History makes it very clear that women often held a diminished (or even non-existent) role in politics, leadership, and even the marital sphere. The fHistory makes it very clear that women often held a diminished (or even non-existent) role in politics, leadership, and even the marital sphere. The female gender, however, had more of an influence and control than one perceives especially during that of Medieval/Renaissance Europe. Sarah Gristwood brings to the forefront examples of these lionesses in, “Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe”.
In “Games of Queens”, Gristwood attempts to highlight the roles and interactions of several females of interest who impacted European political affairs such as: Isabella of Castile, Margaret of Austria, Mary of Burgundy, Mary of Hungary, Louise of Savoy, Catherine de Medici, Margaret Tudor, Mary Stuart, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and Anne of Brittany; to name a few. This is a lofty goal by Gristwood as the web of these women is thick and heavily intertwined. Yet, whether Gristwood is successful or not, is laid aside momentarily for the mere fact of the attempt at this fresh and unique look at history which is often glossed over. Although shelves are rife with individual biographies; Gristwood stands out presenting the macro-view of all these women.
That being said, “Game of Queens” certainly suffers from a bombardment of content that can feel disorganized, repetitive, and sometimes aimless. This isn’t necessarily a fault of Gristwood’s as she has clearly conducted her research and isn’t short of material; however, her writing seems to be a bit overwhelmed which decidedly makes “Games of Queens” overwhelming, in turn. Thus, readers may have a difficult time retaining all of the information offered on the pages.
On the other hand, even though fact-retention is an issue; the overall thesis of proving how important these women were to European history is very clear, solidified, and will impress the reader. In this manner, “Games of Queens” is a compelling piece of writing.
At times, Gristwood is slightly too casual with her tone and language which is inconsistent with other efforts to be on the academic spectrum. This, fortunately, isn’t overly abused with “Game of Queens”; but it is noticeable (Gristwood, for example, seems to be obsessed with the term, ‘party’).
Gristwood peppers “Games of Queens” with some speculative statements yet she also excels with presenting some new information or that which is not generally discussed in the foreground adding to the reader value of the text.
The second half of “Game of Queens” is notable smoother in terms of Gristwood’s choppiness with the content having much more of an appeal and strength. Gristwood debunks some myths and presents some convincing information raising the echelon of the text. “Games of Queens” is much more entertaining at this point and helps to make the weaker former portion more forgivable.
Much of the latter chapters focuses on the Tudor and English connections versus the other women discussed earlier in “Game of Queens”. This is a bit constrained for those familiar with the Tudors. Yet, Griswood continues to uncover some lesser-known areas and “Game of Queens” is therefore better suited to be read with some breaks in order to grasp all of the material. Consequentially, “Game of Queens” proceeds to lose the grip on dissection the roles of the women and missing the thesis instead becoming a standard history-recall piece. At this point, the pace slacks a bit.
A highlight in the concluding chapters is Gristwood’s explanation of the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre which she presents in a riveting and raw voice. The material is easy-to-understand for those new to the topic but is also entertaining for those well-read on the subject.
Gristwood sums up “Games of Queens” with a strong postscript traversing the after-effects and state of Europe post-the discussed women in power. This is followed by a light ‘Notes’ section which also offers some sources for further reading (but, sadly, this is not as in-depth as some fact-checking readers would prefer). “Games of Queens” also includes a section of color plate photos.
Gristwood generally strives to pen pieces focusing on unique subjects or angles of history and “Games of Queens” is no exception. Although “Game of Queens” suffers from some execution issues and some consistency errors; it is a ‘solid’ choice for imbibing on the subject and gaining some insight. “Game of Queens” is recommended for those interested in powerful women of the sixteenth century....more
Jane Grey will forever be immortalized as the “Nine Days Queen” (it was actually 13) having ‘usurped’ the crown from Mary Tudor before Mary decided shJane Grey will forever be immortalized as the “Nine Days Queen” (it was actually 13) having ‘usurped’ the crown from Mary Tudor before Mary decided she had enough of that and snatched it off Jane’s head (figuratively). This tragic young lady, beheaded for her role at age 17, was more than just a martyr: she had poise, intelligence, decorum, and religious fortitude. Nicola Tallis, the resident historian of the Alison Weir Tours (which should hint at Tallis’s writing style); brings Jane’s life to the limelight in, “Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Jane Grey”.
Tallis kicks off “Crown of Blood” by exploring the Tudor blood lines and environment surrounding the birth and childhood of Jane Grey. This is an introspective start that is great for those not familiar with the topic but it does seem that Jane is instantly bypassed when she is supposed to be the star of the text. This is also solidified by Tallis venturing off on tangents not truly discussing Jane until several chapters in.
Despite this initial “Where is Jane?”- moment; Tallis immediately intrigues the reader with both her clear abundance of information (which, again, is great for those new to the topic) and her writing style which is lovely and descriptive but professional. Tallis has strong writing skills that stick out with “Crown of Blood” being her first foray into the publishing world but also among some of the history books from her peers, in general. There are some speculative statements rife with “could have” and “should have” jargon but these are not overwhelmingly so and therefore, do not weaken the text as a whole.
