Monday 21 May 2018

Review ~ Queen of the North by Anne O'Brien

31 May 2018

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me 

What's it all about ..

1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne.

For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland.

But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.

To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.

To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.

My thoughts about it..

When Henry of Lancaster usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399, it was a far from amicable take-over of power, as it opened the country to the possibility of counter claims to the English crown. Elizabeth Mortimer is married to Henry Percy, the heir to the earldom of Northumberland, better known in history as the volatile and impetuous 'Hotspur', and even though Percy's involvement in English politics results in danger and uncertainty, it is through Elizabeth’s Mortimer connection to royalty where the real challenge comes, as Elizabeth is determined to see that her young nephew, Edmund Mortimer, pursues his legitimate claim to the English throne.

What then follows is a gripping story of politics, ambition and thwarted power which has its foothold firmly established in the unsettled atmosphere of a country which has been divided, not just by the political ambitions of people who merely wanted power for the sake of power, but also from those game players who truly believed that right was on their side.

Into this incredibly masculine world of control and authority, Elizabeth tries to make her voice heard and it is thanks to the skill of this talented writer that she comes to life in such a realistic and positive way. All too often the important women of history are side-lined by their sexier and more powerful male counterparts, and yet, as is so often the case, the women who endured and who worked surreptitiously in the background often had huge influence on the way that events eventually played out.

The author writes with passion and authority deftly bringing medieval England alive in all of its convoluted glory. There are plots and counter plots, meetings with the Welsh Prince, Owain Glyn Dwr, and time spent at the spectacular Northumberland castles of Alnwick and Warkworth and through all of the political maneuverings, Elizabeth Mortimer comes across a determined and hugely intelligent woman who felt that she and her family had grievances aplenty against a king who was, quite simply, not listening. That it doesn't bode well for Henry Percy is enshrined in history but what Queen of the North gives us so vividly is Elizabeth's interpretation of events as they unfolded during the momentous years between 1399 and 1408.

Mixing historical fact with fiction is a difficult challenge especially as so little is documented historically about Elizabeth Mortimer and yet, the author has succeeded really well in bringing her entirely to life, and gives Elizabeth a clear voice which is as bright and distinctive as the woman herself.

Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in history at Manchester University and a Master's in Education at Hull. She lived in the East Riding for many years where she taught history.

Leaving teaching-but not her love of history-Anne turned to writing and her passion for giving voice to the oft forgotten women of the medieval era was born. Today Anne lives in an eighteenth century cottage in Herefordshore, an area steeped in history and full of inspiration for her work.

Twitter @anne_obrien #QueenoftheNorth

Queen of the North will be published on the 31st May 2018 by HQ

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