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TRIPLE CROWN

THE MIRROR & THE LIGHT, THE FINAL BOOK IN HILARY MANTEL’S WOLF HALL SERIES, CONCLUDES THE GLOBAL LITERARY PHENOMENON OF THE DECADE

By Leah Greenblatt

LIFE IS SHORT, AND BOOKS CAN BE so long. What modern reader has the analog attention span for nearly 2,000 pages of historical fiction—let alone the kind of knotty political intrigue that contains only distant war, scant sex, and no White Walkers, wizards, or dragons at all?

Millions, it turns out, found themselves falling happily headfirst into Hilary Mantel’s rich reimagining of real-life 16th-century statesman Thomas Cromwell, first via 2009’s epic door-stopper Wolf Hall, then with her nominally slimmer 2012 follow-up, Bring Up the Bodies. Now comes one last cinder block: its maddening, fascinating conclusion, The Mirror & the Light.

Cromwell’s rise from rural blacksmith’s son to the royal court of Henry VIII reads as both wildly improbable and inevitable: Officially, he held several titles, including Lord Privy Seal and Master of the Rolls; unofficially, his job fell somewhere between fixer, enforcer, and CEO. But being consigliere to a king took on new significance when the monarch, eager to shed his first wife and marry another, essentially altered the course of Christianity in his pursuit of a legal annulment. It was

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