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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham


The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
ARC, Paperback, 345 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
January 1, 2011
★★★★☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from Sourcebooks for Review

“When fifteen-year-old Margaret of Anjou journeys from France to marry England’s Henry VI, she hopes that her wedding will mean a lasting peace between England and France. Instead, England’s losses of French territory infuriate the people, resulting in the horrific murder of Margaret’s first friend in England, William de la Pole.

Pregnant at last after eight years of marriage, Margaret places her hopes in her coming child. Then the worst happens: the gentle, ineffectual Henry suddenly goes mad and cannot even recognize his longed-for son. As feuding nobles rush to exploit the situation, Margaret determines to protect the rights of her husband and her child.

Undaunted by exile, poverty, danger, and the slanders of her enemies, Margaret remains loyal to her cause even as those around her falter in their allegiances. For the man and the boy she loves best, she will risk everything—her reputation, her
safety, and the future of England itself.”
This is the first book that I have read on the Wars of the Roses that has been from a Lancaster point of view and I was surprised how the author was able to turn my opinion to their side after reading this book (though I have to admit as I am writing this I am reading another WOTR book from the York side and now I am leaning back that way too!). I think that part of the draw was that the story is mostly narrated by Margaret of Anjou who has been victimized by history as a “she-wolf” and seen mostly as an evil woman who wrested power from her poor mad husband King Henry VI. Seeing things from Margaret’s perspective and experiencing her feelings first hand really made a soft spot for her in my mind. I have found that some of the best novels are those that take on the maligned character and make you see them as a person and not just the historical stereotype – Higginbotham does that amazingly well here.

There are a few chapters sprinkled throughout the story that are narrated by other characters on the Lancaster side. It is essential in this story because the narration is first person you can only see what that character saw; Margaret wasn’t actually at many of the places where the action on for the Lancaster’s happened. These other narrators were well developed as characters in the story before they were a narrator so it wasn’t jarring to have them telling the story. There was only one major issue I had with these alternate narrators and this was when someone would narrate their own death scene – or still talk to us after they were dead (this shouldn’t be a spoiler as you should expect a lot of deaths in the Wars of the Roses). Here is an example of what I didn’t like (and I am not indicating who said this):
“He turned away, having made the common mistake of thinking that the dead cannot hear, and that God is not watching all. If I could have spoken, I would have told him that” (Higginbotham 310, ARC).
It would just really aggravate me because it didn’t fit with the rest of the novel whereas the narrators are alive and well and telling what is going on around them. This sort of thing happened a couple of times.

I was most impressed with the extensive character listing in the book. With so many characters in the Wars of the Roses, it is tough to keep track of who is who, especially when their titles changed all of the time. The listing had little descriptions of who that person was and it was organized by families – so it was much easier to keep your mind straight. I referred back to this time and again. I will probably also use it when I read other WOTR books.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Now that I have read one book from each side of this War, I have a better sense of what they were fighting for. Higginbotham effectively turned a character with negative stereotyping into a character that I could care about and connect with.

Susan Higginbotham is the author of several other historical fiction books including, The Traitor’s Wife, Hugh and Bess, and The Stolen Crown. You can visit Susan at her website or visit her blog (which is always full of interesting and entertaining information). You can also read an excerpt of Queen of Last Hopes at her website.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

 
 


Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

7 comments:

  1. I like the sound of this very much

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  2. Can't wait to read this one. I think so far all I've read are Yorkist leaning HF so this one should be interesting :)

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  3. Holly - I was the same way too. It certainly did change my perspective on things.

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  4. Great review. I'm reading this one right now and although I'm only a few pages in, so far so good! I read The Traitor's Wife last year, which was my first time reading one of Higginbotham's works, and I was very impressed. I recommend her to everyone now :-)

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  5. Avid_Reader - I have wanted to read The Traitor's Wife - and I'm glad to know you enjoyed it. I think I have Hugh and Bess coming in the mail.

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  6. Sounds like a good series. I'm going to have to remember to add this to my TBR list. Nice Review.

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