The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
Paperback, 633 pages
November 1, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from Sourcebooks for The Forever Queen Book Club
What kind of woman becomes the wife of two kings, and the mother of two more?
“Saxon England, 1002. Not only is Æthelred a failure as King, but his young bride, Emma of Normandy, soon discovers he is even worse as a husband. When the Danish Vikings, led by Swein Forkbeard and his son, Cnut, cause a maelstrom of chaos, Emma, as Queen, must take control if the Kingdom—and her crown—are to be salvaged. Smarter than history remembers, and stronger than the foreign invaders who threaten England's shores, Emma risks everything on a gamble that could either fulfill her ambitions and dreams or destroy her completely.
Emma, the Queen of Saxon England, comes to life through the exquisite writing of Helen Hollick, who shows in this epic tale how one of the most compelling and vivid heroines in English history stood tall through a turbulent fifty-year reign of proud determination, tragic despair, and triumph over treachery” (from Sourcebooks).
The Forever Queen is the story of a powerful woman. Emma grows into this state of being because of all of the things that she has to deal with. As a young girl she is married to King Æthelred – a man who does not treat her well. She gains strength from this and uses it as a catalyst to continually push forward and never back. She is certainly a woman that should be celebrated for her accomplishments and it is certainly a shame that she has almost been forgotten by history.
Typically I hate reading long books because by the time I get to the end, events that happened in the beginning feel like an entirely different book. Also, there is the fact that I feel like I am not making any progress because I am not on a new book. I did not have that feeling with The Forever Queen. I always wanted to keep reading and struggled to put the book down. I stayed up super late on the final night of this book because I was determined to finish it and not have to wait until morning to see how it wrapped up.
There are SO many characters in this book that at times it is hard to keep them straight. Hollick remedies this by providing several useful pages that I referred back to time and again. There is a family tree for Cnut and Emma, a pronunciation guide (Thank You!) and maps of the world they lived in. I would have been totally lost without these references, as this is a time totally foreign to me. Hollick also does a great job of indicating dates and places of events throughout her writing and with the chapter titles. The world that these people lived in just came to life through her writing.
The characters that Hollick has created are superb. Right from the start you can really get into what they are thinking and why they are doing what they do. You also can really see the evolution of character throughout the book – this is most evidenced by the growth of Emma. She also expertly molds your opinions of these characters – a telltale sign of a great author. I went from hating Cnut near the beginning, to finding him one of my favorite characters toward the end.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I am eagerly looking forward to the follow up.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Helen Hollick is the author of several books, including The Forever Queen and the soon to be US release follow up, The Chosen King. You can visit Helen’s website for more information about her books or you can visit her journal site to see what she is up to. If you are interested in reading an excerpt from the book, follow my link to Sourcebooks and click “excerpt”.
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Be sure to follow along with the reviews by other members of the Book Club (I know I am toward the end). Also, check out the Book Club chat on November 22 at the Bibliophilic Book Blog (more info below).
The Forever Queen Book Club Schedule
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