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Review: Shadow on the Crown, Patricia Bracewell

shadow on the crownEmma of Normandy never suspects that she’ll be married before her sister – or that she’ll be sent north to England to wed King Ethelred, an aging monarch who disdains her immediately on her arrival. Emma’s life on arrival in England is far from what she thinks a marriage should be like. Her husband doesn’t respect her and she misses her family and all that is familiar from home. Worse, her husband’s seven children stand between her offspring and the throne of England. But Emma soon realizes that the only power she or her children will ever have is that she can seize herself, and the sooner the better.

Queen Emma is a fascinating historical figure. I’ve spent a small amount of time studying her life, though not in any great detail, enough to know what generally happened to her. It wasn’t long before I realized that Shadow on the Crown was covering only a tiny fraction of her life, because it went into much greater detail and imagined things I’d never considered before about the start of her life. While this part is often skimmed over in favor of her later life, I was riveted by Bracewell’s narrative and re-imagining of Emma’s young married life. I want to emphasize that a lot of this is imagining, and Bracewell includes the very useful author’s note so we can see where she’s changed history to better suit her narrative.

As I would have imagined, really, life in a foreign land as depicted here isn’t easy, especially when Emma is descended from England’s enemies, the Vikings. The Vikings were a scourge on England’s coast throughout Ethelred’s reign, so it’s no surprise that her relations to them cause distrust and unhappiness – even more so when a young, foreign queen marries an older king and ruins the chances for English women. Not only that, but while she doesn’t expect her husband to like her, he doesn’t even respect her, and he mistreats her frequently. It was easy to get attached to and feel for Emma, and I liked how the author put little hints in regarding where the story was going to go in the future.

I also felt that the author gave readers a great sense of what life might be like under a Viking siege. At one point, the characters’ lives are at risk, with events taking a terrifying turn. It was easy to understand how terrified they were and why some of them took the actions they did. Bracewell doesn’t use this event just for the sake of gratuitous violence, but actually uses the events of the raid to further the plot along. Several characters experience key events that help us understand their characters better and which will make a lot of sense going down the line.

Though by no means an entirely positive tale of a young queen, Bracewell’s ideas shed a lot of light on how Emma became the women she was later on, and I’m greatly looking forward to finding out how she fleshes out Emma’s story and reveals the multiple facets of her life as we go along. Recommended!

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

5 comments to Review: Shadow on the Crown, Patricia Bracewell

  • My mom and my sister would probably enjoy this book but I’m just not a fan of that time period for some reason.
    bermudaonion (Kathy)´s last post …Review: The Living End

  • I just got this one on audio, and I am really excited that I will be listening to it! It sounds like it’s perfect for a historical fiction lover, and I am wondering if the audio will be as good as the book seems to be. I am fond of stories like this one, and hope that I love it as much as you did!
    zibilee´s last post …A Good American by Alex George — Audiobook Review

  • I’m really hoping I get my hands on this. This is such an interesting era and there’s not many books about Emma. It sounds like Bracewell hasn’t tried to sugar-code the events and I like that.
    Thanks for the review :)
    Elysium´s last post …Abandon by Meg Cabot

  • Good to hear it’s only the first book, as I read what you’d written about the time scale I thought it was a pity if it only covered a little. I’ve seen the cover about and been interested, but reading this post has made that more definite. The author’s note information just topped it off!
    Charlie´s last post …B N Peacock – A Tainted Dawn

  • I just got this book and can’t wait to read it! I can never seem to get enough reading about powerful women in royalty. It never ceases to amaze me at just how influential they really were, even if they never ruled a country outright.