The major issue with “Crown of Blood” is that there is no new information. The pages consist of everything about Jane and her life that readers will already be familiar with many times over and thus, “Crown of Blood” simply recaps the information. To remedy this, there are occasional moments when Tallis attempts to debunk myths or rumors and break down facts with strong research and sleuth work. Tallis infuses “Crown of Blood” with primary sourced-document block quotes and direct quotes from figures in the text. This strengthens the credibility of “Crown of Blood” and gives a revealing look into the historical matter.
As expected, the pace heightens when Jane gains the crown…and loses it. Tallis tells the events with bravado both informing the reader of the history while also providing entertainment. Although new facts are STILL not uncovered; “Crown of Blood” explores the incident well with a strong voice and firm research. On the other (negative) hand, at this point, Tallis puts too much of an emphasis on what Jane felt and thought without any source material backing these statements. It can be said that “Crown of Blood” is too much like a HF novel, in some ways.
Despite Tallis’s speculative tone; she also reveals Grey as formidable, bold, courageous, and mature for her age shedding new light on Jane for those who merely viewed her as a pawn-victim. In fact, “Crown of Blood” makes her too saintly and it is obvious where Tallis’s biases lay.
The concluding chapters of “Crown of Blood” have a strong impact with a detailed retelling of Wyatt’s Rebellion and an emotional rehashing of Jane’s death. This is followed by a look into the social/pop history impact of Jane Grey plus the aftermath on her close family bring the text together in a homogeneous and memorable way.
“Crown of Blood” includes compelling appendices discussing portraits (or lack there) of Jane, her final theological debate before execution, and a list of places to visit in England to walk in her footsteps. These are not only unique but useful to the reader. This is also supplemented by a well-annotated notes section and a bibliography. These are gold mines for the readers and not to be skipped over!
Tallis’s first history writing is quite remarkable as it stands on firms legs with its approach, writing style, and credibility. Yes, there isn’t any new information surrounding Jane (and tangents ensue); but, even despite this, the text is strong and perfect for a new reader to the topic and is a great refresher for those already well-versed. “Crown of Blood” isn’t perfect and is certainly similar to Alison Weir’s works (so, not suggested for those anti-Weir readers) but it is certainly recommended for those interested in Jane Grey and the Tudor period. Basically: it is good for what it is and meets its purpose. ...more
In the fifteenth century, England and France’s interactions were anything but friendly. These icy conditions bring to mind to mind such terms such asIn the fifteenth century, England and France’s interactions were anything but friendly. These icy conditions bring to mind to mind such terms such as Hundred Years War, Wars of the Roses, King Henry V of England, etc. All of these eventually paved the way in later time to the Tudor Dynasty through Henry’s Queen Catherine de Valois and her entanglement with Owen Tudor of Wales. Rosemary Hawley Jarman brings this period to life in, “Crown in Candlelight”.
As a direct result of this novel’s summary blurb, many would expect “Crown in Candlelight” to be a tale dripping with romance highlighting the story of Katherine (as called in the novel) and Owen complete with terms of endearment and fluff. Luckily, this doesn’t describe “Crown in Candlelight” at all, as Jarman rather focuses on the history of the period, politics, and the efforts of Henry of England to conquer France. Jarman is known for her historical detail (her novels are more history than fiction) and “Crown in Candlelight” follows this mold brimming with luscious historical fact.
Elaborating on this, Jarman’s prose and language is rich and beautiful, truly making the reader feel that they are a part of the plot while the tapestry is woven versus simply being a spectator. In a sense, “Crown in Candlelight” feels more like a history lesson than character-driven but Jarman’s lovely storytelling still helps quicken the pace.
In usual Jarman fashion, “Crown in Candlelight” is divided into sections versus chapters and is often told from various viewpoints/characters. Being that these characters are well-developed and structured; this doesn’t make “Crown in Candlelight” confusing and instead adds layers to the story.
Also featured in “Crown in Candlelight” (and common to Jarman’s writing) is her penchant for including snippets of foreign languages (not translated) and plot twists involving magic and folklore. One may argue that this is realistic as it was commonplace during this period but it starkly stands out in a piece that is more politically-based.
Jarman’s coverage of the Battle of Agincourt is tightly-wound with emotion and truly brings it to life without overwhelming the reader and allowing the historical facts to sparkle (but with a novelization to carry it through). After this, “Crown in Candlelight” takes a personal approach and brings to light Katherine, Henry, and Owen with a fresh appeal and original view which sticks out from other similar-topic HF novels. Sadly, Owen Tudor doesn’t receive as much attention as one would hope, though.
“Crown in Candlelight” shifts to extend the romantic plot but this is slightly thin and isn’t as strong as former parts of the novel. On the other hand, Jarman intriguingly makes small comments foreshadowing future events during the Wars of Roses (outside the scope of the novel) which are small ‘Easter eggs’ for those readers familiar with the history. It is a nice touch.
The final quarter of Jarman’s novel is noticeably rushed, choppy, and disjointed from the rest of the piece. It feels like Jarman had to quickly end the story and the text reads like separate trains of thought/fragments instead of a cohesive plot. This weakens “Crown in Candlelight”. However, the actual ending has a burst of emotion and also indicates the legacy of the characters so the conclusion isn’t a total wash-out.
