Newest Review: ... to stop herself being given to a marriage contract at the age of twelve; it is a marriage which results in one child, the birth of w... more
Insert hilarious chess pun here
The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory
Member Name: sandemp
The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory
Advantages: Well written
Disadvantages: Most dislikable character I've ever met . Couple of continuity errors .
Philippa Gregory is undoubtedly best known for her Tudor series of books including the bestseller, The Other Boleyn Girl, which has been made into a film (read the book, it's far superior). Following the same format of taking a strong woman and then allowing her to tell her own story, The Red Queen is the second in the new Cousin's War trilogy set during the Plantagenet era. I really enjoyed the first in this series, The White Queen and was looking forward to reading this, only to be sorely disappointed.
It was hard for me to come to a conclusion as to why I not only enjoyed reading this less but also struggled to get to the last page. The writing style is just as effective as in the previous novel, Gregory really does bring both the era and characters alive. Something I've always appreciated in Gregory's novel is the way she chooses a strong female lead, history is dominated by men and is normally written from their perspective so it's nice to read about these eras from a female perspective. But Margaret Beaufort is simply such an unpleasant character that I found it hard to care much about her.
With the previous Gregory novels I've read, no matter how unpleasant the lead character they've always had some redeeming quality that would allow me to connect. In the previous novel in the series the lead, Elizabeth Woodville, certainly wasn't perfect, but her devotion to her family shone through. In the case of Margaret Beaufort, she doesn't even have this to redeem her, it seems everything and everyone is to her a means to an end. It's no plot spoiler to say that her son was Henry VII, the man who finally brought peace to England (for a short period at least) by creating the Tudor dynasty. But I found myself wondering how he could have any respect for his mother, considering her attitude towards him. I guess that as a mother myself I found myself literally detesting her.
That's not to say that Margaret was badly written, in fact for me to have such strong feelings of loathing is perhaps a testament to Gregory's writing skills. But perhaps Gregory could have found a redeeming quality for her no matter how small that would have allowed me to empathise with her just a little. But there again from reading previous Gregory novels where Margaret played a cameo role, perhaps I should have realised that I was not going to like this self-serving, false pious, control freak.
So was there anything I enjoyed about The Red Queen, well I did enjoy reading about an era that I have little knowledge about and I liked the idea that while The White Queen told the story from Elizabeth's Yorkist viewpoint, The Red Queen focussed on the Lancastrian point of view. But this did mean that a lot of the history was the same as in the previous book, just from a different perspective. And there are a couple of small continuity errors, not massive errors, but there were a couple of conversations that didn't quite gel. I'm not painting a very good picture here am I? Well that's because I really didn't enjoy this book and for me the negatives outweighed the positives.
As to historical accuracy, well I'm not an expert, but to my untrained eye there were no glaring errors. As with her Tudor novels Gregory appears to have done her research and indeed she does paint a very good picture of what it was like to be a woman in a real man's world. The language used appears to be quite accurate too, I'm not talking about the narrative but the conversations between the characters. If I were to take this book as gospel (along with others in which Margaret makes an appearance), I would say that Margaret was a thoroughly unpleasant woman that I would avoid at all costs. How accurate a description this truly is, I have no idea, but surely such a woman would not have had the devotion of so many people.
Although The Red Queen is available in various formats, including paperback and hardback, I purchased it in Kindle format and read it on my mobile phone using the Kindle for Android application. The novel translated well to the format and in the most part the formatting was excellent with only the occasional word being broken with a hyphen.
As to my recommendation, well this is a hard one. If this were a standalone book then I would say forget it and read one of Gregory's other novels. But as this is part of a trilogy and the previous book is so good, I would have to say that this should be added to your reading list if and only if you have read The White Queen. Just don't expect to find it as easy or pleasant to read and I would really recommend buying it second hand (if possible) or borrowing from the library rather than purchasing new. This certainly isn't a book I'll be reading again any time soon. So I'm giving The Red Queen a disappointing three stars out of five and am hoping that when it's released the final book in the trilogy is somewhat better.
Summary: Only read if you've read The White Queen and are planning to read the final book in the trilogy