I love historical fiction particularly that which features real people of history and specifically royalty. So I was quite excited to see this book which is about Elizabeth, First Daughter of England and daughter of James I.
For those who aren't too familiar with this period of history, James I was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was King of Scotland, growing up in a court full of plots, intrigue and danger. He later married Anne of Denmark and had 3 children who grew to adulthood, Henry, Elizabeth and Charles, later to become Charles I and also have his head chopped off. James later accepted the throne of England after Elizabeth I, who had his mother executed, died.
Hence James I was an extremely paranoid man who saw plots against his life constantly, remember the Gunpowder Plot, and betrayal everywhere, even from his family. He also had a penchant for young handsome men! The reason for this is apparently all the in-fighting the Scottish factions did as he was growing up.
Thus Elizabeth was born into this family with a father who didn't trust her, a mother who wouldn't see her, Henry, the Prince of Wales she adored, and baby Charles.
It's the tale of her adolescence, although taking into consideration the historical period it's probably better to describe her as a young woman.
The opening prologue is a description of Elizabeth at court, surrounded by dignitaries assessing her worth as a wife, looking and talking as if she was a prize bull, but she's used to it, as she is standing and having her portrait painted to be sent off to her next prospective beau.
Elizabeth wonders if she'll be able to stand it all and presumably this is her tale, whether she will survive all the court intrigue and will she ever get to be that prized wife.
I thought it an excellent opening to the book, a good insight into feeling less like a child than a commodity, and boded well for the rest of the tale.
Extremely early in the book there is an attempt to abduct Elizabeth which she thwarts and sends a message to Henry warning him of the potential uprising. His father finds out about this potential uprising and his suspicions about her betrayal is a constant undertone and threat to her marriage.
Strangely, rather than the strong language in the prologue it goes a bit flowery here, with lots of talk about beauty and romantic tales, etc.
Elizabeth also gains Tallie, a Black serving girl given to her by her mother. Tallie is a mysterious character, reluctant to talk about her background, is she a spy or is she hiding a deep, dark secret? This does bode well for a good bit of intrigue!
We've got a young woman wanting to escape the rigours of her life, but suspicion stalking her throughout and a mysterious character who may want to do her good or bad. Blimey, this has to be some good stuff!
The whole book is leading up to Elizabeth's future, an old spinster or a wife to who knows who, or even murdered and dumped in the Thames!
There are 4 main characters featured in the book.
Elizabeth - I couldn't get into this character at all. A disappointment as she's the main one. She can be extremely whimsical with lots of romantic musings, but Dickason tries to infuse her with strength and character by her musings about being a wolf and as strong as one. However, it fails miserably and doesn't seem relevant. I guess she is trying to make her multi-dimensional, and I know people had different roles to play at court, at home,etc but multi-personalited is a better way to describe her!
Tallie - Again, shallow with no depth. We never find out what the implied dark secret is or her background. She's very much a filler character, there to help guide Elizabeth, and in doing so, the whole story
Henry - Elizabeths brother, possibly the best character in the book, we definitely don't see enough of him. He's described as the 'Golden Prince' and he most certainly is. I found myself looking most forward to the scenes where they interact. The strength with which he is written shows he is most definitely a knight and the grief around his death is portrayed very well.
On a side note it is thought that if Henry had lived and become king the Civil War would never have happened!
King James - More of a jester than a threat. His paranoia, rage and aggression is trivialised for the majority leading us to be more likely sniggering at him than realising he was actually really dangerous.
Ultimately I'm extremely disappointed. I wouldn't go as far as to say rubbish, but I won't bother reading it again which is unusual for me.
On occasion it's as if Dickason starts off an event and doesn't follow it through. The issues with her mother, we never find out why her mother is so distant, or why she sent Tallie as a gift. If we did it may explain some of Elizabeth's insecurities. Speaking of Tallie, it's as if Dickason got bored with the character, why did she grow up in a brothal?, be trained to serve in the royal household? Be sent to serve Elizabeth?
The wording veers between plain and simple to madly opulent and flowery, but instead of being used to distinguish between characters and their personalities each character changes and not necessarily to the appropriate situation.
I understand that Elizabeth is young and understandably nervous about being married, but I don't understand her pre-occupation towards seeing genitalia! Why on earth does she need to pretend to be a boy, go to the brothel where Tallie grew up and peep through a door to see a womans vagina. And the scene where she is taking a walk with her brother and suddenly asks to see his penis (in more coarser language) just made me frown. Extremely bizarre and just as bizarre is that Henry shows her.
