Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: The Queen's Pawn by Christy English

The Queen's PawnTitle: The Queen's Pawn
Author: Christy English
Series: Stand Alone
Pages: 373
Published: Available now from Nal Trade
ISBN: 9780451229236
Source: Author sent for honest review

Description: Princess Alais of France travels to England to marry Richard the Lionhearted, the son of King Henry II, armed only with her dowry, the valuable Vexin. When Alais arrives in the land of her father’s enemies, she is welcomed by the beautiful and powerful queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor, the richest and most influential woman in Europe, sees a kindred soul in the young French princess. Intrigued by the girl’s strength and fire, Eleanor adopts Alais as her protégée, teaching the girl what it takes to be a woman of power in a world of men. But Eleanor and Alais’ love for each other is threatened when the capricious and imperious King Henry meets the lovely young princess. Fascination with the king draws Alais deep into political intrigue, and she soon discovers what Eleanor is prepared to do to retain her position as queen. Alais, the one-time pawn, takes ruthless action of her own, as the two women become rivals both for the king’s love and the throne of England itself. 

I Give This ...

I like historical fiction.  I enjoy reading about people who lived long ago, especially royalty.  While the truth may be fabricated, stretched, etc, I feel it can give a sense of who people were.   I enjoyed The Queen's Pawn because it introduced me to characters I knew little about.

My impression of Princess Alais was that she was very naive.  Things must have been different in her father's court.  It seems she had no idea how treacherous life as a royal could be.  Especially in a court such as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  She truly believed that Richard loved only her.  Why it's possible that he did, she really believed he wouldn't take any other lover.  To me, that would be a given.  I was a little surprised and Eleanor's betrayal of her.  But, in my opinion it fits with her character.  She was always trying to find a way to best her husband.  He didn't have her locked away for nothing.

Why I'm sure that many people find it unbelievable that Henry took up with a 14-year-old, I don't.  Girls were married off young and expected to perform there wifely duties.  I think it's a hard concept for us to grasp in modern times.  I wonder if he was really interested or just more intrigued of what it would do to Eleanor.  They really had a very violent relationship.  While, it might not have been so public of a relationship, it's widely rumored to have occurred.

Another point that shows how naive Alais was, was her belief that she could bend Henry II to do what she wanted.  I didn't like her during this part of the story.  I get that she felt betrayed by both Richard and Eleanor, but she really become something worse than that.  How she could honestly believe she could control him when Eleanor couldn't is really beyond me.  You could anticipate when he would walk away from her.  The ending did feel a little rushed though.  But, maybe she finally just grew up and realized she couldn't get what she thought she wanted.  Once again she was naive (although she was right) to think that Eleanor and Richard would forgive her for her even bigger betrayal.

I enjoyed the story, even if certain points were rearranged to fit the author's story line.  It may be more fiction than fact, but the dynamic of the story were great.  I liked how Eleanor and Richard were portrayed.  It was almost like there behavior reflected the calm before the storm.

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