Simply excellent all around. This was one of my most anticipated titles of 2014, and it did not disappoint! Deep and meaningful, fantastic world-build...moreSimply excellent all around. This was one of my most anticipated titles of 2014, and it did not disappoint! Deep and meaningful, fantastic world-building, dimensional, emotional characterization, and I especially love how the author cleverly constructed the first half of the novel, making it difficult for the reader to determine which man was the prince and which the assassin. Very much looking forward to book two, though I wish I didn't have to wait so long!(less)
The beginning was a bit rocky with a lot of world-building information thrown at the reader in rapid succession, and I am not a fan of the stop-in-the...moreThe beginning was a bit rocky with a lot of world-building information thrown at the reader in rapid succession, and I am not a fan of the stop-in-the-middle-of-the-action cliffhanger ending, but everything in between was pretty awesome. Creative, exciting, emotionally charged, and FANTASTIC characterization. Looking forward to book number two.(less)
3.5 Stars. The author includes a very helpful historical note at the beginning of this novel that orients the reader in time and place and sets the scene for a dramatic story unfolding against a backdrop that I don't think I've ever encountered before in historical fiction: that of wealthy English Catholic exiles living in the Spanish-occupied Netherlands. We usually get this time period from the other side of the Channel, in Elizabeth's court as she attempts to keep Protestantism on top and fend off a multitude of foreign threats, but here we get to see what the rest of the world was thinking and doing during her spat with Spain. I really loved the setting of this and the intrigue of a group of nobles in exile, cozying up to the Spanish to bring down Elizabeth. But before we get there, we begin on Sark, a quirky little Channel Island that really illustrates what life must have been like for the people who lived so far from the mainland and so close to the shores of the enemy during this tumultuous time in history. It is there that we meet our hero and heroine, Adam and Fenella.
What follows is an epic tale of patriotism and treason, political upheaval and oppression, familial love and the ties that bind. The book description does a good job of setting up the story, and I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll forego a plot recap. This is a fun, swashbuckling read, but there are two things that keep me from rating it higher: I wasn't a big fan of the tendency throughout the story to lead the reader up to a pivotal moment and then skip over it, bringing the reader up to speed after the fact, presenting scenes in retrospect and flashback rather than letting them unfold as they happened. It sort of muted the impact of some really great plot twists. And I thought things shook out a little too easily at the end; moral dilemmas and pesky legal ties that had been plaguing the characters throughout the story were suddenly and conveniently no longer problems. Like the previous book in this series, The Queen's Exiles can stand alone just fine, though at times I felt that if I had read the earlier books, I would have better appreciated some of the supporting characters, particularly Carlos and Isabel, and their history with each other and the main characters in this book.
Still, The Queen's Exiles was an entertaining read. Never a dull moment, exciting action, dramatic twists and turns, and a little bit of romance. Brash and colorful characters. And it transported me to a few interesting and vividly depicted historical settings that were new to me. A good pick for historical fiction fans in the mood for something bold and adventuresome.(less)
I am loving the increase in young adult historical fiction titles. I read a lot of YA, a...moreAuthor Guest Post + Giveaway @ Let Them Read Books!(US/UK/CAN)
I am loving the increase in young adult historical fiction titles. I read a lot of YA, and I'm all for anything that gets kids interested in history. So when I saw Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter, whose debut novel, Cleopatra's Moon, has been on my wishlist forever, I had to read it. And I loved it--mostly.
This is the story of Lucia, a privileged young woman living in Pompeii. The only surviving child of the owner of a gladiator school, she is pretty much free to live and do as she pleases . . . until the day her father betrothes her to a man old enough to be her grandfather in exchange for an influx of cash into his struggling school. Despite her pending nuptials, she's determined to carry on as she always has while trying to come up with a scheme to get out of the marriage. She's very interested in the natural world and has been documenting a series of events and observations that trouble her: an increase in tremors, springs drying up, the smell of sulfur hanging in the air, behavioral changes in animals. She pores over her father's scrolls of Pliny's Natural History, even campaigning to get an audience with the great man himself to speak with him of her troubling discoveries. But no one will take her opinion, that of a woman and a young one to boot, seriously. Only Tag, a slave in her father's school and a childhood friend, lends any credence to her observations.
