Book Review: Shadow on the CrownAuthor: Patricia Bracewell
Genre: ADULT Historical Fiction
It's no secret that I LOVE historical fiction novels. Especially about English queens. How can this book get any better you ask? Just add feisty Vikings. Which, by the way, have you caught the show The Vikings on the History channel? A new favorite of mine (and I don't catch a lot of TV shows)! This book is about Emma of Normandy who is arranged to marry Athelred, the King of England. And let me set the record straight, this novel is NOT sunshine and rainbows, so if you are looking for an up-beat, romantic historical account, then this is not the book for you! In this first installment, Emma's story is very tragic and heart-breaking. The Setting paragraph is from Goodreads which probably means it's courtesy from the publisher.
In 1002, fifteen-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.
Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.
What I LIKED about this book
What I categorize as a good read is a book that makes the characters memorable or endearing to me, the reader. Even though this is Bracewell's debut novel, her characters came to life for me in a way that I can't stop thinking about, even after I finished the book. In this case it was Emma. I must confess that I stopped reading this book because of despair for Emma, but she kept calling to me, so eventually I tied down my emotions and finished. That does not happen often. That, in and of itself, should merit Shadow on the Crown a medal in my opinion!
Bracewell's writing is beautiful and she has done her research. I needed to know that things worked out for Emma half-way through the book so I "Google"d her. Me, reading history accounts? Insane! And it is categorized as "historical fiction", emphasis on fiction, so I should have known that I would not find the answers I searched for on the internet. But just me wanting to know more of Emma's story is a feat, and a testament to the magnificence of Bracewell's writing.
What I DISLIKED about this book
My only gripe about this book has to be the amount of sexual relations explained in detail. While I can understand why the author thought to describe Emma's relationship with the King, I could have done without the easy and very giving Elgiva (and her deeds are also described in depth). Let me then part with this warning: Shadow on the Crown is a very ADULT novel, and to understand some of Emma's trials you must understand what went on in her bedroom. And it can't end well if actual history knows little of King Athelred except that he was "mistrustful, violent, haunted, and a notorious reputation where women were concerned".
Overall, I was highly haunted by Emma's story thus far in her life, awarding Shadow on the Crown 4.5 out of 5 stars. **WARNING** Please read my review rather than check out the book just based on the rating. While I thought it was a thought provoking read this book will not be for everyone. If you have questions about the content in question please email me and I'd be happy to go into more detail. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Bracewell has a trilogy planned for Emma. And based on the research that I've done Emma will find a safe haven, and perhaps even a bit of a happy ending. How long that will take...it's up to Bracewell. But I hope we see more of the Vikings and less of King Athelred.