A Book Devoured: Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell
Friday, June 26, 2015
It's been awhile since I did a book post, so I thought I'd share a good read that I found recently. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction in the past year and while I find them informative and interesting, there's just nothing like a good fiction story to really entertain you and take your mind off things.
I love to read medieval, Roman, and Egyptian historical fiction, so when I saw this pop up in my Kobo recommended reads list, I was instantly intrigued. Patricia Bracewell's Shadow on the Crown is the first in a trilogy chronicling the life of real-life English queen, Emma of Normandy. Beginning when Emma is just 15, the book follows her journey from being a young girl riding along the shores of Normandy to the courtly intrigue of 11th century England. For Emma, this journey is far from a fairy tale: her marriage is loveless and her husband, the king, is cruel and haunted by the ghost of his murdered brother, while the kingdom is under constant siege by the Danes. Throw in a forbidden love triangle, a tempestuous and beautiful rival, and this soap opera-y twist on history is one entertaining ride.
Bracewell does a deft job of mixing truth and fiction, which is helped by the fact that history leaves a lot of intriguing gaps and hints to fill in. The story follows Emma's journey primarily but also has chapters following the other main characters, which enriches and humanizes even the antagonists. Interestingly enough, I found the most interesting characters to not be Emma herself, but to be the supporting characters Athelstan, the crown heir, and Elgiva, daughter of England's most powerful lord and bitter enemy of Emma. Both Athelstan and Elgiva start their story with having their fortunes foretold by the same far-seerer, who predicts glory and downfall for each. How that all unfolds though is the mystery and somehow Emma is right in the middle.
In contrast, I found Emma to be kinda boring. She's extremely dutiful and is endlessly described as looking regal and beautiful, which is fine in public, but as a reader, c'mon - give me some evidence that this woman lets her hair down a little! Even the much awaited love scene between Emma and her forbidden lover is left to only one page, which after so much angst and yearning between the two is pretty disappointing. Nevertheless, she's interesting enough that I somehow kept reading, right into the sequel, The Price of Blood, which I just started.
If you're a fan of historical fiction, you can find Shadow on the Crown via Amazon, Kobo and Google Play Books.