“Crown in Candlelight” isn’t as strong as “The King’s Grey Mare” but it is still a rich novel rife with historical fact and vivid descriptions. Jarman’s novels stand the test of time and are much better than many similar HF novels, today. “Crown in Candlelight” is suggested for HF fans of the Wars of the Roses and those interested in Owen Tudor. ...more
The Tudors were a far cry from ‘shy’ and left a multitude of artifacts for posterity: documents, books, paintings, toys, instruments, jewelry, and eveThe Tudors were a far cry from ‘shy’ and left a multitude of artifacts for posterity: documents, books, paintings, toys, instruments, jewelry, and even buildings. Therefore, we know much about this historical ‘celebrity’ family. How much do we know about their personal lives, though? A lot played out center stage; but what about the Tudor world behind closed doors? Tracy Borman attempts to answer this in, “The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty”.
You may be wondering, “Does Borman answer these questions and uncover the secret world of the Tudors?” The answer is a big fat: NO. “The Private Lives of the Tudors” begins with highlighting the gaining of the crown by Henry VII (from Richard III) which begins the Tudor Dynasty as we know it. Borman’s writing is sharp, articulate, and well-written in terms of language skills adding an excellence and professionalism to the piece. Unfortunately though, “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is more in the vein of pop history than scholarly and rarely traverses any new information. All of the material is covered hundreds of times over elsewhere and the thesis is not answered. Readers will be bored unless brand new to the subject. Basically, “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is not an investigative piece and is barely ‘private’ at all.
Further affecting the lack of compelling substance is the usual Borman tendency of missing the mark with cohesiveness. “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is up-and-down in pace and Borman often loses direction which results in lots of repetition. Many of the chapters are disjointed from others seeming like they weren’t written in succession and Borman repeats facts and entire areas of study. Not to mention, the chapters drag and don’t break at the expected times which effects readability.
Despite the fact that “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is not what it claims to be (and is merely a brief overview of the dynasty with some focus on the social sides); Borman did clearly do her research on the topic presenting a stretched out time period. However, this is where the biggest issue with “The Private Lives of the Tudors” comes into play: Quite often, Borman offers a fact in direct opposition to the other historians and books on the topic. It is suitable to disagree with the masses and offer a fresh view if this is substantiated and sourced. Yet, Borman states these as flat, solid facts and as though they are 100% true. This causes “The Private Lives of the Tudors” to lose credibility and again depreciate for those readers well-versed on the material.
Related to this, Borman also makes many speculative “would have”, “must have”, and “could have” statements hypothesizing on mental or emotional mind frames without backing material. Sometimes “The Private Lives of the Tudors” simply has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Once “The Private Lives of the Tudors” portraits Elizabeth I; then it strikes gold and much more accurately addresses the thesis and thereby presents solid, unknown factoids about Elizabeth’s private and social life that is new even to Tudor obsessees. If only the entire book was this strong then Borman would have more appealing piece on her hands.
Borman concludes “The Private Lives of the Tudors” with a quick look at the state of court affairs after Elizabeth’s death. This is a memorable ending and emphasizes the Tudor way of life and how grandiose it was.
“The Private Lives of the Tudors” includes a section of color plates which are notably one of the best among contemporary works of the same nature. Generally, all books on the subject feature the same photos or variations thereof. Borman is the first to include exclusive/rare photos that don’t grace the pages of other works; making her standout in the crowd.
Borman supplements “The Private Lives of the Tudors” with a bibliography giving credit to her work as it includes a heavy proportion of primary sources along with secondary; plus a list of (not-so-annotated) notes.
“The Private Lives of the Tudors” sadly does not live up to its title and doesn’t expose any new material Tudor devotees don’t already know (except for some in the sections on Elizabeth). Borman’s writing chops are worthy as is her research but “The Private Lives of the Tudors” is simply an overview of the dynasty and is best for those new to the topic. The writing strays and doesn’t feel well-organized, but, that being said: it isn’t horrible. Borman’s work is suggested as a filler read on the Tudors or for those seeking an introduction on the subject. ...more
We definitely aren’t troubled with the lack of information available surrounding Queen Elizabeth I as the material is abundant and bountiful. Yet, mucWe definitely aren’t troubled with the lack of information available surrounding Queen Elizabeth I as the material is abundant and bountiful. Yet, much of what has been said of her persona is pure propaganda especially of her later years, starting with the Spanish Armada. John Guy, a popular historian and author, attempts to show Elizabeth as she truly was in the latter part of her reign in, “Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years”.
As in most of Guy’s other history works; “Elizabeth” is not a straight-forward chronological biography. Rather, Guy portraits this monarch on a subject-by-subject chapter break, attempting to deconstruct Elizabeth’s actions and thereby show who she “really was”. Unfortunately, Guy isn’t as successful in this as one would hope. The text and dates of events jump back-and-forth which makes it difficult both to retain the facts and to see the big picture juxtaposition. This also results in Guy presenting too much information and going off on various tangents instead of streamlining the material.
It is very evident; however, that Guy underwent a hefty investigation and research project. Guy procured some hidden documents which have not been previously discussed, thereby, helping to debunk myths or offer new angles to well-known Elizabethan events. Yet, Guy isn’t overly biased and is quite objective in his presentation.
The noticeable flaw in “Elizabeth” is the lack of genuinely showing a new view of Elizabeth which is Guy’s aim. The pages ‘tell’ events but they don’t really ‘show’ Elizabeth so the reader will not get to know her better or in a new way. Guy falls short of the main point to penning “Elizabeth”.
