Crystal Starr Light's Reviews > The Queen's Fool

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
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Jun 26, 2012

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bookshelves: anachronistic-heroine, historical, audiobook, so-boring-it-s-boring, hello-my-name-is-mary-sue, idiot-protagonist
Read from June 26 to July 01, 2012

Hannah Verde "Green" is a young Jewish girl who poses as a boy to apprentice to her father, a bookkeeper. But when Lord Robert Dudley realizes she has "The Sight", she becomes King Edward's Fool. Hannah The Fool gets to experience the King's death, Queen Mary's rise to the throne, and Princess Elizabeth's eternal scheming to get on the throne all from the front seat of the court. But the real question is: Will Hannah ever find Twoo Lurve?

The last Philippa Gregory book I read, The Other Boleyn Girl, I called a guilty pleasure. It wasn't that amazing, the history was iffy, the characters 1-dimensional, but it was amusing and entertaining. I wasn't bored in the slightest.

Oddly enough, I found myself enjoying "The Queen's Fool" even more than I enjoyed TOBG. I don't know much about the historical accuracy, the characters might have been even more annoying, but I was definitely more engaged in the story and more interested.

NOTE: History isn't my forte. I appreciate historical accuracy in a book, but it's going to have to be pretty blatantly WRONG for me to notice it (i.e. Jeans in the Middle Ages type thing). Therefore, if you are reading this review to see how accurate TQF is, I would suggest you move to another review, because I won't be able to answer that question very adequately at all.

Probably the biggest, most obnoxious and annoying aspect of the book for me was Hannah Verde herself. There was quite a bit I didn't like about her.

1. Anachronistic. Yeah, I know, I just noted I "Don't do history" and my first complaint is about historical accuracy. But I put this under "Things that are obvious an idiot would know". I'm sorry but I can't believe a 16th century woman would be saying these things:

"I don't wish to marry...I should like to have my own shop and print my own books."

"It's not you I dislike. It's marriage itself. I wouldn't choose marriage at all. What is it about the servitude of women hoping for safety to men who cannot even keep them safe?"

"I need to be a woman in my own right, and not only a wife...This is the woman I've become."


Women of this day got married and had kids. That was it. There was no big push for women's rights or women to have jobs outside of being a wife and mother. Sorry, if you want to do this plot device, travel to the 1950's. Even then, though, the women STILL were expected to be wives and mothers FIRST AND ONLY and were SHAMED if they had jobs (just ask my grandmothers!).

2. Mary Sue-ness. Hannah has "The Sight", some weird, undefined phenomenon that takes a historical fiction book into the fantasy realm. Women are jealous of her. She befriends Queen Mary AND Princess Elizabeth and are buddy-buddy with them up until the end. She has several men chasing to get in her skirts. She is shapely and attractive and has desires that are NOT common in her time period. Hannah, come on down, you are the newest Mary Sue!!

3. Miss Passivity. Much like with Mary Boleyn, Hannah barely does ANYTHING of her own volition. Much of her life is being pushed around by everyone else. Now, I know earlier that I said that women were expected to be wives and mothers, and basically didn't have rights. That is true, but I still think it is possible to show a historically accurate woman that isn't a doormat all the time, letting everyone walk all over her.

4. Inconsistent. Hannah spends much of the book fearing that she will be revealed as Jewish. And THAT is why she clings to the VERY Catholic Queen, Mary, who killed several "heretics" during her time. Uh...wait, that doesn't make sense! Now, this COULD have been done well, if Hannah had met and befriended Mary (which she did), but had serious reservations and fears about Mary--something like "Mary is a woman I look up to...but she could kill me at any moment for being Jewish!" But this NEVER HAPPENS.

And yet...she says THIS:

"I couldn't pray to a God who would allow my mother to be burned to death. I couldn't pray to a God who could be invoked by the torchbearers."


But you can serve a Catholic Queen with no problems? Not even some "Oh, I like Queen Mary, but she's burning people, like the Catholic Church burned my Mom, oh no what do I do?" Huh? How does THAT make any sense?

5. Holier Than Thou. Hannah flirts around with the married Lord Robert Dudley. But when Princess Elizabeth does this, WHAT A HORRIBLE SLUT THAT GIRL IS!!! HOW DARE SHE!!!

