Wolf Hall is, quite simply, a literary tour de force. Although much has been written about the momentous political and religious upheavals that marked Henry VIII's tumultuous reign, Hilary Mantel manages to deliver a refreshingly original version of these events as seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry's most trusted advisor and confidant. Cromwell's background as a man of humble origins who has carved out a stellar reputation as a lawyer, businessman, diplomat and political strategist makes him an ideal choice to spearhead Henry's bitter power struggle against the Church. While the historical terrain may be quite familiar, what really sets this book apart is Martel's superb attention to detail and a remarkably intimate present tense narration that draws the reader right into the story. Admitedly, this intimacy can sometimes lead to confusion, especially since Martel consistently identifies Cromwell simply as "he," even when the antecedent would seem to suggest that a different character is being referred to. On the whole, however, this technique is highly effective. We are made to experience events just as Cromwell himself does and are privy to his innermost thoughts and opinions. This, in turn, helps us to better understand the complex political climate in which these events are played out. It also gives us an opportunity to explore not only the public persona but also the private life of this enigmatic historical figure. What emerges is not the conventional portrait of Cromwell as an intellectual bully but that of a multi-faceted, charismatic man, full of personal ambition yet sympathetic to the plights of others. In Martel's skillful hands, Cromwell is transformed from a one-dimensional political animal into a highly believable flesh and blood character who is more a humanist than a villain.