“Elizabeth” increases in reader value at the halfway point as Guy cuts down the intricacies of Elizabeth’s politic reactions and includes document excerpts which allow the reader to dive deeper than the usual propaganda. Overall, the pages are still more in the vein of Elizabethan government versus displaying Elizabeth herself; but it is stronger than the earlier pages perhaps meaning that Guy finds his groove.
With that being said, Guy still falls victim to weaknesses such as scrambling to fill space (which ends up being repetitive). For example, in between discussions when Guy is a loss for information or for a proper transition; he repeatedly returns to the argument that Elizabeth tried to fight the physical aging process and hide it from the public. Although this is maybe true, the constant empty and superficial (no pun intended) mentioning of it becomes tedious and doesn’t add to the text. We got it, Guy. No reason to revisit it constantly merely because you don’t know what to say.
The conclusion of “Elizabeth” focuses on Elizabeth’s last days both in political and personal terms. Guy does well with closing the circle of Elizabeth’s aftermath and allowing the reader to see Elizabeth’s impact. This is followed by an Epilogue which is more in the realm of an essay arguing why Elizabeth was the way she was and how this bled into the reign of James I. Guy’s basics are well-explained and backed by evidence even though he lets personal opinions flow into this section. Therefore, the Epilogue is compelling and interesting but some readers may take it with a grain of salt.
“Elizabeth” includes three sections of photo color plates plus notes although these are not thoroughly annotated. It should be noted that there is an editing flaw (misspelled word) on page 368.
Guy’s “Elizabeth” is a well-detailed look at the later years of Elizabeth’s reign pointedly discussing political maneuvers while exposing some rare documents and debunking some myths. However, Guy’s aim to reveal a new or lesser-discussed version of Elizabeth falls short and thus “Elizabeth” isn’t what Guy set it up to be. “Elizabeth” is a decent read and is recommended for Tudor and Elizabeth fans but it doesn’t really reveal any new information and is not a life-changing piece. ...more
Tudor-period aficionados are quite familiar with the machinations of Thomas Seymour and the juicy rumors/drama surrounding his advances towards ElizabTudor-period aficionados are quite familiar with the machinations of Thomas Seymour and the juicy rumors/drama surrounding his advances towards Elizabeth Tudor (the future Queen Elizabeth I). Some have gone as far as to say that Elizabeth had bore a child with Thomas. These episodes aren’t, however, a major focus of her life with many books mentioning them but moving onwards quickly. Elizabeth Norton attempts to highlight these affairs in, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen”.
The premise of “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is solid with its aim to focus on the interactions between Elizabeth and Thomas but sadly the execution is poor. Is Norton’s attempt to debunk myths? Perhaps it is to look at the psychological effects these events left on Elizabeth? Maybe it is merely a historical recall. Whatever it is that Norton was trying to achieve; it is missing from “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” as the text lacks a thesis, seems pointless, and is “all over the place”.
Norton’s work voids any consistency with a roller coaster-text which at some points is well-researched while other times (most of the time) reads like a historical fiction novel. “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” barely focuses on Elizabeth and Thomas and is more of a light dual-biography of the two figures during concurrent times. In fact, much of the book highlights the political maneuverings of Thomas Seymour versus their relationship at all. Basically, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is not what it claims to be.
There is also a major issue with Norton’s prose which is highly fluffy and bluntly: a whole lot of filler crap. Norton is flowery and illustrative to the point that it often feels like nothing is being said at all as she just describes fictional details. Many reviews complain about Norton’s books being stylized in this manner and “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is no exception. Not much will be learned by the reader and Norton should instead pen historical fiction (she would perform rather well).
Elaborating further on this, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is rife with speculation, assumptions, exaggerations, and “would have” and “could have” –statements. Not to mention, an overabundance of descriptions of thoughts and feelings which have no solid backing sources. Norton’s “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” sorely lacks any credibility of academic value.
On the other hand, these traits cause the pace to be quite fast making the book easy-to-read and very light resulting in a perfect introduction to those new to the topic or YA readers. Educated readers will be highly irritated, however.
The only time “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” feels memorable is during the discussion of the rumors surrounding Elizabeth giving birth to Thomas’s child. Norton attempts to mesh out myths and rumors and explain merits (or lack thereof). Sadly, this section is very brief and Norton moves on quickly. If “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” had more of this, then the text would be better tri-fold.
The final quarter of “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is noticeably stronger than the former portions of the book. Norton dives deep into Seymour’s behaviors and actions truly giving the reader a sense of his erratic nature and downfall. The problem is precisely this, though: the book becomes a Seymour biography so that the concept of presenting Thomas and Elizabeth is lost (although this makes the text useful for those seeking information regarding Seymour).
The conclusion wraps up with an epilogue concerning the outcomes of key figures and aims to heighten Elizabeth sentimentally (although it fails to firmly do so). Norton also offers some notes and bibliography.
“The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” encompasses a unique subject but Norton fails to execute it properly. The text is light, fluffy, and basically overfilled with “hot air” and speculation. Gathering from reviews of Norton’s other works; this is her speed and style. “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is only recommended for an introduction to the topic in a non-academic way (pop history) or if wanting a quick, filler read (which is how I will personally go into reading other works from the author). Otherwise, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” can be skipped.
