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Toby Clements: Broken Faith (Review) + Q&A


Image: Toby Clements Author

Toby Clements lives in London: “It is Clements’s ability to excite both tender emotions and a capacity for bloodthirstiness that has allowed him to achieve what Shakespeare couldn’t manage, and spin a consistently enthralling story out of the Wars of the Roses.”

Broken Faith

(The second book in the Kingmaker series)
A novel by Toby Clements

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Broken Faith

‘An enthralling adventure story, honest and powerful. The Wars of the Roses are imagined here with energy, with ferocity, with hunger to engage the reader.’ Hilary Mantel England: October, 1463. The great slaughter of the battle of Towton is two years past, but England is still not at peace. The Northern Parts of the land remain in the hands of the Lancastrian king, while in the south, the princes of the house of York prepare for war. Uneasy alliances are forged and just as quickly broken: a friend one day might be your enemy the next, and through this land, pursued by the Church and the Law, a young man, Thomas, and a young woman, Katherine, must make their way, bearing proof of a secret both sides would kill to learn. Bent on revenge for a past outrage, Thomas and Katherine must turn their backs on their friends and journey to the mighty castle of Bamburgh, there to join a weakened king as he marshals his army to take up arms in one of the most savage civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.


Book two, that terrible, fateful demand on the author, especially on an author who has produced something as exceptional as Winter Pilgrims. Can the author recreate that magic, meet it, and hopefully surpass it?

The beauty of Winter Pilgrims was always in the simplicity, in avoiding the major players as much as possible, or staying on the fringes, but still allowing the horror of the war of the roses to playout in the imagination of the reader.

Broken Faith has to go further, it is by the nature of history forced closer to the major events and players of the period, Its the only way to get our key characters into places like Bamburgh Castle at the right time.

Thomas and Katherine are slowly drawn back together in this book, the shifting perspectives both driving the plot and drawing the reader in. The shifting male and female perspectives so well written, with a keen eye on the differing perspectives and motives. The simplicity remains because this despite its harrowing backdrop and blood drenched landscape is to all intents and purposes a love story, the gradual realisation and coming together of Katherine, who works through her grief to eventually find Thomas again, and Thomas who finally comes back to himself and hunts across the country to track down the woman he needed, and then realised he loved, very hard for a man who had dedicated himself to god.

Behind this love story is also a story of revenge, revenge against the Rivers, the machinations of this family once against at the center of the woes for the King, and also the previous king. Both father and son create the perfect protagonists for Katherine and Thomas, out of their social strata, but also tied by a shared history of desired revenge.

Once again the author provides a monster read, at 464 pages and yet the book glides along effortlessly, its a simple excellent love story, bursting with action, intrigue and history. a real contender for book of the year.

I highly recommend this and cannot wait to see what Toby writes next.




HI Toby, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions:


1) Given that so many authors have said book two is harder than book one to write, what was your experience like?


Hello Robin, and thanks for the interest. Book 2 was much less fun to write than book 1 as you suggest, because there was a deadline, and an editor, and writing it suddenly seemed much more like a job. Book 1 took ages to write, and felt, in retrospect, like a labour of love, something that I thought about privately, like a slightly suspect hobby, but book 2 was very written quickly, to order, and it felt like giving blood, or having it taken, without the moral satisfaction. Having said that, without the editor and the deadline, I would absolutely not have finished it yet, and it would already be a good 1200 pages long. It would have been unbelievably good though!


2) Book one Winter Pilgrims was a truly fantastic book. I hope it was the success it deserved. One of the key elements that made it so great for me was the use and viewpoint of the normal person, away from the key figures in history. Was it a conscious decision to gravitate towards those key figures in book two, or circumstance?


Thanks for that. It did all right, and it was pretty well received, not least because of the slight shift away from those key figures. But you have to start with them. You have to start with the nobs – the Earls of Warwick and so on – since theirs is the only history that is written, and that is what you are taught when you are kid. Can you name 10 people who weren’t dukes etc who lived before 1500?  It is tricky. But I was always interested in The Other, and after reading The Face of Battle, by John Keegan, a brilliant description of a common soldier’s experience in three battles: Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme, which I would press on anyone, I began to find more interest in the lower–status individual generally: not just him – the soldier – but his wife and children, his house, his clothes and so on.  Another reason I drifted away from the nobs, is that they’ve been done to death in fiction, really, and all I’d be bringing that was fresh would have been my voice (about which I was less than sure) and something that would have been self-consciously invented to be different from all the many great novelists to have ploughed this furrow before.


3) There were some fantastic images you shared as part of the research for book one, do you have anything you would like to share for book two?


