Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Books featuring the lives of queens and royal women have been around for a long time.  Jean Plaidy (aka Victoria Holt and other pseudonyms) made a career out of it in the 1960's and 70's, and Philippa Gregory, Sharon Kay Penman and Alison Weir, among others, have shared the stories of Anne and Mary Boleyn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and other famous ladies.  Now in Shadow on the Crown, debut author Patricia Bracewell takes a much less traveled road, bringing to life the early 11th century English queen,  Emma of Normandy.
Emma, sister of the Duke of Normandy (and great-aunt of William the Conqueror), is only sixteen when she is sent away to marry King Aethelred the Unready, a much older man with grown sons.  She’s a hostage for her brother’s good behavior.   She’s also smart, savvy and determined to be a queen, not a pawn.  But she faces many barriers of language and culture, and worse.  Aethelred’s crown is under a shadow – he came to the throne as a result of murder, and it haunts him.  He sees treason everywhere, even in his sons and his queen.
 Full of political intrigue, envious ladies in waiting, forbidden love, ambition, war and revenge, Shadow on the Crown is written in a direct style  that makes it easy to keep straight the various characters (the English had an unfortunate propensity for names that start with Aeth!).

Shadow on the Crown is actually the second book out recently about Queen Emma, who had a very long and fascinating life.  For a different take, try Helen Hollick’s The Forever Queen.  For more great historical fiction about famous women, check out books by any of the authors listed above.

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