s all-out action adventure you are seeking, Cradle has it in bucketfuls as Jackson takes us at full-throttle into a brilliantly imagined, febrile battleground in which cruelty has few boundaries and conspiracies lurk around every corner.
Hardy is our man for all seasons… the trusted agent of the idealistic young Prince Henry, he has been thrust into a den of vipers and must stay alive at all costs if he is to foil the evil machinations of the ruthless renegade Realm.
The blood, violence and visceral nature of this primitive killing field is no place for the faint-hearted but for those who enjoy a fascinating slice of real history, a cast of vibrant characters, and exhilarating action, this is a thriller you won’t want to miss!
(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)