Tag knows he should stay away from Lucia--after all, her father has promised death to any man who touches her--but he can't resist the call of her beauty and brains, her tender heart, or the way she treats him like a human being worthy of respect. Trained as a medical slave, Tag yearns to fight alongside the gladiators he patches up to attain his dream of earning his freedom. Falling in love with Lucia was not part of the plan. But as her wedding draws near and she becomes increasingly more desperate to avoid it, the two form a plan of escape and begin to build dreams around the possibility of a totally new future free from all bonds. But trouble arrives in the form of Quintus, a haughty young patrician who comes to the school to play at being a gladiator, and who finds pleasure in flirting with and tormenting both Lucia and Tag. His meddling could unravel all of their carefully laid plans. And Tag has a secret. A burden he's been carrying since the death of Lucia's mother three years earlier. If Lucia ever finds out, she may never want to see him again, and he may not survive her father's wrath. And if all of that weren't enough, just when our young lovers seem to be on the verge of attaining everything they ever wanted, the mountain explodes, raining down ash, rock, and fire, and the world as they know it ceases to exist.
The first thing that struck me about this story was that Lucia is just like a typical teenager. Although thousands of years have passed between her time and ours, some things never change, and I loved this glimpse into what a teenager's life could have been like during this time period. Lucia visits with friends, goes shopping, spends a day at the spa, spends hours in her secret place writing in her journals . . . though the similarities end where she is forced into an arranged marriage to a much older man, and she has the shadow of Mount Vesuvius looming over her. The story is told in alternating viewpoints by Lucia and Tag in the month leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. This structure works wonderfully, allowing the reader to experience this time period from two very different walks of life while witnessing how they interacted with each other, and allowing the romance to develop beautifully, and the anticipation of the coming eruption to simmer until it reaches the boiling point. The story is rife with drama, and it has its fair share of melodramatic moments, but it is delicious! It's a historical tribute, a sweet and poignant love story combined with the action and excitement of an end-of-days tale.
All that being said, the novel is not perfect. At times I thought the dialogue felt too modern, and I felt like the development and resolution of the subplot with Quintus was a bit short-shrifted. And while I can look back now and appreciate the impact and beauty of the ending, when I first read it, I was not prepared for it, and I was not a happy camper! I'm still a little mad about it now, but I can admire the power of a story well told. But all of that aside, it was still a great read. Fast-paced, exciting, and romantic, and oozing with historical ambiance--perfect for fans of young adult and historical fiction alike.(less)
I hate to say it, but this was almost a 3-star for me. It just felt a lot like same old/same old, and the story really took a long time to get going,...moreI hate to say it, but this was almost a 3-star for me. It just felt a lot like same old/same old, and the story really took a long time to get going, and then I felt like everything didn't quite gel together at the end the way it should have. It felt a bit loose and meandering. And there wasn't enough Charley and Reyes together. BUT . . . the ending saved the day with a wonderful surprise and the indication that my fave couple will be joined at the hip in the next book :)(less)
3.5 Stars. I absolutely love reading about early America (having grown up a hop, skip, and a jump from Jamestown, England's first permanent settlement in the New World), and Jenny Barden is an author I've been wanting to read, so I jumped at the chance to read her second novel, The Lost Duchess, which is a stand-alone follow-up to her first novel, Mistress of the Sea. The Lost Duchess tells the story of Emme Fifield, daughter of a baron, dutiful lady-in-waiting to a demanding Queen Elizabeth. Her world is turned upside down when she is compromised by a treasonous lord, but her future brightens when Sir Francis Drake returns to court with tales of the New World and a handsome mariner in tow, Kit Doonan, both of which ignite Emme's curiosity and desire for adventure. As the queen's favorite, Sir Walter Raleigh, pleads his case for a return to the new land of Virginia, named in the queen's honor, Emme finds herself swept up in the plans, a pawn for spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, who is keen to help England outwit Spain's plans for the New World. Traveling under an assumed identity with strict instructions of what to look for and what to report back to Walsingham, Emme sets out with Kit and a group of hearty souls prepared to make a new life in the New World, with no intention of ever actually going back to England.
But the journey is a perilous one, fraught with mishaps and misfortune, and though Emme's courage never wavers, her plans for a new future free of court obligations does. But with Kit's assured guidance, and a few new friends, she determines to prove her worth to the new colony, and to Kit himself, as the bond between them grows stronger and sweeter. But they are both hiding secrets, secrets that could have devastating consequences for their fledgling relationship, just as the hidden dangers and outright hostility from the original inhabitants of the New World could have devastating consequences for the success of the colony. As the struggle to subsist becomes a struggle to survive, Emme and Kit will have to decide what is worth fighting for . . . and what is worth letting go.