"The Queen had to watch the man she still passionately loved at another woman's beck and call, and that woman, Elizabeth, the unwanted sister who had stolen Mary's Father, was now seducing her husband."


And yet, when Lord Robert's wife, entrusted with Hannah's care, treats Hannah like dirt, thinking she has fooled around with Lord Robert (and in some ways, Hannah did), GOD FORBID WHAT A HORRIBLE WOMAN!! HOW DARE she not treat Hannah with the utmost respect!

And then, when Princess Elizabeth rebels against the Catholic ways, SHAME ON HER for defying the laws! Oh, Hannah still practices her Jewish ways in secret? Oh, THAT'S OKAY!! Geesh, get it right!

6. Lack of compassion. At one point, Hannah learns Daniel has cheated on her. She is understandably upset (I truly did feel sorry for her and was glad when she reacted appropriately). But when Amy Dudley's husband, Hannah's beloved Lord Robert, does the same thing, does Hannah show ANY compassion or empathy to Amy? HELL NO!!

7. Mary Boleyn 2.0, New and Improved! There were several times where I found it hard to differentiate between Mary from TOBG and Hannah from TQF. Both were passive, holier-than-thou, women who admired their Pure and Righteous Queen Who Can Do No Wrong, and fall in love with the most boring of men. Even Hannah's supposed Jewishness felt fake; more like painting a white rose red.

8. Forgetfulness. After Hannah learns about Daniel's baby momma, she leaves his house and lives with her father. Understandable. She also doesn't immediately take him back. Good. But then, after the battle of Calais, suddenly, she forgets how he cheated on her and talks about how "patient and longsuffering" Daniel was, how he "waited for her" until she left court and married him. Um, girlfriend, no, he wasn't patient. If he were patient, he wouldn't have a baby momma. You have a VERY short memory, don't you?

For once, I'd like to read a historical novel in which the female main character was correct to her time period, wasn't a pushover, had actual real female friends and LIKED them, wasn't fawned all over by every male within a 30 mile radius, and had simple human emotions such as compassion, mercy, understanding, and kindness.

But enough about Hannah, I think I've worn myself out talking about her.

The other characters are 1-dimensional like in PG's TOBG. Queen Mary is Pure and Holy and All Things Good. While I liked this better than painting her as some devil woman just because she had a lot of people put to death, it got to be over the top on numerous occasions. Princess Elizabeth felt almost EXACTLY like Anne Boleyn from TOBG: scheming, playing around with men, being evil and thinking of herself and her power over her country. Again, while I don't think Princess/Queen Elizabeth was all Perfection, I don't think she was the harlot that PG tried to portray her as.

I got no sense of Hannah's father's character; he felt very much a blank slate. Daniel felt like a selfish, domineering pig. I have no idea WHY he and Hannah Fell In Lurve. Lord Robert was only a self-serving rake; he didn't care about anyone other than himself. Daniel's mother and sisters were terrible people--well, actually, I had more heart for them, realizing that they were scared and didn't want to lose Daniel. But the way Hannah talks about them, you would think they chased her with pitchforks and playfully tied her to the lit BBQ every so often.

In fact, none of the women, other than Queen Mary and Hannah herself are portrayed as being "good". It's sad that Hannah can't have a single female friend--and not someone like the Queen, someone of Hannah's own rank.

I did like William, the court jester. He was pretty amusing at times. Given the 1 dimensional nature of the characters, he was probably the most interesting character to me.

The story is what I think really gripped me. Even though Hannah drove me bonkers, I was curious about what would happen to her. I think also PG writing from the point of view of a fictional character helped her story; she had a lot more flexibility and could show us the little things in court--things that the bigger players, like Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth wouldn't have seen. Sure, it's awful convenient that Hannah gets in the employ of the Court and sees all that she does, but I'll suspend disbelief for that. What I find ridiculous, honestly, is "The Sight". I have no idea why THAT was included (and I do realize that is what gets her hired, but geesh, there are other ways!).

The writing was serviceable. Nothing glaringly bad. My experience listening on audiobook was good--though I did miss the woman who narrated TOBG. I did wonder whether Hannah, a Jewish girl, would reference Judas Iscariot:

"We ran from her, like a pair of Judas Iscariots, desperate to save our own skins."


