Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Forbidden Queen - Anne O'Brien

The Forbidden Queen - Anne O'Brien
The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien
Publisher: Mira Books
Publication Date: January 28, 2013
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affects the opinions expressed here.]

1415. The jewel in the French crown, Katherine de Valois, is waiting under lock and key for King Henry V. While he's been slaughtering her kinsmen in Agincourt, Katherine has been praying for marriage to save her from her misery. But the brutal king wants her crown, not her innocent love. 

For Katherine, England is a lion's den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when she is widowed at twenty-one, she becomes a prize ripe for the taking—her young son the future monarch, her hand in marriage worth a kingdom. 

This is a deadly political game, one the dowager queen must learn fast. The players—the Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor—are circling. Who will have her? Who will ruin her? This is the story of Katherine de Valois. (from Goodreads)


Honestly, I always find history fascinating. I’m the kind of girl who enjoys visiting historical sites and museums, the kind of student who always thought history of any kind was fascinating and read up on it. No matter the time period, I genuinely find it intriguing to learn about events, cultures, people and countries (so much so that I considered getting a minor in history in college).

In line with my interests, I’ve always enjoyed reading historical fiction, but rarely indulge in it these days. My most recent experience was with The Forbidden Queen. My verdict? It was both delightful and disappointing. I enjoyed reading about Katherine, and learning more of her story. But there was just something that threw me off with this novel, affecting my overall enjoyment in the end.

Obviously, Katherine de Valois is the novel’s centerpiece. It is her story – from a brief glimpse of her childhood, to her marriage to Henry (a political move, as opposed to an affair of the heart), and what lies in store for her after Henry’s death. She is given a few important roles: the “perfect” bride to unite England and France and who will produce an heir; the faultless, innocent mother of the heir set to live her days out in isolation, standing by her son’s side. Each role requires she play the part to perfection, and she adapts as necessary.

But, of course, one can only go so long denying themselves the pleasure of being true to your self and your desires. This happens to Katherine, and though the politicians involved (both the greedy ones, and the ones less so) will it otherwise, it’s something she cannot change. She makes a few mistakes as she tries to find her way in the world as a widow, a queen, a mother, a woman. But ultimately, Katherine triumphs in discovering just how much strength, wisdom and love she bears inside her.

I really appreciated getting an in-depth glimpse at the author’s take on what Katherine’s life might have been like. However (and this is related to the something I mentioned), I had issues with the timing and tone of The Forbidden Queen. There would be chapters where I could not stop turning the pages, and others where it dragged a little. Plus, as I said to Kelly when I was reading, certain parts of it reminded me of Gossip Girl set in that era (which is technically Reign, but I can’t say for sure because I’ve not watched it yet). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was simply expecting something different.

I liked The Forbidden Queen. The portrayal of Katherine, her life and character, was authentic and fascinating. Even though I feel like there are better examples of historical fiction, this is actually a pretty decent starting point for those interested in trying it out.

8 comments:

  1. I love historical fiction but if this dragged a bit I guess I'm not picking it up. Thanks for your review!

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    1. Unfortunately, the dragging bits do exist! There were definitely parts that were compelling, but overall, it was just very stop and go as I read.

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  2. I love history and I don't seem to read historical fiction enough so I may give this one a try, although I would have hoped the tone would be more serious and less Gossip Girl. Still, I enjoyed season one of Gossip Girl so you never know, right?

    Great review!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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    1. There are some other great novels with a more serious tone to them, if that's more your style. I'm fond of Philippa Gregory's novels, which are a touch more serious but still pretty entertaining. Hope you wind up enjoying this if you read it!

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  3. Aw I loved finding out that you love history! So do I, and I know it's one of the main reasons I find historical fiction so fascinating. Sorry to hear this one is a bummer, but I did LOVE learning that little tidbit about you in the beginning.

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    1. Yay! I do love history, and historical fiction. I only have certain countries and cultures that I was really interested in, but it's always fascinating to explore things that have happened in the past.

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  4. Totally felt the same way! Parts it were so intriguing and I couldn't stop reading but then some parts totally dragged and the end kind of came out of nowhere. History for the win but not exactly for this book. Sad face.

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    1. I know! There are other great historical fiction books out there, of course, but I was really hoping that this would be a good read.

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