**Please note: My rating for “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is more of a 1.5 but is rounded up to 2** ...more
There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘celebrities’ were a minority in the population so what about the common, everyday folk? What were their lives like? Ruth Goodman visits (and lives!) the lives of people just like you and me during the Tudor period in, “How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life”.
Ruth Goodman is n expert when it comes to historical accuracy and reenactment and has a personal interest in the Tudor period. Goodman thereby crafts “How to Be a Tudor” into a unique piece combining elements of an academic text, memoir, how-to guide, and a “day in the life of...” personalization literally focusing on the full day of civilian life in Tudor England (although royalty and peerage is still occasionally addressed). Initially, all of this meshing of styles feels clunky and ill-conceived and therefore isn’t smooth. “How to Be a Tudor” can be somewhat difficult to follow at this stage as Goodman doesn’t seem to know the best ways to transition her writing.
As “How to Be a Tudor” progresses, either the reader gets used to Goodman’s style or she becomes more confident (probably a mixture of both); resulting in a stronger and more compelling read. Although “How to Be a Tudor” is still ‘different’, it becomes so in a good way and the reader is intrigued to continue on. Goodman clearly encompasses a wealth of information which also includes first-hand experience of her having tried Tudor ways of life which debunks myths, clarifies facts, and teaches the reader; therefore bringing many new lights to the topic.
Goodman infuses the text with light humor here and there which keeps the pace moving and fresh while also highlighting examples and case studies of the lives of “nobodies” (wonder what these individuals were to think if they knew that they just received their 15 minutes of fame?). However, there is an issue with some light repetition with Goodman revisiting some facts from one section to another.
Even though Goodman makes “How to Be a Tudor” accessible and easy-to-understand; there is a lot of material and details which can become overwhelming. It is suggested to take some reader “breather” breaks in order to retain and grasp all of the information. Goodman’s success lies in not running off on tangents with all of the material and keeping on path with her thesis.
Although informative, the conclusion of “How to Be a Tudor” feels open-ended and somewhat anti-climatic. A summary would have done well to make the book more memorable and rounded.
Sadly, Goodman doesn’t include notes or citations which can question credibility but several pages of sources are available. “How to Be a Tudor” also includes three sections of photo plates.
“How to Be a Tudor” has a rocky start but this smoothes out into an informative and unique book which definitely opens up the Tudor times in a way which isn’t always evident in historical texts, teaching the reader a bountiful of information. Although not necessarily the best “flowing” text; “How to Be a Tudor” is an excellent reference piece and engages the reader in its own way. “How to Be a Tudor” is recommended for all readers interested in the Tudor period. ...more
Those active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons iThose active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons in a sassy and witty way making it ‘fun’ and accessible. Alexander offers her knowledge for the first time in print-form in, “The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty”.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a slim volume offering a quick overview of the main topics in Tudor history. Imagine Alexander’s angle as bullet points or a play off her blog/site but written in a more narrative way. The pace flows easily and quickly, resulting in a fast read. “The Tudor Tutor” can be described as a “history-beach read”.
Alexander infuses “The Tudor Tutor” with humor and charm which is the reason behind her internet fame resulting in a few chuckles from the reader. There are some evident moments, however, where it is obvious that Alexander tries too hard to be funny which can be tiresome. Certainly do not expect an in-depth scholarly read with “The Tudor Tutor”. It teaches history but not in a credible, academic way.
Elaborating on this lack of depth, “The Tutor Tudor” is a ‘fun’ read but it doesn’t present any new information or offer any new angles to those familiar with the topic. Alexander’s work is best suited for those seeing a quick doctor’s office book inducing a few smiles. “The Tutor Tudor” is very much a blog in print form. Don’t misunderstand – it is not bad- it simply is very light so one has to merely take it for what it is.
Illustrator Lisa Graves adds some entertainment to “The Tudor Tutor” with colorful, hand-drawn illustrations. Although these are accurately based on historical paintings; even these have a hint of humor/snark (an occasional side glance or smirk on a figure’s face) which supplements Alexander’s text appropriately plus solidifies the information discussed with the reader.
Alexander does have the flaw of sometimes “crossing the line” with her descriptions, meaning that during her attempts to be comedic, Alexander can be offensive to those historical figures discussed or is biased in nature (against them). This isn’t overly harsh but still appears slightly childish. On the other hand, Alexander often ends paragraphs with questions which encourage readers to interpret the reading and encourages after -thoughts and personal research.
Despite my complaints, “The Tudor Tutor” is certainly entertaining and is a “cute” way to learn history. Plus, Alexander never claims to be an expert, doesn’t act elitist, and isn’t called a professional. Some other authors in the same realm (I’m talking about you, Susan Bordo) whom pen humorous history takes claim to be experts when they are FAR from it. Alexander doesn’t go down that path, keeping humility and not displaying any attitude or airs. Well done, Alexander!
