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The Shadow Queen Paperback – May 4, 2017
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Top customer reviews
Joan of Kent can want for nothing. With a proud lineage, this Plantagenet princess can look forward to a bright future. Wealth, respectability, jewels, land, power, and position, are all hers for the taking. Joan knows what is expected of her. She is to marry well.
Joan's mother, Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell, brings her the most wonderful news. Joan is to be given in matrimony to her childhood friend, William Montacute, the son of the first Earl of Salisbury. This marriage has every advantage and comes with the King's approval. But there is a problem, for Joan is already married to someone who did not look at her and count how much money she would bring to the wedding bed. Instead, she married a man who loved her. She just didn't tell anyone about the wedding! Her husband, Thomas Holland, is away fighting for the King and Joan finds herself in a precarious position. She has no allies to turn to in the face of her mother's ambition. Joan will marry William Montacute, even if it is the last thing she ever does.
Anne O' Brien brings us another captivating story of seduction, scandal, and the most heart-breaking tale of a woman who dared to go against convention and instead, followed her heart. The Shadow Queen was so vivid in its detail that I found myself completely immersed in the story. Time ticked on and yet I didn't notice as each turn of the page brought more drama, more heartache, and a desperate hope that this protagonist, this brave and courageous young woman, would find happiness.
The Shadow Queen is told in the first person, from Joan's perspective. Joan really struggles with who she is, and it was a joy to watch her mature. Her relationship with Ned was portrayed as the pinnacle moment of her life, not just because Ned was who he was, but because this was a real grown-up relationship for her. It came with problems, but they loved each other. Joan sometimes came across as incredibly self-serving, but she really blossomed as a character when she married Ned.
I have to say I was deeply moved by the portrayal of Edward, 'Ned,' The Black Prince of Wales. He was so real in the telling that despite knowing beforehand how his life was to be cut cruelly short, this story, the way O’Brien portrayed him, made me wish for an alternative ending. I didn’t want him to die.
The Shadow Queen is not just a great work of literature; it is more than that, it shows the courage that these remarkable women had. We have all heard about how brave these noblemen were, but the stories of their wives are even more compelling. They all lost so many loved ones in a time where plague and war were rampant. How terrible it must have been for these women who waited patiently at home, hoping never to hear that their husband had died in battle. Such thoughts bring tears to my eyes even now. Life was precarious; there was simply not the time for wasted moments. Their stories—Joan's story—certainly deserves to be told. The Shadow Queen has left a lasting impression on me.
I Highly Recommend.
I received an ARC of this book from the Publishers, via NetGalley, for review consideration.
The Shadow Queen is a fantastic read. Very well paced from beginning to end, it charts the life of Joan of Kent, the cousin of King Edward III, who is a prominent character throughout the story. I always enjoy it when an author finds a 'new' historical character to offer to their readers - for too long the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses have garnered far too much interest, as have the few women who were prominent in Medieval Times - Isabella of Castille and Elearnor of Aquaitaine. Often, no matter how hard an author might try, historical events can only be manipulated so much and I much prefer a fresh story.
Joan is an acerbic character - and some of the best passages in the book stem from when her nature is allowed to fly free - this is often when speaking to the men in her life - but at these times the characters feel very alive and real. So beguiling is she that I found it difficult to put the book down and read it in two days, even though I was supposed to be reading another novel.
I don't wish to spoil the nature of the story - for the unravelling of events around Joan is one of the author's strongest story telling techniques - suffice to say while some elements of her life garner slightly too much time in the novel, and others a little too little - the story is fantastically well crafted without dwelling too much on romance and matters of the heart because this isn't in the strong willed nature of the Plantaganet Princess, who is only too aware of her own power and strength because of her blood.
5 stars and a highly recommended for this story.
I would, however, have liked some longer historical notes at the end with more details about Joan as opposed to the royal family members she interacted with.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Historical fiction,
What a fabulous read, transported me back to the past.
Its a while since I've read any historical fiction, I used to read more, with Elizabeth Chadwick, Phillipa Gregory, Sharon Penryn and Alison Weir being my favourite authors for this type of novel.
Its told from the POV of Joan, and she's just 12 when we meet her. Looking at many historical novels from today's POV its horrifying that children were betrothed as babies, went into marriage ceremonies when very young, though often remained with their families until in their mid/late teens. They grew up quickly in those days though, especially in royal households where children were routinely sent off to others, in the pursuit of power for the Family.
When we meet Joan she's about to be married to Will, another boy her age, from a close family to the royals. Its a match made by the families, and Joan likes Will, but there are reasons she can't marry, reasons she hasn't told anyone. When she does, well, both families ensure its swept under the carpet, assuming wrongly that they've put an end to any scandal.
Of course things don't work that way, and it starts a chain of events that dog poor Joan's life. She's clever though, ambitious, and ensures she does her best to make things work out how she wants them.
It sounds like she's an unpleasant manipulative girl, but she's not, not to me. She's in love even though Thomas is so much older, she does her best to be a good wife to her husbands, to ensure she does what she can to help them, to make them happy, to get the recognition due to them. She adores her children and is a fierce, protective mother for their futures.
In a time when men ruled all, and women were simply chattels, to be moved around to forge alliances regardless of what they wanted, where they could be cast out easily, where the Royal Family and Parliament were in an uneasy power struggle, she did what she could for her family. I so felt for her, events had me really tearful at times. I didn't see how blame could attach to her for what she did, but as always women seem to catch more than their fair share.
She was lucky in her friends from childhood, Will, her long time friend, sometime husband, and of course Ned, heir to the throne who's another childhood friend, Isabella, a cousin I think or maybe second cousin.... Edward, the young king, is her cousin, and his wife Phillipa is a strong but gentle lady, and has brought up Joan since very young as part of the family, as was common in those days. The love between her and Edward has a great impact on Joan's life.
Its a story of political machinations, the vicious scramble for power, backbiting, double dealing.
No-one could ever be quite certain the bargains they made, the allies they forged would really hold out when needed.
For Joan to have forged a path through that, a woman up against powerful men, at a time when they scarcely had a voice she was a remarkable person.
Its a story I really enjoyed, an author new to me but whose books I'll certainly look out for in future.
Stars: five, a fabulous dive back into a time when women were almost voiceless so had to use clever ways of getting what they needed.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers