Title: “The White Queen”
Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre(s): historical fiction, romance
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 1
Why I read it: Goodreads suggested it.
Summary: Elizabeth Woodville Grey is widowed with two young sons and denied access to any of her late husband’s property by his family. So she plans to ask the new king, Edward, for help despite him being a York and her family supporting the house of Lancaster. He agrees to help her and the two fall in love. Ignoring everyone else, Edward marries Elizabeth and makes her queen. The novel chronicles Edward’s struggled to retain his throne, the threats from his own family and how Elizabeth conspires to keep herself and her family in power.
Review: For the most part, I liked this story. I had a few issues with it, though. So let’s get through them first, shall we?
The story is told in the first person, from Elizabeth’s point of view. This isn’t too bad but Gregory broke it a few times, mostly for battle scenes. It was a bit jarring to realize I was reading something Elizabeth did not see. And I wasn’t going to hand wave it using her “magic.” (More on that later). Only one battle made sense because it happened outside the palace gates. The others, not so much.
Onto the magic…I wasn’t a fan. I know there were legends that Elizabeth’s mother was a witch, so there’s some historical background. But it still feels…weak. And it cheapens the romance a bit. Does Edward really love her? Or is he just bewitched? Then again, I never felt Elizabeth was in love with Edward. I felt she was in love with power and did everything to keep it, not out of love for her family.
I did not particularly care for the main characters/narrator, which is one of the reasons why the star rating is low. And it wasn’t just that she is ambitious. I just got annoyed with her as most of her problems are her own doing. She is too stubborn and unable to compromise. She has no sense of diplomacy or playing nice with her enemies. Elizabeth just ploughs through, not caring who gets hurt in the process until it starts affecting her family—namely her sons. Then she starts playing sides to see who will suit her the best.
Onto the romance…It’s more focused in the beginning, when Elizabeth and Edward first meet. Then it kinda peters out. Of course, Edward is away a lot, fighting to keep this throne. So I didn’t feel the romance between the two later on. It seemed to me that Elizabeth had lust and infatuation for Edward but then fell in love with her power as queen. Once I stopped seeing it as a romance, it was much more enjoyable.
Gregory has a good grasp of description and action scenes, which are usually hard to write well. I did like how she wove the legend of Melusina into the main narrative.
Bottom line: Good historical fiction if you don’t want to kill the main character.
Do you like magic in your historical fiction? (Excluding historical fantasy)