“The Tudor Tutor” ends strongly with a somewhat lesser-discussed factoid (Stuart vs. Stewart spelling) which leaves on a memorable note. Alexander also offers a timeline of Tudor dynasty events and a light list of sources for further reading.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a humorous and indeed ‘cheeky’ look at the Tudor reign. Although light and not academic; it is a good introduction to those new to the topic or would fit well as a supplement to an exhibit. However, it is not necessarily suggested for those well-versed on the topic unless one is searching for a laugh. Again, don’t misunderstand my complaints: “The Tudor Tutor” is a fun ‘guide’. I am merely saying that is all it is so don’t expect anything more. ...more
One can only imagine the pride and borderline arrogance that Eleanor of Aquitaine would feel today if she knew that centuries after her time; she is sOne can only imagine the pride and borderline arrogance that Eleanor of Aquitaine would feel today if she knew that centuries after her time; she is still regaled as not only a queen but as a woman and oftentimes is lauded more so than her husband, King Heny II. Elizabeth Chadwick brought Alienor (as she is addressed in the novel) to life in, “The Summer Queen” and follows up with the second novel in the trilogy with, “The Winter Crown”.
“The Winter Crown” picks up shortly where “The Summer Queen” left off with the former novel having focused on Alienor’s marriage to Louis of France and the latter now emphasizing life and motherhood with Henry II. Immediately noticeable is Chadwick’s addressing of issues that were prominent in the execution of “The Summer Queen”. “The Summer Queen” suffered from quick chapters and too large time gaps in chronology which could deter reader attention; but Chadwick overcame these hurdles in “The Winter Crown”.
“The Winter Crown” is masterful writing and exactly what a historical fiction novel should be: strong on the history and not fluffy, powerful and alive, but not too romanticized. Chadwick’s writing is beautiful, illustrative, and makes use of stunning literary language. Chadwick can never be accused of “trying too hard” which demonstrates her exceptional composition skills. “The Winter Crown” is smooth and incredible.
The plot of “The Winter Crown” is less political (although that is also highlighted) and more so offers a featurette of Alienor’s personal space with both Henry and her children. “The Winter Crown” is heavily a character-study and Chadwick’s ability to subtly show the character progression and development is emotionally gratifying and impressive. The pages of “The Winter Crown” feature deep nuances and the layers grow on the reader slowly but powerfully which truly brings the story to life.
Even though Chadwick focuses on the personal life of Alienor in “The Winter Crown”; do not (thankfully) expect fluff within the novel. Chadwick’s work is heavily researched and informs the reader of the history while entertaining. Notably, “The Winter Crown” even has less sex scenes than “The Summer Queen”.
Chadwick infuses “The Winter Crown” with some foreshadowing of the roles of future figures and events but these are not overly done or obvious and merely serve to build some excitement even for those readers familiar with the history. Again, “The Winter Crown” is subtle and yet provides a strong emotive kick resulting in a page-turner.
There are some moments where “The Winter Crown” feels repetitive, the pace slacks, and the story seems thin but this is overcome quickly and “The Winter Crown” builds back-up therefore not diminishing its value.
The last three-quarters of “The Winter Crown” takes a slight down-course in comparison to the former sections of the novel. Chadwick highlights interactions with Thomas Becket, introduces William Marshal, and brings the tension between Henry and his sons to the forefront. However, this isn’t as subtle as the rest of the novel and is somewhat forced and rushed perhaps in order to set-up the next novel in the trilogy. Sadly, this lessens some of the emotional impact.
Another notable perk in “The Winter Crown” is Chadwick’s prerogative to not scapegoat Alienor as the controller behind the rebellion of Henry’s sons. In “The Winter Crown”, Alienor is aware of and has an understanding of the events but doesn’t manifest them. This varies with the traditional view of Alienor and offers a fresh perspective.
The ending of “The Winter Crown” is definitely a cliffhanger and sets-up anticipation for “The Autumn Throne” leaving readers wanting more. Chadwick offers an ‘Author’s Note’ to explain some of the novel’s points and a light bibliography for further reading.
“The Winter Crown” is a masterful sequel to “The Summer Queen” and a wonderfully-written and well-composed tableau. The plot is captivating and the flaws throughout are minimal. “The Winter Crown” is not necessarily a stand-alone novel and center stages Alienor versus the politics of Henry II and is therefore not suggested for those seeking a political emphasis. Other than that, Chadwick excels, impresses, and astonishes with a terrific novel....more
Emma of Normandy is best known as the mother of Edward the Confessor despite her own queenly life dramas which are worth noting on their own grounds.Emma of Normandy is best known as the mother of Edward the Confessor despite her own queenly life dramas which are worth noting on their own grounds. Patricia Bracewell returns with the second book in the ‘Emma of Normandy Trilogy’ revisiting Emma, Aethelred the Unready, Athelstan (his eldest son), and the villainous Elgiva in, “The Price of Blood”.
“The Price of Blood” is very similar to “Shadow on a Crown” in terms of structure, style, prose, and essence. Bracewell introduces the cast of characters and even a glossary of terms which is very helpful as “The Price of Blood” follows in its predecessor’s footsteps of alternating chapter view points from character-to-character (you will flip back to the descriptions). In line with this, “The Price of Blood” wouldn’t really work as a stand alone novel and is definitely recommended to be read as a follow-up to “Shadow on the Crown”, as intended.
Bracewell’s novel begins with a somewhat slow start which eventually melts into a faster-paced plot. The story isn’t necessarily as eventful or action-packed as “Shadow on the Crown” but there is still something magical about it which encourages page-turning. Bracewell’s descriptions are vivid and sometimes borderline literary and raw which adds depth to the pages.