(If this would have been likely or not, please comment and tell me!!)

I think if the character of Hannah had been stronger, less annoying, and more unique (less like Mary Boleyn from TOBG), then this book would have been more enjoyable to read. It's a decent read, one that makes you head over to Wiki and check up on some long-forgotten history. Don't go in expecting brilliance, and you are bound to be pleased.
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Reading Progress

06/26/2012
1.0% ""We ran from her, like a pair of Judas Iscariots, desperate to save our own skins." Curious: would Jewish people use this idiom, which typically comes from the New Testament? Or are they using it because it is a common place idiom?" 1 comment
06/26/2012
2.0% ""Ideas are more dangerous than an unsheathed sword in this world.""
06/26/2012
3.0% ""I don't wish to marry...I should like to have my own shop and print my own books." *rolls eyes* Ah, we have another modern woman on our hands, independent and feisty." 4 comments
06/26/2012
7.0% ""It's not you I dislike. It's marriage itself. I wouldn't choose marriage at all. What is it about the servitude of women hoping for safety to men who cannot even keep them safe?" *headdesk* Hannah, are you REALLY a 16th century girl? Be honest...you rode in the Delorean to Tudor England." 2 comments
06/26/2012
9.0% "Lemme guess: Mary is this book's perfect Queen Katharine."
06/26/2012
14.0% "Having trouble feeling that Hannah is a unique character. I keep thinking she is Mary Boleyn. And, to make it more difficult, looks like she is being forced to spy for someone else's agenda--just like TOBG. Bleh."
06/27/2012
18.0% "Awwww, isn't it charming how buddy-buddy Hannah the Fool is getting with Princess Mary? I mean, I TOTALLY get how Princess Mary would just tell Hannah, this person she just met, EVERYTHING about her life, including her deep, dark feelings and secrets! Of course, Hannah wouldn't be a SPY! Who would DREAM of doing that to as sweet and dignified a woman as Princess Mary?"
06/27/2012
20.0% "Why am I liking this more than TOBG? At times, it feels like the exact same story/characters; and yet, I think it is better than TOBG. Is it because Hannah is more likable? She isn't competing against someone? Maybe because she is completely fictional? I am baffled."
06/27/2012
25.0% "Poor manipulated Hannah. Hiding her Jewish ancestry/beliefs; spying on the Queen while being the President of the Queen's Fan Club (and BFF's). In particular, this part of Hannah feels A LOT like Mary Boleyn from TOBG."
06/27/2012
27.0% "I love how long the "Miss Independent" act lasted. I mean, did Hannah even go 5% through the book before going gaga over Lord Dee (or whoever that was she was in LURVE with)? I'd blame her for being stupid and not seeing through his obvious plot, but she is only 14."
06/27/2012
29.0% "Elizabeth? A whore? Really? Rather harsh to say about your sister, eh, Mary?"
06/27/2012
35.0% "Good grief...how long has Hannah known this Lord Robert guy? A few months? And he's the Love of Her Life? BUAHAHAHAHAHAHA! How positively ridiculous! (Of course, if we are talking about a 15 year old, then I do understand, but still...)"
06/28/2012
36.0% "Ugh, so mad at myself...lost my place and spent most of the morning trying to find it instead of making forward progress. Dumb iPod."
06/28/2012
37.0% "Why is Hannah supporting a Catholic Queen? Doesn't she realize that the CATHOLICS were responsible for her mother burning? I mean, I'd get it if she had a struggle--her feelings for the Queen vs. her fear of Catholics--but there is none of that here." 3 comments
06/28/2012
39.0% "For once, I'd like PG to write a MC where she WANTS to spy, where she is duplicitous and selfish and self-seeking. I'm tired of this Mary Boleyn/Hannah Green "I don't WANT to spy, but I'm forced to" crap. (And I've only read two books by her! *snort*)" 10 comments
06/28/2012
42.0% "Oh please...now Hannah is BFF's with Elizabeth? Isn't Elizabeth the least bit suspicious? Why do these important, private people meet Hannah and immediately divulge their greatest secrets? I'll bet that is Hannah's true gift."
06/28/2012
44.0% ""I'm getting my bag, I'm going to the tower, I'm going to Elizabeth. I will stay with her til her death and then I will come to find you." WHY?! Do you have no sense of self-preservation? You don't even have much of a history with Elizabeth...you've spent most of the novel with Mary! So WHY NOW are you suddenly going to skip out on a chance to leave and stay with her and possibly DIE? Are you THAT STUPID???"
06/28/2012
47.0% ""Child, you want to love and be loved so much that you're always on all sides at once." I can't think of a better way to describe Hannah. If she were a better character, I'd say that this was a character trait, but it feels more like a flip-flopping character."
06/28/2012