Hmmm! I have neglected that part of it, really but look, here is a picture of Bamburgh castle in the snow, form the north. Book 2 takes Thomas and Katherine there in 1464, not necessarily the best time to visit.


And I like this, from a longer project to show an infantryman’s clobber throughout the ages:


This is what a very well to do Yorkist man-at-arms might have had with him during the battle of Bosworth – only a few years after the setting for my story. There is something quite touching about it, I think, since we can all imagine ourselves slipping into that gear. Though Jaysus, look at the poll axe!

And because I was researching a quieter moment in the wars, I have been to a hundred re-enactment events, and taken some of my own photos, but none so good as these. I should say that I have no copyright, so if anyone wants me (you to take them down) then I am sure we could do that instantly?

Below are three ladies. Life for the reasonably well off could be quite nice, as this moment shows. There are some lovely details here – look at the way the sleeve of the lady on the left is joined to the body of her dress. It is nothing you could use in a novel, but just knowing it helps you to imagine what it might be like to be Katherine.



And this is a bloke – from the continent somewhere – with a weapon – not sure if it would actually have a name – in what I can imagine pretty typical condition for someone not expecting to have to use it. This is a debate re-enactors often have: should they look after their gear as if it were special to them, or as if it were everyday? And if you were a soldier, would you try to get the best weapon you could, and keep it really sharp, or would that weapon just become something you had to carry around with you, a hassle? If that makes sense?


Finally, a child. I don’t know what he or she is up to, but they don’t get much of a look in, do they, usually? So here’s one.


4) Was it always your intention to write a love story, or was this how the series evolved? 


I have to admit I gravitated toward a more repressed love story, given their – and particularly her – background and upbringing, but my editor was probably right to force me to get them to make hay while the sun shone, which I did. It was tricky, because I had been so graphically matter of fact about the violence, so I felt it would have been dishonest if they then shut the door on us while they got on with it, but trying to describe a medieval sex scene without the use of the word codpiece proved very tricky.


5) Are Katherine and Thomas based on any real people, or just an amalgamation of parts?


They are just made up. I have a theory about writers’ heroes and heroines. A really great storyteller can come up with a hero that is his ideal person, who may be the absolute opposite of him, whereas most writers create heroes who are just slightly exaggerated versions of themselves, so Thomas is the sort of man who when push comes to shove can do most things, as I sort of imagine I’d be able to, but he is also the sort of man who hasn’t a clue what to do on a Sunday. Katherine would always have a plan, hopefully better than visiting Homebase.


6) So what’s next?


Book 3 – the last in the trilogy, and a real corker, I promise, takes us up to the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. That was the battle in the Wars of the Roses that got me hooked, and so I am really looking forward to that one. Everything will come together in a massive, massive dust up, and secrets will be spilled and revelations… revealed.


7) Who are you reading at the moment for fun?

I have been shortlisted for the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown, along with some really stiff opposition, so I have been reading them. It is both inspiring and alarming at the same time, so I am not sure you’d call it fun. But I have also been reading The Last English Poachers, by Bob & Brian Tovey, about a couple of unrepentant villains who shoot deer on the Berkley estates. Oddly, I think I went to school – primary – with Charles Berkley, now Lord Berkley – who was a very nice bloke, who bowled left arm spin, whom I bullied, about which I feel regret, though it is probably misplaced  – so the book has an extra resonance. But it is a great read: really salty, and full of pungent, If not entirely credible, detail.


8) All time fav book / Series?


Hmmm. I have to admit it is the Courtney novels, by Wilbur Smith. I am not sure they would stand re-reading, but they were dynamite when I read them first and in my book 3 there is a little jink in the plot that is in direct homage to the great man himself. I am sick with envy that Giles Kristian is colluding with him, I have to say. Or Perhaps the Patrick O’Brian novels. I have not finished them, and got fed up with the endless exposition that took up increasingly large chunks of each book, and one day I’d love to be given the job of editing them. Robert Hardy reads the abridged audiobook, and that is a real pleasure on long – solo – car journeys.


9) If you could write any one/ or any period regardless of potential sales, what would it be?


I have a slight plan up my sleeve, and I want to keep it there for superstitious reasons, but if it comes off, and out, it will involve two of my current yearnings in life: sailing and carpentry. I can see that does not answer your question at all, and sounds only 50 % promising at most, but if I talk about it, I will jinx it (and the man who gave me the idea will sue).


Many thanks… and best of luck with this next book, it really is another brilliant read.



1. Winter Pilgrims (2014)
2. Broken Faith (2015)
The Asti Spumante Code: A Parody (2005)
The No.2 Global Detective (2006)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Toby Clements