Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Note: I read this book in 2011, after the publisher graciously sent me a copy (How could I pass up a free ARC of one of my favorite authors??), but haven't gotten around to blogging about it until now. In honor of today's paperback release, here's my review (Finally!)!

Title: The Lady of the Rivers

Author: Philippa Gregory

Pages: 435 (I have an ARC, so pages in the finished copy may be different)

Source: Publisher

Rating: 8/10

Summary (From front of ARC):

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta has always had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she met his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and saw her own power reflected in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They shared the mystery of the tarot card of the wheel of fortune before Joan was taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.

Married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, Jacquetta is introduced by him to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke's squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke's death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancastrian court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York, threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty.

Jacquetta fights for her king, her queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth, for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

My Two Cents:

I may be biased because I seem to just love anything Philippa Gregory writes (Her Elizabethan-era works especially), but this was another great one from her. It has her hallmark talent for character development and minute period detail.

Jacquetta was a really interesting character. I remember the brief glimpses Gregory gave of her in The White Queen, and was intrigued. I'm not very well-versed in this period in history, so I had no knowledge that Jacquetta existed prior to Gregory's introducing her. Boy, did those small peeks into Jacquetta not at all do her justice. She was strong and funny and fierce. And the fact that she lived with a huge secret, a secret that could have cost her and her family dearly, made her all the more real. I really want to look more into the historical person of Jacquetta and learn more about her.

I think my favorite part of this novel was the relationship and love between Jacquetta and Richard. Love stories are everywhere in literature, many of which tend toward the unrealistic when seen in the light of day. Not Jacquetta and Richard. Over the many years covered in the novel, they have their ups and downs and, though they don't spend a ton of time in the same place, run into some of the same day-to-day slog that all couples hit. Yet, they manage to maintain the spark and stay interesting and dynamic as a couple the entire time.

This is another great book in Gregory's Cousins' War series. A must-read for any Gregory or historical fiction fan.
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