50.0% ""I need to be a woman in my own right, and not only a wife...This is the woman I've become." Good God. Really? REALLY?!? A 16th century woman waxing on and on about her "rights" and how she wants to be "more than a wife"? And how has Hannah grown at all? She's still as much of a marriage hater as she was in the beginning--she only changed because of Queen Mary's marriage."
06/28/2012
54.0% ""I couldn't pray to a God who would allow my mother to be burned to death. I couldn't pray to a God who could be invoked by the torchbearers." But...you can serve a Catholic Queen with no problems? Not even some "Oh, I like Queen Mary, but she's burning people, like the Catholic Church burned my Mom, oh no what do I do?" Huh? How does THAT make any sense?"
06/29/2012
61.0% "That passage about how Hannah couldn't burn a book, even a heretical book: WOW. Would have been a lot stronger had PG not beat a dead horse with it. But still, GOOD."
06/29/2012
62.0% ""Only a fool trusts a king.""
06/29/2012
62.0% ""The Queen had to watch the man she still passionately loved at another woman's beck and call, and that woman, Elizabeth, the unwanted sister who had stolen Mary's Father, was now seducing her husband." Um, excuse me, but did I accidentally switch to TOBG? I mean, yeah, sure, history repeats itself, but damn, sure sounds an awful lot like Mary/Anne from TOBG."
06/29/2012
68.0% "Kinda amusing how "holier than thou" Hannah is. She can be a heretic, but Elizabeth can't. She can love a married man, but Elizabeth can't. But at least Elizabeth isn't portrayed as hugely evil, like Anne Boleyn."
06/29/2012
72.0% "For once, I'd like to read a historical fiction novel where A) the heroine had spirit and drive and DID something, B) I didn't gag when reading about the heroine and the hero suddenly thrust into each others' arms, C) I could ACTUALLY BELIEVE the heroine and hero falling in love, and D) the heroine didn't fall in love with some evil doofus that is using her for his own good." 15 comments
06/29/2012
72.0% ""I was not naturally gifted at housekeeping. I didn't want to know how to scour a brass pan...to take a scrubbing brush to the front step...to peel potatoes so that there was no waste at all...I wanted to know none of these things." Well, at least THAT is realistic, after her time at court. Better than Mary Boleyn." 4 comments
06/29/2012
73.0% "Wow, what is this section titled, "Oh, woe is me, I am so punished by my in-laws, pity me, poor Hannah the Fool, who lived at court and COULD HAVE BEEN PUT TO DEATH AT ANY MOMENT FOR MY HERESY AND BEING A JEW, but I never complained then. Oh, but my life is SO HORRIBLE, look at me whine and complain about how horrible my in-laws are. BOO HOO!! PITY ME DAMMIT!""
06/29/2012
74.0% "Oh, wow...I almost want to take back all the bad things I've said about Hannah. Daniel is such a d-bag--impregnanting another woman and LYING TO HIS BETROTHED about it. Oh, and still seeing her even when he is married. Honey, don't walk RUN."
06/29/2012
77.0% "So I guess we are done with talking about the Tudors? Hm, kinda disappointed. Hannah's story is just not that compelling (though I prefer reading about her over Mary Baoleyn)."
06/29/2012
82.0% "Oh, boo hoo, Lord Robert's wife isn't falling over herself to help you, woe is you. Maybe she doesn't want anything to do with the girl who is flirting with her husband. Maybe she is worried sick about him on the battlefield and can't think to take care of a useless girl and the baby she's carting around. Maybe, Hannah, you should try to think of someone BESIDES yourself and how horrible your life is!"
06/30/2012
88.0% "OMG, now I want to gouge out Hannah's eyes!! Can't you have a little compassion for a wife who has an unfaithful husband? Don't you remember what it was like for you? Hell, can't you be nice to ANY woman? Why do you walk around with a chip on your shoulder? You disgraceful miserable pathetic idiot! For once, I wish these female MCs had a female friend they didn't constantly debase and insult!!! Ugh!!!" 4 comments
06/30/2012
90.0% "I just don't know, but I get the impression that Elizabeth is, oh, evil? And Mary, "Bloody Mary"? Oh, poor dear, she's just a peach. A misunderstood peach, but a peach. Oppressed by her wicked, vicious, sexual temptress sister of course. *rolls eyes*"
06/30/2012
95.0% "I am SOOOOO glad I am almost done!! I am sick to death of Hannah, even though, oddly enough, I rather liked the book more than TOBG. Weird."
07/01/2012
96.0% "If Daniel is oh, so patient and in love with Hannah, then why did he cheat on her and get another woman pregnant?! Geez, do you think I'm going to just let that go with the snap of my fingers, like Hannah apparently has? (Not to say she shouldn't forgive Daniel, but COME ON! Don't let him off the hook THAT easily!!)" 5 comments
09/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Chris I think you should read the Uppity Women series by Vicki Leon.


