Monday, September 29, 2014

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell #review

Title: Shadow on the Crown
Author: Patricia Bracewell
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2013

Of all the fates Emma of Normandy imagined, the last she expected was that she would marry an English king and have to cross the Narrow Sea to live in England. The year is 1002 and Europe is a dangerous place, largely thanks to the Danish Vikings who often raid up and down the coast, but also due to the murky politics this young woman finds herself immersed in once she joins King Æthelred’s court.

Life is anything but simple for the young queen, who faces many challenges once she is crowned. Emma is trapped in a loveless marriage to a tormented, much-older man, whose bad decisions will have severe ramifications to his kingdom. In addition, she also discovers a potential rival for her crown, who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Emma’s situation is not helped by the fact that she is not King Æthelred’s first wife, and any child she brings into the world will be viewed as a contender for the throne, as the king as older sons who are nearly adult. If that is not enough, there’s a whiff of a forbidden love – and Patricia Bracewell stirs up a heady mixture of danger of intrigue.

Shadow on the Crown engaged me from the very first page, with a well-realised setting and a large, varied cast of lively characters who were often deliciously at cross purposes.

Bracewell breathes life into the history of a fascinating queen whose reign is so eventful it seems almost unreal, and definitely deserves the detailed narrative treatment she gives Emma’s story. At a time when women had few, if any rights, Emma wasn’t afraid to grasp and hold power, proving that she was a worthy and canny ruler in her own right. This is a story is a solid, historical read that makes you forget you’ve a book in your hands – and I eagerly await the next instalment.

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