Adult Fiction, Book reviews and recommendations

The Mirror and the Light


Author: Hilary Mantel

Review by: Mary, Newbridge Library.

This book is the final part in the acclaimed Wolf Hall trilogy and is set between 1536 and 1540. Having read the first two books in the trilogy, in some ways it is like meeting old friends after years of absence. We renew our acquaintance with Thomas Cromwell and his work for (and struggles with) King Henry VIII and we quickly become immersed in the life of a clear-thinking political activist but often a brutal man.

At the beginning of this book Thomas is moving up the career ladder and soon becomes My Lord Privy Seal for Henry VIII. He says to King Henry that “Your Majesty is the only Prince, The Mirror and the Light” of other Kings. However, despite increasing power and great wealth, Thomas becomes increasingly aware of how precarious his position is. His ruthless reputation goes hand in hand with risking his own position. He helps Princess Mary to accept the King’s decision to exclude her from accession because of a promise he made to her Mother Katherine of Aragon to look after her. He sacks Monasteries to enrich the King but at the same time tries to pass legislation to ease the lives of the poor. Thomas tells the King “Don’t look back”, yet as the light fades for him he often ponders what legacy they both will leave behind them.


Hilary Mantel has made Thomas Cromwell an unforgettable character with a complicated life and a brutal, bitter-sad ending to a treasured journey reminiscent of the medieval life journey as experienced in Game of Thrones. The book is not an easy read with a huge cast of characters, but it would be fitting if the Booker prize was bestowed upon Mantel once again as it would be richly deserved.


The Mirror and the Light is available on Borrow Box as both ebook and audiobook.

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