Crystal Starr Light Chris wrote: "I think you should read the Uppity Women series by Vicki Leon."

Oooh, tell me a bit about the series. Is it historical fiction too?


Chris Nope. It's history. There's a whole series. Starts with Uppity Women Of Ancient Times. There is one for the Ren. They're funny.


Crystal Starr Light Ooh, I'll have to add to the pile. Thanks!


Iset Love it. I've read so much PG now that I think there are definite identifiable generalised issues that she repeats over and over again. One of them is definitely white-washing/blacklisting of characters. She doesn't really make them complex, grey people, she just divides them up into "goodies" and "baddies" - and then double standards often result. She does the same thing with actual events and the plot - totally oversimplifies things so that the key momentous events of the times are basically reduced to a gossip magazine style "who's friends with who". No wonder PG's books feel glossed over - it's just processed, liquid mush from what was previously a nutritious gourmet meal.


Crystal Starr Light Isis wrote: "No wonder PG's books feel glossed over - it's just processed, liquid mush from what was previously a nutritious gourmet meal. "

Heh, that's a good way of putting it!

The black/white characters and double standards really irks me. No person is 100% good or bad, so when you see it in fiction, you are immediately put off. And then the double standard! I can see how a character might try to justify it, but when there is no alternate point of view to "check" his or her actions, it just comes off as the author okaying his or her actions.


Chris For the Vicki Leon book - The Renassiance one is sometimes labeled as Uppity Women of Shakespearean Times.


message 8: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin Does DAniel cheat on her when they are married or? Does she cheat on him with someone else?


Crystal Starr Light Erin wrote: "Does DAniel cheat on her when they are married or? Does she cheat on him with someone else?"

Daniel and Hannah are betrothed when Daniel cheats on her. Hannah never has sex with anyone other than Daniel, though she does harbor feelings for a few men.


message 10: by Erin (new) - added it

Erin Thank You!


Crystal Starr Light Erin wrote: "Thank You!"

You are very welcome!


Deborah Well, I understand where you are coming from and I even think you are right, but I can't help it. I like Hannah's character. I understand why she was mad at Daniel at one point but forgave him later on. She thought he was dead and perhaps that made his mistake smaller in her eyes. They weren't married when he cheated and he did his share of waiting for her to finally marry him. And she liked his son, so I get why she went back.
I also like her personality. I understand that a woman back then probably would think or say any of it, but it's nice that she did. I was so excited, because is what I would have done now if any man said any of those things to me. And this is not a text book. It's entertainment. That's what I try to remember when I'm reading. And I was entertained. Were you?


Crystal Starr Light Each person is different; I've loved tons of things others have hated and vice versa.

I'll admit, this was pretty entertaining (hence the 3 stars instead of 2). I was interested in what would happen next, and no, I never expected a textbook.

I read one other PG book after this (The Constant Princess), though, and I found myself sadly bored. Say what you will about this and Boleyn Girl, but at least they were entertaining and things happened.


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