Cue for Treason was not Trease's first novel, as he had already written a few other children's novels, notably Bows Against the Barons and Comrades for the Charter, where he showed a strong streak of political radicalism.
However, Cue for Treason was written fairly early in his writing career, and was in a sense his definitive work. As well as being his best known, it has been described as creating the template on which he wrote many of his later novels. In particular, he has as his central character an adolescent male, who meets an adolescent female who proves a strong character in her own right. He also employs some plot devices which he sometimes used in his later works e.g. the heroine spends a large part of the story disguised as a boy, and to advance the plot the hero happens to overhear the villains talking. However, although in this case the hero and heroine marry at the end, he avoids this obvious ending in some of his later novels (e.g. The Hills of Varna, which otherwise shows some similarity to Cue for Treason).
The novel is marked by a strong sense of place, particularly showing Trease's love of the Lake District, where he also set his Bannerdale stories, including No Boats on Bannermere.
The politics of the Elizabethan era are mentioned in the novel: social concerns over enclosures and unemployment, and the state matters of rebellion and invasion. Forced marriage and the exclusion of women from the drama are touched upon. The values of patriotism, loyalty and independence are stressed. The motives of the conspirators are not examined, being assumed to be simply wealth and power; although historically religion would have been a factor, this is not mentioned beyond a casual reference to "old ways".
The English Renaissance theatre is represented by its two extremes: a poor temporary company which tours around England, and the Lord Chamberlain's Men who perform for the Queen and her court.