I'm torn in my rating of The Lost Duchess. I really wanted to love it more. At the halfway mark of the book, I was loving it, and I felt sure we were headed for four or five-star territory. But then, just as our heroine and her hero arrived in the New World, where things really should have started to get exciting, the story seemed to get bogged down in details and slow-moving narrative. I had been willing to overlook the fact that the "scandal" that caused Emme to flee had not been set up and expanded enough to make it totally plausible for such a drastic course of action because I was intrigued by Kit and the spark between he and Emme, and I wanted her to follow her courageous heart, but I found their love story to be rather superficial and even sappy at times, and I grew tired of Emme pining for the day Kit would ask her to marry him, especially when she was surrounded by so many more pressing problems.
The climactic scenes, which depict a very believable account of what could have happened to the lost colonists of Roanoke, were very well done, but ultimately, the ending did not sit well with me. It was probably pretty realistic, but since these were fictional characters in a fictional scenario, it could have been a little more upbeat and satisfying. And on a final note, which I'm not holding against the book but which did make me stop and wonder, I found the title and back cover copy to be misleading and rather confusing after having read the book and not making much of a connection.
But while I have mixed feelings on the story itself, there's no question Ms. Barden can write. Her meticulous historical research shines, as does her descriptive capability. Her depiction of life aboard a sixteenth-century ship and of a New World filled with beauty and wonder, yet full of peril and uncertainty, is masterful. I think The Lost Duchess is well worth a read just to get a sense of what it must have been like for those first tough, brave souls who ventured into the complete unknown, attempting to carve out a new life and a new England with no idea of what awaited them. As Ms. Barden continues to write and hone her craft, she could become an author to watch in the world of historical fiction.(less)
Beth and Wrath's story: 4 Stars Everything else, which takes up half the book: 2 Stars
I hate to say it, but I think I am done with this series. I don't...moreBeth and Wrath's story: 4 Stars Everything else, which takes up half the book: 2 Stars
I hate to say it, but I think I am done with this series. I don't care about Trez and Selena or Xcor and Layla or Saxton's family, etc. I only somewhat care about Assail and Sola. Zero action in this one. Not a Lesser in sight. Way too many characters, too many subplots, and not enough of the Brothers I fell in love with. The end of an era for me.(less)
For Such a Time is an impressive debut. As soon as I saw the premise, I wanted to read it. I was drawn to the idea of a Jewish woman and a Nazi officer in love and wondered if the author would be able to pull off such an unlikely pairing believably. The answer is yes! The story begins with a young Jewish woman, Hadassah--or Stella, as she is officially known thanks to the false papers she carries confirming she is Aryan--being rescued from death by firing squad in Dachau by a Nazi officer. Colonel Aric von Schmidt is struck by the quiet defiance of the woman he believes was mistakenly interred. A wounded war hero, he has been removed from active duty and given an "honorable" position as commandant of Theresienstadt, a holding camp for Jews bound for Auschwitz. The Red Cross is coming to inspect the Nazi interment camp, and Aric has been given the job of hiding the atrocities committed to convince the Red Cross that the Nazis' prisoners are being treated humanely. He is in need of a secretary, and Stella's papers indicate she is educated. She is also beautiful beneath the bruises and skeletal flesh, and he makes it his mission to nurse her back to health.
Hadassah can't waste much time rejoicing in her salvation at the hands of the enemy. She's seen Nazi brutality firsthand, and she's seen the mind games they love to play with their prey. Though she seems safe and more cared for than she's been in years, she can't afford to let her guard down for a moment, even though the surprisingly compassionate and generous commandant seems determined to get her to do just that. And she has trouble reconciling her newfound luxury and safety with the plight of her fellow Jews in the ghetto next door. At first, she feels lost, set adrift by a God that has abandoned her and her people, but she slowly comes to see that through her clerical duties and her growing influence on Aric, she can help her people, even if only in the smallest of ways. But as her feelings for Aric deepen, creating another conflict in her soul, an embittered Nazi captain plots against them, and the Red Cross visit with the Nazi high brass looms near. Hadassah and Aric will both have to confront their fears and their faith and make decisions that will have dangerous and far-reaching consequences, and they soon find themselves fighting not just for the fate of the Theresienstadt Jews, but for their love and for their own lives.
