Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Review: The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory

The Red Queen: A Novel (The Cousins' War)
 The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.

My review of the first of the series, The White Queen, can be found here.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The White Queen and so I was really looking forward to this one. The Red Queen isn't so much a sequel to the first book as it mostly covers the same time period, although starts a little before and finishes a little after. Fortunately, this is done without repeating all of the same things. There's a few mentions of the same events but this time we see them from the opposite point of view, that of Margaret Beaufort. Margaret is the heiress to the House of Lancaster, deeply religious and never gives up believing that the Lancaster's are the true rulers of England. She is a hard to like character but throughout the book it becomes more and more clear why she is like she is - a poor relationship with her mother, sent into a loveless marriage at a young age, having her only son taken from her to be raised by his uncle ...

Margaret is a great comparison to Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen. Both are strong, ambitious women - particularly for their time period. While Elizabeth had a sense of charisma, probably using her charm and beauty to forward her plans, Margaret is cold and cunning. She was a great character to read but I couldn't warm to her, even when I felt sorry for her on occasion.

The writing, as always in a Philippa Gregory book, is excellent. I always love how she combines history with fiction to make an awesome story with great characters. I've read numerous opinions on the historical accuracy of these books but personally I wouldn't be able to comment as I don't know a whole lot about the time period. From that point of view however, I felt it was authentic enough. I think in any book of this kind, if you have a lot of previous knowledge of the subject, there's bound to be parts that don't quite fit.

Overall, it's an excellent book, only beaten slightly by The White Queen due to the likeability of the main characters. I'm really excited about the next in the series!

Other reviews of this book (comment if you would like me to link to yours):

Also be sure to check out Gregory's Tudors Series if you haven't already done so.

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