“The Price of Blood” is standout on the front that it eschews fluff for a historical/political focus. Yes, there are some magick/spiritual meanderings along with the slight mention of sex and romance but overall the text will satisfy history lovers.
One of the highlights of “The Price of Blood” is Bracewell’s ability to make each character thrive in his/her own personality. Each figure is alive, believable, and unique with individualistic merits. This makes the varied story viewpoints easy-to-read and adds a macro view to the plot versus causing confusion. Although, Emma is once again not as mainstream as preferred but Elgiva certainly expands intrigue in “The Price of Blood”.
As Bracewell’s novel progresses (slightly past the halfway point); the plot thickens and becomes more eventful. Moreover, Bracewell’s interpretations of the possible emotional impacts of events is standout and adds a sort of psychological baring to “The Price of Blood” making the novel more layered and multifaceted than many other HF novels.
The final chapters of “The Price of Blood” are fast-paced and move at a steady pace leading to a solid conclusion that is both a cliffhanger and stirs emotions. Without a doubt, Bracewell leaves readers anxious for the third novel and aching for more.
Bracewell leaves “The Price of Blood” with a sufficient ‘Author’s Note’ explaining her liberties, conjectures, and inspirations. It should be noted that much of “The Price of Blood” is fictional aside from the actual political stirrings which have been chronicled. Yet, the novel is not fluffy and is strongly informative and rooted within the time period. On an aside, a genealogical table would certainly be helpful to most readers.
Overall, “The Price of Blood” is not as strong as “Shadow on the Crown” and feels more like a buildup to the third book from the first. Despite this, Bracewell’s prose is solid, the story is meaningful, and the novel is moving. Although the text may confuse as a stand alone novel; it is a must-read for those whom read the first novel and it definitely builds anticipation for the third. ...more
Unarguably, Catherine de Medici was one of the most fascinating women to have lived. She couldn’t have stayed out of the history books even if she hadUnarguably, Catherine de Medici was one of the most fascinating women to have lived. She couldn’t have stayed out of the history books even if she had tried. Although lesser discussed, her daughter Marquerite de Valois, was also captivating in her own right. Nancy Goldstone presents a dual-biography of this mother/daughter force in, “The Rival Queens: Catherine de Medici, Her Daughter Marquerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom”.
Goldstone breaks “The Rival Queens” into three parts: 1) Catherine de Medici 2) Marquerite de Valois and 3) The Rival Queens. The initial section describes some of the predominant events that occurred in Catherine’s life; portraying this illustrious figure well and setting a steady pace. Although the reader isn’t necessarily sure how this will relate to Marquerite; it regardless highlights Catherine suitably.
In typical Goldstone fashion, “The Rival Queens” is written with a flowery, visual, descriptive language which although better-suited for a novel than a history piece; helps to lighten the load and maintain the pace. This doesn’t dummy down the material, though, which is heavy with facts and research.
There are some problems evident in “The Rival Queens”. In Goldstone’s other books, she is guilty of speculative statements. Although she chose to forgo wording choices that would allude to such conclusions in “The Rival Queens”; much of the text is obviously not sourced and is merely an assumption taken by the author (no explanations appear for much of the text in the notes, either). Again, Goldstone tends to lean more towards a fictional route, at times. Goldstone also is at fault for going off on tangents and straying from her thesis (this problem is evident in all of her works). “The Rival Queens” feels more like two small mini-biographies versus a dual biography.
Similarly, Marquerite’s section of “The Rival Queens” hardly talks about her. Aside from some direct quotes from her personal memoirs; her inner psyche is not revealed nor analyzed and she is basically an afterthought in the text. Granted, this is probably based on the amount of source material available perhaps being scant but then as a result Goldstone fails in her goals on what “The Rival Queens” claims to be.
There are moments in the text when Goldstone tries to be too conversational and humorous. Some readers may find this to be quirky and compelling but staunch history lovers can be distracted and deem this, simply, as being unprofessional.
As Marquerite’s section progresses, the focus finally begins to shift more towards her own actions and involvement. Goldstone even utilizes some sleuth skills and debunks some myths. Regardless of this though, Marquerite still doesn’t seem like an important figure in history and Goldstone merely plumps her up but emptiness still remains.
The third section is noticeably the strongest; being that Marquerite is finally highlighted and presented with excitement. The reader begins to gain access to her and thusly the text evokes an emotional response towards the terrible experiences and trials Marquerite faced even from her own family. Even though this is too little too late; it concludes “The Rival Queens” nicely. On the other hand, the ending is a bit too flowery of an epitaph and doesn’t quite mesh well with the preceding pages.
“The Rival Queens” includes a glossy section of color plates, notes (although not very detailed or annotated), and a bibliography for fact checkers.
“The Rival Queens” isn’t horrible and is a solid work living up to Goldstone’s other pieces (I have given them all 3 stars). However, it simply feels “all over the place” and doesn’t quite live up to its aim nor brings Marquerite to life (except slightly at the end). “The Rival Queens” is suggested for those interested in Catherine de Medici, her children and the French court, and the religious wars of France. However, don’t expect a masterpiece or a plethora of new information/angles/outlooks. ...more
“The Marriage Game” is immediately flooded with red flags and cringe-worthy moments starting the novel on a poor note. As soon as page 10, Weir strike“The Marriage Game” is immediately flooded with red flags and cringe-worthy moments starting the novel on a poor note. As soon as page 10, Weir strikes with historical inaccuracies. Whether this is due to Weir’s own beliefs on the matter or merely taking a historical liberties on the pretext of fiction; it is not of concern. The point is that the general reader will accept this as truth and run with it based on Weir’s fame for penning nonfiction history books.
