Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review: Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Synopsis: (From the Publisher)
"A leader as unexpected as he is inexperienced, young Richard must find a way to triumph over a fierce conflict more destructive than any foreign enemy.
Unlike his father, the Black Prince, or his namesake, King Richard the Lionheart, Richard II never really wanted to be king. But the mantle of royalty is thrust upon his shoulders at age 11, at a time when England is racked by unrest and class warefare. A leader as unexpected as he is inexperienced, young Richard must find a way to triumph over a fierce conflict more destructive than any foreign enemy.
Richard’s love for his wife, Anne of Bohemia, gave him the strength to outwit the schemes of his enemies and govern as he saw fit, providing England with years of properity under his reign. But when tragedy strikes, Richard begins to loose the common touch by which he had ruled so brilliantly, and begins a downward spiral from which his detractors would derive strength..."

My Review:

Richard II is only fifteen at the begining of this novel. Described as "a boy in a guilded cage" Richard longs to be a normal boy, enjoying games with his friends and spending lazy days in nature. Although he may be reluctant to give up the youthfulness he yearns for, he is ready to take on the responsibility that has been laid upon him; it's time for him to become the true King of England...

As Richard attempts to break free from his guardians influence and control, he is faced with great resistance from his power hungry uncles. Every great achievement that Richard makes for England is somehow destroyed by their malicious medaling. Through all of this, Richard remains undeterred in his quest to be a king in his own right. With the support of his loving Bohemian wife, Richard finally finds the strength to do away with his rivals and rule on his own terms; all the while unwittingly creating some formidable enemies who won't take defeat so gracefully...

Years of peace and prosperity grace Richards reign, but this happy life is short lived when traitors emerge close to the throne. Richard must now outwit his opponents and risk everything in order to save England from the despair he so ardently rescued it from before...

This was a hard book for me to attach myself to. The first few pages were great but then it really became a bit dull until a little over half way through. Although I found the beginning a tad dry, I did enjoy reading about Richard's personality and seeing him change from a mere youth to a man who could rule a country. The author did a splendid job of helping the reader actually feel what it would be like to be Richard II. The book definitely kept you pondering what might happen next. The characters personalities really helped this aspect; they were well described but at the same time they all had an air of mystery about them. Besides the slowness of the book, my other issue was with how the story's time frame was laid out. It was quite confusing sometimes when in between chapters the date suddenly leaped eight years ahead without telling you right away. Instead of stating at the beginning of the chapter  that it had been a prosperous eight years, we only read this a couple paragraphs into the chapter. I am greatly unfamiliar with this era in history, since my research focus has been mainly on the latter years of The Wars of the Roses. That being said, I think I might have enjoyed this book more if I knew a bit about the history before reading it. It did however pique my interest in Richard II, and I will definitely be doing some research on him. The couple issues I had with this book has not hindered my desire to read more from this author. Therefore, I will definitely be reading the next book of hers that Sourcebooks is re-releasing in October, called The Passionate Brood.

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