Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Lady Jane Grey was born into times of extreme danger. Child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she was merely a pawn in a dynastic power game with the highest stakes, she lived a live in thrall to political machinations and lethal religious fervour. Jane's astonishing and essentially tragic story was played out during one of the most momentous periods of English history. As a great-niece of Henry VIII, and the cousin of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, she grew up realize that she could never throw off the chains of her destiny. Her honesty, intelligence and strength of character carry the reader through all the vicious twists of Tudor power politics, to her nine-day reign and its unbearably poignant conclusion.

Yet another Queen, that though I know her story have never read all that much about it. This has to be one of the most tragic of stories from historical fiction I have ever read, from Jane's at times quite horrible upbringing, if the way her life ended wasn't quite bad enough she had to endure a lifelong abuse from her Mother, almost from birth as her Mother so wanted a son.

Although, it wasn't all bad Miss Ellen more than made up for what her Mother lacked, and I loved how this book was narrated from several peoples points of view, right down to the executioner describe the act of beheading the young Lady Jane Grey, it would take a heartless person I feel to not feel for Lady Jane even her husband and the way he treated her in the bedchamber.

It does make you wonder if death was some kind of release for her, after the way people in her life treated her in her short 16 years.

I have read a few of Alison Weir's Non-Fiction books over the years which are fantastic and this was every bit as good, I really loved this and when I read the end was sorry the book was finished, I will definitely be reading her next book on one of my favourite Monarchs's - Elizabeth I.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

Elizabeth I has acceded to the throne of England, a position she has waited and schemed for all her life. She is surrounded by advisers, all convinced that a young woman cannot form political judgements. Elizabeth feels that she can rely on just one man: her oldest friend, Robert Dudley. It is soon plain that he is more than merely a friend. In a house in the countryside waits a very different woman, Amy Robsart - Robert's wife.

She has no taste for life at court and longs for the day when her husband will return home. She has loved him since she was a girl, but now they are adults she hardly sees him. Meanwhile, the pressure grows for Elizabeth to marry, for it is unthinkable that a queen should rule on her own. Elizabeth's preference is clear, but he is unavailable. But what if the unthinkable were to happen!

Actually I wasn't expecting a great deal from this book, and having had this book almost 2 years I thought it was high time I read it, I actually have mixed feelings over this book because I actually quite liked it!

Amy Dudley I found really rather irritating I think this is why I have mixed feelings over this one because usually if one of the main people irritates me I tend to not like the book but, it so wasn't the case here. I know so much speculation has been made over her death and because she irritated me so I didn't feel that much for her, OK it wasn't a very nice way to die (is any way nice though LOL) but, the way she clung on to her husband was nothing short of pathetic.

I found the way Elizabeth portrayed here was slightly different to how I saw her and how I have seen her portrayed in other books but, that said having read other reviews I was expecting to see a very weak and pathetic Elizabeth, and whilst she wasn't the strong woman I have seen in other books I don't think she was weak at all but, as it is Elizabeth someone I deeply admire and am fascinated with maybe I just didn't notice that. Although the way she seemed to not be able to cope without Robert Dudley doesn't resonate with the Elizabeth with what I believe how Elizabeth I truly was.

So was Elizabeth and Robert guilty for Amy's death? I really don't believe so, and I personally feel it was simply a tragic accident, although maybe I have come to this conclusion because of the last sentence in the above paragraph.

Overall I don't think the book was as good as The Boleyn Inheritance The Other Boleyn Girl but, I don't think it was a bad book, I quite enjoyed it.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur's wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur's young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother's daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it.

Whe this book came out it did not get the greatest of reviews and some even said it was their least favourite of Philippa's books and yes, for me I don't think it rates as highly as The Other Boleyn Girl or The Boleyn Inheritance. However, that said could it be the subject matter? For me, Anne Boleyn is one of the most fascinating figures in our history and possibly why I loved TOBG so much.

Throughout my fascination with Tudior history I have never really been all that intrigued by Katherine of Aragon, for me she was just Henry's first wife who gave birth to Bloody Mary! However, I was deeply fascinated by this book, from Katherine (Catalina's) young life in Spain though the Tudor court and her marriage to Henry VIII. I have never delved deep to find out much about her marriage to Henry's older brother Arthur, but I so felt for Katherine when he died and felt she really truly loved him.