The whole book is just littered with such scenes; perhaps the author is trying to use metaphors and failing.
It's a sad case when the side characters such as Lady Bedford are far more interesting than the main one, she only has about 10 lines! But then Lady Bedford is the subject of her next book.
I would have guessed that this is a first novel, but no, I'm completely wrong. Dickason has written several other novels, as well as poetry, music, lyrics and for the theatre. With such experience I'm not sure what went wrong here!
There is an interview with author in which she talks about the characters, what society was like at the time and what she wanted to achieve with Elizabeth, a pity that this didn't translate to the story!
Unfortunately I can't recommend this book at all, I'm sticking to the likes of Phillipa Gregory and Antonia Fraser who do it so much better. Another beg, borrow or steal rather than buy I'm sorry to say.
Elizabeth is the First Daughter of England, and lives a life of privilege and luxury. Yet she is imprisoned by her duty, her duty to be a pawn in the political games her father, King James I, plays. She only trusts her older brother, Henry, until she is sent a black slave girl by her mother, named Tallie, who becomes an unlikely ally and advisor. Innocent Elizabeth comes to know the truth of life at court, as she stands to be painted frequently and having numerous possible suitors, and she waits for her father to decide just who she will marry. Can Elizabeth and Tallie risk playing their games of secrecy in order to forge her path to love and freedom?
Elizabeth is tragically robbed of Henry, and summons all her courage to help forge her future. Unsure whether her father was behind her brother's death, and coping with his unpredictability, Elizabeth begins to worry her once chance for happiness, and even her life, could be destroyed.
When this book was offered to me on the Amazon Vine programme I jumped at the chance to give it a read. I love British historical fiction, especially one involving royalty, and this sounded like just my thing. The book is mostly first person from the eyes of Elizabeth from around 1605 to her marriage in 1613. It does have the occasional small chapter written in the eyes of one of the other characters, but this is not too often. For the most part the book flowed along nicely and whilst it does span a decent amount of years, I never felt as if it jumped suddenly or left things unanswered.
I had never fiction based on this time in history, and it was good to see how the infamous Gunpowder plot was unearthed and Dickson did a good job of writing about how paranoid the King becomes, and just how unsettled the state of Britain was, with the threat of catholic uprisings. I enjoyed all historical facts throughout this book, whether large of small details, and I could tell the book was well researched. Despite this, I do have some rather large complaints with how Dickason portrayed the character of Elizabeth. From the start Dickason portrays Elizabeth as a young innocent girl, oblivious to the role she must play as being a royal daughter. She's also quite bland and at times I did get frustratingly bored of reading her thoughts, which could go on quite a bit, I would often skip paragraphs or sometimes even pages of blather which was not interesting at all. A large part of the book is about who Elizabeth will marry, and it was not believable that Elizabeth did not realise she would be used politically when finding a suitor for her. Again the whole concept of love is mentioned, however at the time Elizabeth would have understood she would not have a say in the matter, and that her marriage wouldn't be for love but for the good of England, with deals being made without her discussion.
Another huge part of the book which frustrated me was her friendship with Tallie. The problem is that Tallie is black and back then everyone was racist. It seems unbelievable that everyone around her would be racist, including her ladies in waiting, and that she wouldn't. Not only because of this time in history, but also because if you are brought up in such a way, and with everyone around you behaving in this way because it's normal to them, I could not see how innocent Elizabeth would be any different. Instead she becomes best friends with Tallie, pushing her old friend Anne aside, and from them on they're 'partners in crime' where Tallie manages to sneak Elizabeth to whore houses, and dress her up as a man so she can sneak into the Kin g's chambers and few paintings of possible suitors, these are just a couple of the antics they get up to, and yet Dickason still makes Elizabeth innocent and bland, and still a rather boring character to read.
Other characters in the book are more interesting, the drunken King James who prefers to do nothing but hunt, or her bitter Mother who hates life and everyone around her, there's many other interesting characters along the way too, and it's a shame Elizabeth wasn't as more an interesting character as the others around her. She was extremely close to her brother, yet I also found him slightly bland like her, and so I couldn't really warm to him and felt no loss when he died.
Whilst I did have a good few problems with the book, I did enjoy reading it due to the time period it was set in, and because I'm interested in that time. If I wasn't, then it would be a different story and I probably wouldn't have much good to say for the book. On this note I would recommend this book to people who enjoy reading fiction set around this period in history, otherwise I would give it a miss.
This book is published by Harper and is available from Amazon.