Friday, November 16, 2012

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Book Review: The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Things to know up front...

Recommended to: Fans of Historical Fiction, Fans of Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Woodville Haters, Those looking for Richard III's redemption

Rating: 8.5/10

Content: Appropriate for nearly all ages. It is a bit of a challenging read, as all historical fiction tends to be, so that in itself may provide an age limit, but there isn't bad language, nor are there any of the sex scenes found in Philippa's other books. The most mature element found in this novel is simply the conniving cruelty that was an English court. **Edit** There is one scene in which a character goes into labor, and the baby has to be forcibly removed. While this doesn't necessarily make it any more inappropriate it is disturbing, and frankly, icky. 

A Warning: I will refer to Philippa Gregory by first name only many, many times in this review. I just can't help it. I feel like I know her, or she's my best friend in another universe that lives right next door and has lunch with me all the time something. 

The Kingmaker's Daughter follows Anne Neville, second daughter to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, better known by the nickname "The Kingmaker." If you've read Philippa's other books in The Cousin's War series, you may remember the Kingmaker (you know, the loony that switched loyalties about seven billion three or four times?). We see Anne progress from a pawn in her father's schemes to a woman that is very capable of her making her own schemes. And once again, Gregory brings us to that point where we realize just how little glamour there is in being a royal/noble, and furthermore, a royal/noblewoman, which I have always had a strange amount of affection for.* You may remember part of Anne's timeline if you've read the other books in this series, and even if you're new, it becomes easy after awhile to catch on, even though her life was kind of a hot mess.

Well, might as well jump right into it now, eh? So allons-y.

What I mainly found so interesting in this book is that somehow I, who just adored Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen, really grew to scorn her and her rise to power in this book. It seemed perfectly natural in The White Queen that she would bring her family to power and titles along with herself, but then as you look at it from the other side, you see why this looked so bad to everyone that wasn't a Rivers. You even see how it would have looked like she had an unnatural and improper power of persuasion over the king. I could understand why Anne hated and feared this cold and beautiful woman; I could see how all of her actions that seemed so innocent in TWQ didn't seem that way from the opposing view. In fact, the queen was a genuinely frightening character. It no longer amazes me that she wasn't so popular in her day.

I loved the relationships that were created in this story as well. Anne and Isabel were a pair I found to be especially well executed. They were similar to the relationship shown in The Other Boleyn Girl between Anne and Mary Boleyn in that they were constantly vying to get the power that would make their father/family proud. There was affection between them, more so than the Boleyn sisters had, but that jealousy and competition was like second nature to them and ready to appear at the slightest provocation. Another relationship that I found fascinating was that of Anne, Isabel, and their mother. It amazed me how little love was shown to those two by their mother, who is shown as such an unfeeling and calculating character who was always right on track with her husband's power-lust. I was straight up shocked to read in one scene, while the family is sailing through a ferocious (Elizabeth Woodville-caused?) storm and Isabel is going into labor, that mother does not once express an emotion. Not one, except maybe a little bit exasperation at the inconvenience that is the tempestuous storm raging around them. When she tells Anne to go get towels and such, she simply tells her to make sure she hangs on to a crew member so that she doesn't get swept overboard. There wasn't even an ounce of worry for Anne's well being or safety, just a sense of what had to be done. She was such a mystifying character. Even though I understand she is not a huge player in this series, I would love to learn more about her and what it was that made her so very...frigid.

And may I say that I love the way Richard III was presented? It seems like every portrayal of Richard, even in this series, casts him as a figure of pure evil and malice, as someone quite without compassion or feelings, as someone that only cared for power. I was really pleased to be shown another side to this character. While he is still a cold and slightly devious character, he's lovable. In fact, I dare you to read this and not have a little bit of a crush on young Richard. But beyond that we see that he was intensely loyal to Edward and originally had a very strong sense of what was right and chivalrous, or wrong. We see that he loved Anne and risked very much to be with her. Even as we move on to the point were Richard takes the throne, I could never dislike him. Only his undefined relationship with Princess Elizabeth really bothered me.

I also really liked Anne. In other Philippa novels, I haven't found all too many heroines that I really grow to admire, but Anne has emerged as one of the few. At first I was just like, Another powerless young girl. Yippee, but then as she grows up and she finally takes her life into her own hands, I couldn't help but love her. I mean, you have to admit that her life must have been something. To be put behind your older sister whom your parents have decided to put all of their efforts into making a future queen, and then be married to the heir of a king your father once helped dethrone, and then to have that young boy die and leave you a widow at about fourteen years old, then to have your father die, and then to be imprisoned in your own sister's home, then to marry Richard III,  AND THEN to become queen? Can you say bananas? Truly, I think she is one of, if not the, greatest character of Philippa's ever, in terms of a fascinating background...which is a little ironic when you think of how little is known about her.

Can you yet tell how much I adored this? I'm racking my brain right now, and I just can't come up with many negatives! Really, the only thing that bothered me, and it really is a small thing, is that Anne seemed to have too many "imaginings" of the queen doing her sorcery, which are dead on to what we are told she did in The White Queen. But this is honestly the only thing that really nagged at me.

Overall, Philippa really did a wonderful job on this one. The way I understand it, there is very little information known about Anne Neville, and to write a complete novel in first person about such a character must be absolutely grueling, especially when you have to think about how that person would be shaped by the numerous, confusing events that occurred in this time period. I don't know that just any historical fiction writer could have produced a believable character from that mess (so kudos, Philippa, you've made yet another amazing thing). I would highly recommend this to any historical fiction fan, or any fan of Philippa's. This is definitely a match in terms of quality for The White Queen, and it is loads better than The Lady of the Rivers. Be sure to pick it up for yourself and tell me what you think!

*There is a specific paragraph from TKD that I know I just adored because it really hit on the head just how much power men had over women, and I noted it just so I could share it, but then I lent the book to my sister *facepalm*. Once it's returned to me in what will be a ridiculously extended amount of time, I'll be sure to share it with you.

Another important end note: please realize that in the spots that I have used absolutes to describe characters or actions, such as the bit about the Boleyns, I am not basing this so much on actual facts about these people/things as much as the impressions I have gotten from Philippa's other books.

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