Of course, the burning question is did Katherine ever consummate her marriage to Arthur? Going by this book then yes I think she did but, as I said I haven't read much about Katherine so will have to read more on her but, back to the book I think this was gloriously written and I really was addicted when I didn't expect to be going by past reviews, I really should start reading things for myself rather than relying on other people's opinions.

Thankfully being a Philippa fan I may not have read this book otherwise, and whether Philippa's version is correct or not I think Philippa does a fantastic job in arousing peoples interest in our history and it is definitely through Philippa that I have gone on to discover authors like Jean Plaidy.

Friday, 19 October 2007

The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier

The beginning of Bridei's Chronicles (which I understand has a total of 4 books, 1 yet to be written) and tells the story of Bridei's life from when he was very young and taken as a foster child by the Druid Broichan.

This is set in Fifth Century Scotland and bridei is being brought up by Broichan to be the King of Fortriu, unknown to Bridei at such a young age, and the desriptions of the Druidic rituals were really good and give you a wonderful picture of how life was back then.

One early morning a young Bridei wakes to find a small child on his doorstep, this is not just any child but, a child of the good folk, the fey child Tuala is taken in by Bridei on that midwinter morning and is not taken well by everyone Bridei is with. |However, it is Bridei's belief that the child was given to him by the Shining One (the Goddess) and decides to care for her.

With Bridei and Tuala becoming the central characters to the story, and both are wonderful and very likeable characters, I especially loved the character of Tuala her story was so fantastic and you could not help but, feel for her at how she wasd treated by Broichan.

To say anymore about this story would ruin it for anyone who wants to read this book, and would I recommend it? Well, Trudi Canavan's Priestess of the White was easily my favourite read of this year but, this has overtaken it.

So well told as with everything Juliet writes, reading some reviews a lot of people will always compare this to the Sevenwaters Trilogy, which remains my favourite series but, this is different to that and based around the time of the Picts, personally for me it was as good as Sevenwaters, Juliet is one of my favourite authors and I just loved this!

Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie

On the night of Guinevere's birth, a wise woman declares a prophecy of doom for the child: she will be gwenhwyfar, the white shadow, destined to betray her king, and be herself betrayed. Years pass, and Guinevere becomes a great beauty, riding free across Northern Wales on her beloved horse.

She is entranced by the tales of the valorous Arthur, a courageous warrior who seems to Guinevere no mere man, but a legend. Then she finds herself betrothed to him and, like the knights that follow him, swiftly falls under Arthur's spell ...At the side of King Arthur, Guinevere reigns strong and true. Yet she soon learns how the dark prophecy will reveal itself - she is unable to conceive.

Arthur's only true heir is Mordred, offspring of a cursed encounter with the witch Morgause. Now Guinevere makes a fateful choice: to raise the child as her own, to teach him to be a ruler and to honour Camelot. Mordred will be her greatest joy - and the key to her ultimate downfall.

Told from the viewpoint of Guinevere this tells the story of Guinevere from a young girl to Queen and the tae of her love for two men - Arthur and Lancelot. A tale told so many times but, her told so beautifully, the beautifully developed characters that we know so well, and Guinevere's jealous cousin Elaine. Its quite different from other books that sometimes feature more of Arthur's battles.

Most of us know of Guinevere's story marrying Arthur and her affair with Lancelot but, this book goes more in-depth than that, with descriptions of the Arthurian world and comparing to other books this doesn't show Guinevere as the whiny young woman some books portray her as, but for me you see so many different sides to her, a truly stunning portrayal.

This is a long book but, not laboriously so I enjoyed this immensely, I prefer this type of books of the re-telling of the Arthurian saga as opposed to the ones more based on battles and whilst I wouldn't say this is my most favourite re-telling, for me Mist of Avalon is extraordinrily hard to beat this is a really beautiful and engrossing re-telling.

Loved it!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Where's it all gone?

If you have visited here before and wondered where all my posts have gone well, I decided to start over the last blog was a bit scruffy and decided I would start over, gives me an excuse to re-read some of those brilliant books I've read again and re-review them. So bear with me, some new reviews should start appearing soon!