Even aside from this blatant error, “The Marriage Game” is no better than a YA novel and a boring one, at that. Elizabeth is depicted as a one-dimensional, shallow character; not truly exploring her womanly strengths and weaknesses. Her romance with Robert, her refusal to marry, and the proposals from foreign princes are all portrayed by Weir as nothing more than high school drama. Plus, it is the same thing on each page. Nothing truly ‘happens’ and the plot doesn’t intensify or progress.
Weir over saturates the text of “The Marriage Game” with, “As you know, Bob”-style storytelling in order to set the stage and explain Tudor back stories. This is tedious and slackens the already slow pace of the novel. Also evident is a chunky narrative with clear up-and-down arcs which are too extreme: i.e. slow and exciting then repeat several times.
“The Marriage Game” does have some strong moments such as the scandalous death of Amy Robsart (Dudley’s wife). Although Weir doesn’t pursue this in depth, she explores some of the possible theories providing the reader with historical context. This is also true for other topics in “The Marriage Game” such as the situation with the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots and other political forays. Weir would have done much better composing a novel focusing more on these historical events instead of an entire text on repetitive love and marriage.
The conclusion of “The Marriage Game” feels like a different novel entirely by taking a complete 180-degree turn off the marriage topic and instead focusing on the Spanish Armada. This is strikingly emotional (in comparison to the former portions of the novel) but is noticeably disjointed leaving the love subject unanswered and merely forgotten.
Weir utilized an ‘Author’s Note’ using it to explain some historical liberties, her opinions, and inspirations. Although, I would have preferred deeper explanations for the benefit of those general readers not as familiar with the topic; it is still quite useful.
Sadly, “The Marriage Game” can be summed up as a heavy disappointment: one-dimensional, fluffy, boring, and quite meaningless. It is not only light on the history but also doesn’t really encourage the general reader to engage in further research. “The Marriage Game” is nothing more than mindless entertainment (a fast read) and is only suggested for those unfamiliar with Elizabeth and Tudor England. Those well-read on the matters will gain absolutely nothing from “The Marriage Game” and are better off skipping it. ...more
Whether as a child or as an adult; the life of Queen Elizabeth I was quite interesting and dramatic, to say the least. Margaret Irwin begins her ElizaWhether as a child or as an adult; the life of Queen Elizabeth I was quite interesting and dramatic, to say the least. Margaret Irwin begins her Elizabeth Trilogy following the future Gloriana as a young teen aging both physically and mentally in, “Young Bess”.
Irwin’s writing strikes the reader with instant literary tones in the realm of flowery descriptions, symbolism, and vivid imagery. This captures the reader without turning “Young Bess” into a fluff piece by focusing ardently on historical events (“Young Bess” is more history than fiction). The issue with this is that there are some historical inaccuracies but perhaps Irwin can be forgiven as “Young Bess” was published in the 1940s.
“Young Bess” can definitely be described as ‘dry’ as the text contains little dialogue and the narrator merely describes events instead of allowing the reader to live through them. Much of the plot is a history recap versus actually revealing Elizabeth, at all. In fact, Elizabeth feels sort of like an afterthought instead of being a main character.
There are quite a few instances where Irwin tries to create controversy by simply name-calling characters and using elementary-level teasing instead of imaginatively weaving it into the plot. This feels like debasing the events and doesn’t truly add anything to the story.
At approximately the halfway point, Irwin infuses “Young Bess” with a bit more of a fictional styling creating a faster pace amongst the pages. Elizabeth begins to come off the pages much more in comparison than she was and Irwin explores angles on how her childhood may have affected her adult self. Also evident at this point are unique highlights which other Tudor HF novels never focus on (such as Thomas Seymour’s time spent in Hungary). This is quite welcomed.
In true Irwin style, “Young Bess” jumps between characters and their points of view of the story. This, luckily, is not overwhelming to the reader and does not create any chunkiness (although it reduces the spotlight on Elizabeth even more). Another common Irwin trait, heavy foreshadowing, is infused into the text of “Young Bess”. This is more noticeable for those familiar with Elizabeth and may not be as striking to the general reader.
The concluding chapters of “Young Bess” are quite evocative with emotion and shed an understandable and relatable light to the hysterical feeling surrounding the execution of Thomas Seymour and the last days of King Edward’s reign. Sadly, this still bypasses the views of Elizabeth and ends the novel rather abruptly (this may be due to the fact that there are more books within the trilogy).
Like most other older HF novels; Irwin did not include any notes to explain any historical liberties taken or a genealogical table which could be of use to the general reader.
Overall, “Young Bess” is rather strong in terms of historical focus but weak when it comes to retaining the essence of a novel. The pages fail to bring Elizabeth alive therefore eclipsing any character growth while the plot doesn’t express a proper arc. “Young Bess” is consequentially somewhat dry and flat. The novel basically displays an absence of excitement or that special, “oomph”. Despite these complaints, “Young Bess” is a rather good historical overview for those seeking less fluff and is therefore recommended for readers interested in the Tudors. ...more