My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Ashes of London was fascinating, set in 1666, opening with The Great Fire of London, it follows Cat and Marwood, both grown children of Fifth Monarchists, a group that had been influential in the Civil War. With the monarchy only relatively recently back on the throne, there is some disgruntlement at the people who had executed the King’s father, most other people who had been involved in the Civil War had been officially pardoned but not the men who were directly involved in the king’s execution. Cat’s father is a fugitive, whilst Marwood’s father has been released from prison, his wits shattered. Cat lives with her wealthy and respectable uncle and step-aunt, whilst Marwood works as a clerk in Whitehall. When a body is found in the burnt out ruins of St. Paul’s, Marwood is brought in to help investigate. Meanwhile, Cat faces the prospect of marriage to a man she doesn’t love.
I loved how Taylor bought 1666 London to life, giving a window onto what it must have been like for Londoners, during and after the Great Fire. I remember learning about The Fire of London in school, just like everyone else, like where it started and why it spread but I had never really stopped to think about the people. I presume The Ashes of London is well researched, it certainly felt like it. I loved how despite this great big firestorm, many parts of London were still going about their business, having dinner parties and the like and how they’d even go and watch it. I found it fascinating the descriptions of the refugees afterwards followed by the work that started afterwards to clear and rebuild the city. How everyone was petrified by fire afterwards. I loved how so many of the street names in the story, are streets that I know today.
This is the first in a series and I am now desperate for more. It has been compared to the Shardlake books and I can see the comparison, I love the Shardlake books but actually I think this is even better, with a more complicated, satisfying plot. I would definitely recommend.