1 October 2015
Isabelle of Angouleme is still a child when she is betrothed to the son of her father's enemy, Hugh de Lusignan. Taken to the Lusignan stronghold, Isabelle is introduced into a mysterious ‘old religion’ which seems to have its basis in the myths and legends which surround the story of the serpent enchantress, Melusine. Mysterious horned figures and cloak darkened shapes fever her dreams, until she is unsure of her place in reality.
Forced to grow up in this disordered world and with a growing antipathy towards her intended husband, Isabelle is relieved when the planned wedding to Hugh is abandoned and she is told that she is to marry, John, King of England. Escaping Hugh de Lusignan will prove to be easier than escaping the old religion, and swapping one meddlesome bridegroom for another is the price Isabelle must pay for alleged freedom. However, born into this turbulent time in medieval history, Isabelle discovers that she is merely a pawn to be used at the whim of ambitious men, and her freedom will come at a price.
I thought that the story moved along reasonably well, although there were times when the narrative seemed to falter and lose its way a little and became a little fanciful. However, interspersed within the narrative are some historical facts, which help to place The Stolen Queen accurately within its medieval time scale, but, I suppose, it is the supernatural elements which add a more unusual twist and thus allows Isabelle’s story to be told in a very different way. The political and domestic intrigue of living so close to the royal household comes across, as does John’s irascible and unreasonable temperament.
The author writes with passion and commitment, and clearly loves telling a story. I am sure that The Stolen Queen will appeal to lovers of medieval historical fiction, and the more unusual supernatural twist, adds an extra dimension to the story.
Lisa Hilton is the author of four historical biographies and two historical novels, The House with Blue Shutters, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Fiction Prize, and Wolves in Winter. She has made several historical programmes for television and is a regular art and book reviewer. She lives in London.
My thanks to Alison Davies at Atlantic Books for my copy of this book.