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A Sundial in a Grave: 1610
by Mary Gentle

Category: Fiction / Historical
672 pages; ISBN: 0380820412

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


A Sundial in a Grave: 1610
Mary Gentle
Perennial (HarperCollins), May 2005, $14.95, 672 pp.
ISBN: 0380820412

In 1610 England, astrological mathematician Robert Fludd concludes that if current trends continue, a comet will crash into the earth in five centuries killing every living organism. Robert knows he must alter the calculations by changing the near future so that the planet can begin preparing to prevent the disaster. He concludes the most effective altering of what is to be would be to kill King James before his reign influences the paths mankind travels if he lived to complete his destiny.

In 1610 Paris Queen Marie de Medici blackmails Valentin Rochefort into assassinating King Henri IV forcing him to flee cross the Channel. He is joined by swordsman Dariole, who humiliated him with pastry, penis and two duels, but is actually a disguised female, and a samurai Tanaka Saburo. In England Fludd meets Rochefort and realizes he has the means of success. However, as valid as his calculations may be, Fludd failed to consider the effect on the intended output of the King’s death or the outcome of saving the future because his foolish tool has two companions causing deviations to the scheme.

In 2005, readers will realize how excellent Mary Gentle is with this terrific tale that is similar to her delightful novel ASH. The story line is loaded with difficult issues that are not easily resolved; for instance does the end justify the mean if it saves lives. The characters seem genuine and the feel for the age is so real that the audience will know they are there watching history change or does it for us armchair philosophers will ponder which is the true path.

Harriet Klausner


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