Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is written with a distinct voice that makes the years 1535-1536 feel like time travel.
Ermine furs, rubies and golden books are passed from one Tudor Queen to the next. The embellishments on the treasures of the Crown morph as the letter 'K' becomes an 'A', becomes a 'J.' Anne's lions become Jane's panthers with the simple trick of replacing heads and tails. The metaphors are stunning.
Mantel's interpretation of historical events are that Henry would turn himself into a public cuckold so he could marry Jane within ten days of the public beheading of Anne Boleyn.The charges brought against her can be seen as ludicrous. Yet the Court quickly ruled that she was guilty of treason for plotting the King's death as she carried on affairs with more than four men, one of them her brother.
Such events don't happen without considerable maneuvering in the Court, and Mantel's take is believable, horrific, and logical.
Cromwell is fascinating. This is a man who had read Machiavelli in the Latin and found The Prince wanting. A self-made man at the time of Reformation, his motives are simultaneously rational and vindictive.
Cromwell has the will to raise himself from the gutter and turn the unmaking of a Queen into a personal triumph.
"He needs guilty men. So he has found men who are guilty. Though perhaps not guilty as charged." (p. 330)His powers manifest best when he satisfies his personal appetites, the King's, and players' in the Court. There is more than political acumen at play, it is political engineering.
Thus is history made.
The ending is a brilliant segway into the next novel:
"The word 'however' is like an imp coiled beneath your chair. It induces ink to form words you have not yet seen, and lines to march across the page and overshoot the margin. There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings. Here is one."