Now this is inspirational fiction, which I enjoy reading, even though I'm not a very religious person. I like getting insight into the concepts of faith and devotion. And I can't think of a more likely place than a Nazi concentration camp for people under extreme conditions, faced with unending horrors and degradations, to find or lose faith--or both. Hadassah's faith and that of her uncle and their people, and to a lesser extent, Aric, are integral to the story, and it felt very natural. But I could have done without the verses from Esther at the beginning of each chapter. They served as spoilers as they showed how Hadassah's story mirrored Esther's. I would have preferred a more subtle line drawn between the two. I kind of like to draw my own parallels rather than have them explained for me. And I was a bit confused as to what the overall point was when it came to Hadassah's Jewish faith and the Christian Bible she used to hold on to her sanity and rediscover her faith. I couldn't figure out if she was converting or if she was just exploring the similarities between the two religions. And at the end, that aspect of the story seemed to fall by the wayside.
But aside from those elements, it is a wonderful, powerful story. It's a story of highs and lows, of stolen moments and secret pride in the face of torture, humiliation, starvation, and cruelty, and in the ever-present face of death. It's a story of contrasts, how the worst humanity has to offer is still no match for the faith of the best, how hope and joy can rise from the pits of anguish and despair, how the best emotions can rise from the most awful situations, how one person can make a difference.
"I cannot heal the past for you, any more than I can bring back the dead. I can only offer you this." He brushed his mouth across hers in a light kiss. "Should that make me feel better?" "Yes," he said with a ferocity that surprised them both. "Because in a world suffocated by death, you and I share something very much alive."
It's a bittersweet, moving love story, and it is a focal point of the novel. I would label this as romantic historical fiction, so if you're not into romance, you may find it a bit much. But I love it! And this one really pulled at my heartstrings, urging me to tears at times and keeping me in a state of angst-ridden uncertainty until the last page. A very good read. Even if many of the major plot points are purely fictional, and even if the daring, dangerous, and uplifting climax may seem improbable, it's still great storytelling. Unbearably sad yet wonderfully hopeful at the same time. Highly recommended for all fans of historical fiction and timeless love stories.(less)
3.5 Stars. Well, that back cover blurb is rather vague, isn't it? I believe it's intentional so as not to spoil the suspense and mystery surrounding t...more3.5 Stars. Well, that back cover blurb is rather vague, isn't it? I believe it's intentional so as not to spoil the suspense and mystery surrounding the dangers at the heart of this story, so I will do my best to tell you how I felt about this book without giving any of the plot away!
First and foremost, The Quick is beautifully written. It begins with James and Charlotte, two young orphans living in seclusion on their crumbling country estate, creating games and challenges for each other to while away their lonely days, and forming an unbreakable bond of love and reliance. But as they grow older, James is sent off to school, leaving Charlotte behind with naught but a cranky, elderly aunt for company. After school, James elects to stay in London and see if he can make a career as a writer. At this point, Charlotte has been consigned to the role of nursemaid for their ailing aunt, but she never begrudges her darling brother the opportunity to better his life and see all that the world has to offer. She lives vicariously through his long letters and the books he sends her--until the day his letters stop coming. Convinced that something has happened to James, Charlotte bravely sets out in search of answers, arriving in a London that both overwhelms and frightens her. But she is determined, and with the help of a few new unexpected and unlikely allies, she soon discovers that something sinister is going on in the dark streets of London. As she retraces her brother's footsteps, the timid country girl comes face-to-face with evils and horrors previously unimaginable, and it's going to take every ounce of her strength, her determination, and her newfound bravery to save James before it's too late.
There were really only two things that detracted from my complete enjoyment of the story. One is the pacing. It's rather uneven. It's a long book, coming in at over 500 pages, and there were parts that had me biting my nails and flipping through the pages as fast as I could to see what would happen, but the majority of the book moved very slowly. There's a lot of lead time to set things in place. I did find myself skimming in some places, particularly in the second half. Second is the introduction of new point-of-view characters late in the game. I found the shifts to be rather jarring, and because it took awhile for the threads to become connected and for me to figure out how these new characters related to each other and the story, it felt like the book was meandering. And now that I think of it, I wasn't a huge fan of the ending either. At first I thought it was great. I reached the end of a chapter that I thought was also the end of the book and felt satisfied and pleased, but then I turned the page and discovered another chapter, and I didn't think the book needed it. Seemed to taint a bit of the happiness I had with the first ending and then seemed to erase the closure I'd thought I had.
