Wednesday 14 October 2020

Book Review: The Queen's Rival by Anne O'Brien

The Queen's Rival by Anne O'Brien book cover

AD* | One family united by blood. Torn apart by war...

England, 1459: Cecily, Duchess of York, is embroiled in a plot to topple the weak-minded King Henry VI from the throne. But when the Yorkists are defeated at the Battle of Ludford Bridge, Cecily’s family flee and abandon her to face a marauding Lancastrian army on her own.

Cecily can only watch as her lands are torn apart and divided up by the ruthless Queen Marguerite. From the towers of her prison in Tonbridge Castle, the Duchess begins to spin a web of deceit – one that will eventually lead to treason, to the fall of King Henry VI, and to her eldest son being crowned King of England.

This is a story of heartbreak, ambition and treachery, of one woman’s quest to claim the throne during the violence and tragedy of the Wars of the Roses.

The Queen's Rival tells the story of Cecily, Duchess of York, and how her life unfolds through the now-infamous Wars of the Roses and the subsequent battles for kingship and royal favour. The author has taken the principal plot points of the novel from real historical events - a fact which only goes to make the story even more exciting. 

Cecily is an extremely strong and wilful woman; a lady of impeccable blood and carrying a fierce loyalty to her family which is evident throughout the novel. Despite being female, she is highly influential in her own right, and this just goes to show her impressive strength of character - especially at a time when politics was unquestionably a man's game. 

Although the book focuses on Cecily, so many key historical events are played out - or at least mentioned - in the pages of this book. The narrative is told principally from Cecily's point of view, yet it is also different as much is explained through correspondence between Cecily and various members of her family, as well as her personal prayers and diary entries. A more objective view is also given by occasional snippets from England's Chronicle, helping to place the fast-paced events of the book into a wider historical perspective. 

It did take some time to get used to this style of narrative, yet once events began to play out and the wheels of history were set in motion, the book acquired an ever faster-paced plot. At times, this struggled to keep up with the sheer scale of events and changes which happened during this period. 

Through it all, though, the reader is left with an unmistakable bond with Cecily. The worries that burdened the Duchess are almost unimaginable, yet this remarkable lady dealt with it all with a clear mind and an unwavering sense of loyalty. If nothing else, I believe that much can be learned from the example set by Cecily, Duchess of York.

A sweeping tale spanning multiple rules, battles, loyalties, and influential families, The Queen's Rival is a fast-paced novel ideal for historical fiction fans.

Rating: 3 stars 

The Queen's Rival is available to buy now.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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