Rating: 2.5 Stars ★★☆☆☆
In the darkness of the forest the young knight could hear the splashing of the fountain long before he could see the glimmer of moonlight reflected on the still surface.
Elizabeth Woodville is a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition. Her mother is Jacquetta, also known as the mystical lady of the rivers, and she is even more determined to bring power and wealth to the family line. While riding in the woods one day, Elizabeth captures the attentions of the newly crowned King Edward IV and, despite her common upbringing, marries him in secret.
When she is raised up to be his queen, the English court is outraged, but Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for her family’s dominance. Yet despite her best efforts, and even with the help of her mother’s powers, her two sons become pawns in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London.
The Wars of the Roses, where cousins fought cousins and brother turned against brother and allies first supported one and then the other can be quite complicated.
This novel focusses on Elizabeth Woodville, erstwhile Lancastrian and then the wife of the York King Edward and follows her life from the moment she met him at the roadside to the night before the battle between Richard III and Henry Tudor.
“She has a son, the Tudor boy.” My mother shrugs. “Nobody is going to ride out for a stripling. Henry Tudor doesn’t matter. Henry Tudor could never be King of England. Nobody would fight for a Tudor against a Plantagenet king.”
So the novel covers quite a bit of ground and it has lots of little time jumps in between. For the most part, it does a good job relating the events of the wars and of King Edwards reign, though it does get a bit into infodumping territory sometimes.
Then there’s Elizabeth’s characterization. To be honest, I didn’t quite get her. She’s a pragmatist on one page and enraged about her husbands affair on the other. She wants Richard alone and dead on the battlefield and then is ready to side with him. I didn’t quite get her.
“Don’t, Anthony. Don’t say such things.”
“They are true,” he says grimly. “The House of York will fall whatever you or I do, for they will eat up themselves.”
Also, I quite liked the beginning but it started to drag towards the end. Which is weird, because once Edward is dead is when the real danger for Elizabeth and her children begins. And yet it reads quite dull. They sit in sanctuary most of the time, look out the windows and wait for news. We don’t get to experience any of the action that takes place then.
And when some of the main characters die, such as her brother Anthony or her firstborn son, the emotional impact is negligible. It felt more like setpieces being removed than actual characters dying.
All in all, an interesting historical novel about the Wars of the Roses but not quite captivating enough.