Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review - The Honorable Imposter

Continuing my summer church reading challenge, I picked up the first volume of a very long series by Gilbert Morris. While I'd not heard of Mr. Morris before, he was apparently quite the prolific author, publishing 283 books during his lifetime, according to Goodreads. His longest series, the House of Winslow novels, spans forty volumes, and is an historical fiction series following the lineage of one family throughout history.

Naturally, I started with Volume #1.

The Honorable Imposter takes place in the early 17th Century, as we meet our hero, Gilbert Winslow. An unenthusiastic divinity student, he is recruited by one of the English lords to infiltrate the Separatists in Holland, learn the whereabouts of William Brewster, and turn him over to the British Crown for execution.

Naturally, things don't go entirely according to plan. Gilbert finds himself falling in love with the young woman he planned to use to find Brewster, and at a critical moment suffers a nasty bout of conscience. This leads into the second half of the book, with Gilbert finding himself on the Mayflower, headed to Plymouth colony with the rest of the Separatists (or Pilgrims, as we have come to know them).

As a piece of historical fiction focused on a very religious historical group, the Christianity on display here makes perfect sense. The book also avoids the pitfall of all the good people being Christians while all the bad guys are not. As was historically true, most of the Mayflower's crew was not Christian, or at least not nearly so committed as the Separatist passengers. Some of the crew are good and helpful, others, less so.

It's clear that Morris did a fair bit of research before starting this series. The backdrops in England, Holland, and America are well described, and the actual historical characters such as William Bradford and William Brewster really come alive in the pages of the novel.

The weakest point, honestly, is Gilbert Winslow himself. Aside from remarkable fencing skills, he has very little to recommend him, and many of his major decision points seem forced. Where the surrounding historical characters live and breathe, Gilbert's plotline tends to run on rails with supernatural intervention making decisions for him.

Overall, it's not a bad book, just with a few problems. There's certainly far worse historical fiction out there. I'm going to give the next book in the series a shot and see if things improve.

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