Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Review - Phillippa Gregory's The White Queen


Synopsis: (from the publisher)
     Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London...

My Review:

    In the beginning of the book we find Elizabeth Woodville standing on the side of the road with her two young boys, waiting for the King of England (Edward) to ride by. She then captures the eye of the King and his heart too. Secret meetings followed by a secret marriage, mixed with a little magic gave this book a great start.
    Elizabeth rose up quickly from her humble birth, she was now the Queen of England. Appointing her family to high positions through titles and marriage, she hoped to secure a strong future for her Woodville/Riverses kinsmen. Many hated and envied Elizabeth for her rise to power, therefore her enemies were immediately known, and it quickly became a court of ruthless politics.
    Edward soon had to go to war to fight for his crown. Fighting alongside him are two of his most loyal companions, His brother Duke Richard and Elizabeth's brother Anthony. Unfortunately Edwards other brother, Duke George, is fighting for the opposing side with Warwick "the kingmaker". George is vicious and hopes to take the crown from Edward, and then crown himself King. During this battle Elizabeth's father and eldest brother are killed at the hands of Duke George and Warwick, leading Elizabeth to vow for revenge. She curses them both with her magic and seals it with her own blood.
    Peace resumes for a while, and Elizabeth has a child. Soon after, Edward is at war again with Warwick and Duke George, and ends up fleeing England in order to live. In the meantime Elizabeth and her children find Sanctuary in a church, it is here she gives birth to her first son (with the king) Prince Edward. Elizabeth and her mother use their magic to create havoc in the seas, trying to help defeat the traitors and bring her husband back. 
    Edward finally returns, and is able to reclaim his crown through victory in battle. As time goes on, Duke George is constantly being a turncoat, and always trying to play the winning side. Elizabeth has a constant fear of The Tower of London, and being separated from her son Prince Edward. She is obsessed with revenge and gaining more power. More children are born to the King and Queen, and we find that Edward is constantly getting extremely drunk and has plenty of whores.
    In the last 100 pages of the book, things really pick up. Edward falls ill and dies, leaving his thrown to his little Prince Edward and naming His brother Duke Richard as protector. Elizabeth flees into sanctuary again, fearing that Richard will take the crown for himself. Richard does indeed take the crown and holds Prince Edward in the Tower of London. He also executes Elizabeths brother Anthony. So again Elizabeth focuses on revenge and curses Duke (now king) Richard.
     While in sanctuary Elizabeth is focused on plotting to regain control of England. She secretly sends away her second royal son, and then sends a look alike to The Tower to stay with his brother Prince Richard. She soon hears rumors that her sons in the tower have been murdered by Richard, but when she thinks logically about it she can not believe it to be true. Elizabeth's eldest daughter begs her to stop plotting and give up her ambition, which would let them lead a quiet life away from the danger. Still Elizabeth can not let go of her hate or pride.
     When Elizabeth and her daughters finally leave sanctuary, Elizabeth goes to the country and her daughters to court. Elizabeth is still plotting her return to power and revenge for her sons death. She sends for her other son that she had in hiding, feeling that it is now safe to bring him back....

------------

This book was definitely well written and well researched. I actually felt like I was reading a history book, but it was the most readable history book ever. Since this was the time of the Wars of the Roses, battles were all throughout the book. They were in great detail too, I was actually surprised at how well the author described the battle scenes. My only complaint about this book was that for the size of it, I felt there was not a deep enough story line for Elizabeth. Elizabeth was constantly set on revenge and was very ambitious, to the point of putting it before her children. This is all we saw from her and it became very repetitive towards the end, when I actually started to dislike her! When I reached the last page I thought it was only the end of a chapter, so I went to the next page and found that it was the Authors Note. I guess that is a good sign, I was just not ready for the book to end.

     Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone. Having done extensive research on this time period myself, I can tell that the author put a great deal of time and passion into this piece of work.  I will be looking forward to her next installment in the series.

Copyright © 2009 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.