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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Review: The Queen's Pawn by Christy English

The Queen’s Pawn by Christy English
ARC, Paperback, 378 pages
NAL Trade
April 6, 2010

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the Author for Review
“A historical novel of the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine and the one person she loved more than power-her rival for the throne.

At only nine, Princess Alais of France is sent to live in England until she is of age to wed Prince Richard, son of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alais is an innocent pawn on the chessboard of dynastic marriage, her betrothal intended to broker an uneasy truce between the nations.

Estranged from her husband, Eleanor sees a kindred spirit in this determined young girl. She embraces Alais as a daughter, teaching the princess what it takes to be a woman of power in a world of men. But as Alais grows to maturity and develops ambitions of her own, Eleanor begins to see her as a threat-and their love for each other becomes overshadowed by their bitter rivalry, dark betrayals, conflicting passions, and a battle for revenge over the throne of England itself."

To Be Queen is the story of Eleanor and Alais – regardless of who else is present in any scene. These two women are alike in many ways but the differences between them profoundly affect the way they thrive and evolve. When we meet Eleanor she has already been through the good times with her second husband – King Henry II – and they are on the backward slide. Eleanor is always thinking five steps ahead of him (and everyone else for that matter) to decide what is the best action to take to support her interests. Alais is a blossoming young woman, at a very impressionable time in her life, when she arrives at the English court. We get to see her quickly grow from a quiet and na├»ve girl to someone who is much more sure of who she is and what she wants. She thrives under Eleanor’s tutelage – but the one thing that she will not give up is her religiosity (something that Eleanor does not have). Alais becomes, in my opinion, a more perfected image of Eleanor – not yet jaded, but strong and has learned how to take life in her own hands.

Although Eleanor and Alais take the main stage in this novel, the men in their lives do play quite an important role. Richard (Eleanor’s son and Alais’ betrothed) and Henry (Eleanor’s husband and Alais’ eventual lover) cause a lot of turmoil between these two women but they create some of the most memorable moments in the story. My favorite scenes are the sweet, passionate moments between Richard and Alais. There are no romping romance scenes but there are some tender, caring touches and the words that go unspoken say it all. There were also some great moment between Eleanor and Henry. Even though their marriage is in ruins and they are always launching attacks at each other, they do have these moments where they reminisce. There is still love there, but it doesn’t have the same hold over them.

I loved the ending – it is so sweet and hopeful after everything that happened in the preceding 370ish pages.

While this is a story that is mostly focused on the development of the characters (specifically Eleanor and Alais) there are some great drama and romance scenes as well – but the characters are always the prime focus. Wonderfully written and believable. As soon as I finished reading it I was ready to launch into To Be Queen.

Author Christy English has also written To Be Queen with a release date of April 5, 2011. You can visit Christy’s website for additional information about the book.

My other reviews of this author’s books:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also today during the HFBRT To Be Queen Event:
@ Historical-Fiction.com - Christy's Guest Post

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I'll definitely be adding this to my to-read list -- I love the Plantagenet craziness, and it's great to see such a positive recommendation.

  2. The Incurable Bluestocking- there is definitely some craziness in this book!

    Carole Rae - hope you enjoy it!

  3. Great review, Heather! I loved the ending as well, and hope there will be a continuation from Christy on the characters' later lives.

  4. Arleigh - It would be great to see another book about these characters - either something set between this and To Be Queen or set after this one.

  5. This one was a good one, I gave it the same rating but it really will stick with you. Great review Heather.


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