I started out with an interest in the Elizabethan era and then moved back to the time of Henry the VIII and now Philippa Gregory has taken me back to the War of the Roses.
The Plantagenet era, before the Tudors, is less well-known as is Elizabeth Woodville, widowed Lancastrian who woos the newly crowned King Edward of York with her beauty. Not only does she get her lands back for her sons to inherit but she also, through a secret marriage, inherits the crown as Queen of England.
With the help of her Burgundy-born mother, Elizabeth manages to secure places of importance in the court through marriages and alliances. With the new York Kingship, the country is not left without a Lancastrian threat, even the King’s own brother “turns coat.”
Philippa Gregory lets us into the mind of Elizabeth Woodville. I couldn’t help myself at times thinking from the King’s perspective and how the events worked in his favor and not only for Elizabeth and her family.
Gregory makes the characters come alive and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with such a powerhouse mother-figure. At the beginning you can’t help but love Jaqeutta, Elizabeth’s mother, who helps her daughter rise to the top. She weaves in magic throughout the book with the story of Melusina, the water goddness from which Jaquetta and therefore, Elizabeth and her siblings descend from. Gregory also writes the war scenes without holding back on all the gory details you would expect from a male author. She makes the battles real as they would be in those times, when the wounds would cut deep and you would hear the opponents bones crack centimeters front of you.
I was very impressed at how Gregory could include Melusina’s story throughout the book, and also how well she wrote the war scenes. I was only dismayed a few times at the beginning when she wrote within a few lines where in one moment it was sunset and the next it was twilight, or in the same sentence the King’s breathe was on her forehead and then somehow on her cheek, when the river appeared dark in the darkness and finally when the King entered the room where Elizabeth was with her mother and he begins to get intimate for far too long until Jaquetta leaves the room.
Overall, I became hooked and I couldn’t put the book down. The story was compelling because of the events of the time and also Gregory’s braided fiction. I found myself shocked when I turned the page and there was no more story left. It was over and I didn’t expect it or maybe I was just too involved to see the ending coming.
I liked that there were some extras at the back of the book, like an interview with the author. It helped level-off the feeling of sadness that the story was over. But its not over, there are two other books in the series. Gregory has won me over as a loyal reader and now I have The Red Queen on my to-read list.