But as I said, aside from my issues with the construction and pacing, the writing is gorgeous. The description of time and place is effortless and evocative, and beneath the mystery and suspense is an undercurrent of progress, the clashing of the old ways with the new as England embraces the Industrial Revolution and as women embrace nontraditional roles, and that made for a very interesting juxtaposition of characters, story, and ambiance. The Quick is well worth a look for fans of Victorian and Gothic literature.(less)
I've been wanting to try one of this author's historical romances for a long time, so I jumped at the chance to check out her first historical fiction...moreI've been wanting to try one of this author's historical romances for a long time, so I jumped at the chance to check out her first historical fiction offering, but I'm sorry to say that it didn't send me. I gave up after about 150 pages. There were some mechanical issues like too much telling of historical, political, and character info and "as you know, Bob" dialogue, but mainly I could not swallow the heroine's inconsistency; she continually pined over her love and devotion to her husband and her yearning to have her feelings returned, yet her head (and her body) was easily turned by the first courtier to give her "that look," and that courtier's ulterior motives were rather transparent. I just didn't want to read about her anymore, not with so many other books calling my name. But I'm seeing good reviews from other readers, so it may just be me. (less)
Last year I read and loved Stephanie Thornton's debut novel, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on he...moreLast year I read and loved Stephanie Thornton's debut novel, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on her second novel, Daughter of the Gods, a novel about Egypt's first female pharaoh, Hatshepsut. One of only three surviving legitimate children of Pharaoh Tutmose, Hatshepsut is raised in a world of privilege and luxury, but it is also a dangerous world, where the whims of the capricious Egyptian gods decide the fate of the people and the success or failure of their rulers. After the tragic death of her beloved older sister, Hatshepsut is thrust into a role she never expected to be in, that of the Great Royal Wife of the next pharaoh, her brother, Thutmosis. With their father on his deathbed, the marriage must take place immediately to stave off any unrest or attempts at undermining the royal family's claim to the throne. Forced to give up her wild ways, her hunting expeditions, her chariot races, and her handsome young lover, Hatshepsut accepts the mantle of responsibility the gods have handed her and attempts to transform herself into the perfect wife and matriarch of the Egyptian dynasty.
But much as she loves her brother, being married to him is more difficult than she'd hoped. Thut is an ineffectual ruler, and Hatshepsut longs to wield the power her brother is so careless with. With subtle manipulation, and the help of Thut's most trusted adviser, the handsome commoner Senenmut, Hatshepsut slowly takes command over many of her husband's responsibilities, taking control of her own life and the future she hopes to have. But the arrival of a rival for her brother's affections and the threat she brings to the royal succession begin to unravel Hatshepsut's carefully laid plans. Frustrated and lonely, she seeks out a moment of comfort and affection with Senenmut, but that one moment of self-indulgence will cost her everything she holds dear, harden her heart, and set her on a path of determination to seize the throne of Egypt for herself.
And that's all I'm telling you! Hatshepsut's life is full of drama, twists and turns, triumphs and betrayals, and heartbreaking tragedies, and I'll not spoil any of it! Since following generations sought to remove evidence of a female on the throne of Egypt, presumably to prevent it from happening again, much of Hatshepsut's life story is lost. While not much is known about her personal life, most historians agree that she presided over a long period of peace, wealth, and prosperity in Egypt, successfully keeping rebellious kingdoms in check and taking Egypt's monumental architecture to new heights. I think Ms. Thornton has done a great job of piecing together known facts with plausible fictional scenarios to paint a portrait of what a young Hatshepsut might have been like. It was very easy to care about Hatsehpsut and root for her dreams to come true as a younger woman, but as she aged and took over the reins of Egypt, I found her a little harder to relate to at times, or at least I had a harder time agreeing with some of the decisions she made. But I certainly respected her utmost devotion to Egypt, often at the expense of her own happiness. And I was a little disappointed at the abruptness of Hatshepsut's exit from the story since she still had at least a dozen more years left in her reign, but I did really like the poignant final scene, and I thought it a fitting ending to this pioneering woman's moment in time.
As she did with Ancient Rome in The Secret History, Ms. Thornton has once again brought a long-lost world to life and created a treat for the senses! In Daughter of the Gods, Ancient Egypt comes to life in all its hot, dusty, vibrantly colored glory. The depictions of royal and everyday life, the palaces, temples, and monuments, the wildlife, the mighty Nile, the barges, the chariots, the war campaigns, the celebratory feasts, and even the quieter moments of reflection in exotic gardens--it all serves as a lush and inviting setting for a story of a powerful woman, beckoning the reader to get lost in its depths yet always warning those who revel in it that a current of danger is ever present, nothing is guaranteed, everything exists at the pleasure--or displeasure--of the gods, and all can be lost in the blink of an eye. Stephanie Thornton's novels are perfect for fans of authors like Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, and Michelle Moran, and this fan can't wait for her third novel to be released this fall, The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan's Women.(less)
The moment I saw this book, I wanted to read it. I'm interested in learning more about the English Civil Wars, I'd been keen to read one of Ella March Chase's books, and I'm always on the lookout for something unique in English historical fiction, and if you are too, you should add The Queen's Dwarf to your list. Ms. Chase paints a vivid picture of life at court from an unusual and refreshing angle, that of an entertainer, and not just any entertainer, but one of the wonders of England at the time, Jeffrey Hudson, or as he was commonly known, Lord Minimus, a perfectly formed human in miniature.
Discovered by the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, Jeffrey is thrust from a life of poverty and dancing in the market square to earn a few coins for his starving family into a world filled with more wealth, more splendor, and more excess than he could have imagined. He is presented as a gift to the young French queen, Henrietta Maria, who has a soft spot for misfits and curiosities. As a member of the queen's "Menagerie of Freaks," Jeffrey is treated to such luxuries as a room of his very own, more clothes than he can wear, and all the food he can eat, and, as he works his way into Her Majesty's heart, he is showered with personal gifts, and one of the greatest gifts of all, an education. But he has a hard time reveling in his good fortune, for he carries a burdensome secret: he is a spy for the Duke of Buckingham.
The duke is King Charles's favorite, though he is despised by just about everyone else in England for his military disasters and his influence on the king. And the duke despises the queen most of all, for she alone has the power to usurp his position in the king's heart, and her Catholic faith and powerful Catholic allies could have the power to tip the tenuous religious balance in England. So while Jeffrey entertains the lonely and isolated young queen, and comes to care for his menagerie family, he is forced to share her secrets with her worst enemy, or watch his family suffer the consequences. But as pressure mounts on the queen and England teeters on the brink of war, Jeffrey will have to decide how far he is prepared to go to save his family, and how far he will go to save the queen he has grown to love from the man determined to destroy her.
I very much enjoyed The Queen's Dwarf and reading about the court of Charles I from Jeffrey's intimate, inside point of view. Aside from a few instances of "as you know, Bob" dialogue, the book is very well written. My biggest disappointment came after I finished and I discovered that a lot of the content was fictional. Most of the characters were real historical figures, (including Jeffrey and the giant Will Evans--the queen even had her portrait painted with Jeffrey and Pug the monkey, by van Dyck, no less) but several of the big plot points that involved Jeffrey did not actually happen. So while I really enjoyed the story, I felt a bit deflated upon finding out how much dramatic license had been taken. Silly, I know. I'm not necessarily a historical purist. But I do like fiction about real people to be more fact than fiction, and if it's not, I kind of like to know that going in. But the depiction of the time period is marvelous, and because Jeffrey is from the shambles, the reader gets to experience both the best and worst that life had to offer people of different social stations during this time. The political and religious turmoil is also well depicted. Enough to give me a clear picture of what was going on without overloading the story. And I very much enjoyed getting to know a young Henrietta Maria, and through her, a little bit of Charles I. I thought this passage eloquently summed up the pressure heaped upon Henrietta from all sides, and the ridiculousness of it:
The pope, the dowager queen, the king of France, Buckingham and Richlieu, even King Charles had flung a fifteen-year-old princess into the center of their religious battles. What had they expected would happen? That this slender young woman would sort out a tangle no one had been able to unravel since Martin Luther had nailed his protest onto a church door?
Overall, The Queen's Dwarf was a winner for me. It's a truly unique novel full of interesting characters, intrigue and betrayal, woven around moments of magic and wonder, laughs and love. Jeffrey has a long life ahead of him in Henrietta Maria's menagerie, and when he's older some really exciting stuff does actually happen to him, so I can't help but hope Ms. Chase will someday pen a sequel.(less)