Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Currently reading: Her Highness, The Traitor

I've been talking about this book ever since I returned from Ocean City (probably before that too), so I've finally set aside everything else just to give my opinion of the book so far.  Since I don't do book reviews on my blog often, when I do find the time to do them they're different from most you'll probably read on other blogs.  (I don't really have a set stage for all of this; it's off the top of my head!)
A daughter can be a dangerous weapon in the battle for the throne of England

Frances Grey harbored no dream of her children taking the throne. Cousin of the king, she knew the pitfalls of royalty and privilege. Better to marry them off, marry them well, perhaps to a clan like the Dudleys.

Jane Dudley knew her husband was creeping closer to the throne, but someone had to take charge, for the good of the country. She couldn't see the twisted path they all would follow.

The never–before–told story of the women behind the crowning of Jane Grey, this novel is a captivating peek at ambition gone awry, and the damage left in its wake.

That was the summary from Amazon, but feel free to browse around on the internet to find more.
Seeing as I haven't finished this book, I'm going to tell you my thoughts on it from the moment I began up to the very part I'm at currently.
Voice: The author does an amazing job of portraying the characters' voices as those that would have existed in the 1400-1500s.  It's actually so accurate that I've been noting down some of the dialog and narration as "research" for my own book.  (This was suggested by my editor as a historically accurate book.)  What I really love is that the voice of this book never dies down.  There isn't a moment where it's dull and you'll want to stop reading; Susan catches her reader's attention very well.
Characters: This part I've been dying to talk to among other readers.  So far Jane and Frances have been alternating between narration --one chapter is Jane's, then the next may be Frances; you never really know.  While I am not always fond of this in books, it honestly does help this book to understand the depth of all of the characters.  What's even more interesting is that this book follows after King Henry VII's death.  (Don't worry, I'll talk more about that in just a minute)
Jane is the wife of John, the two of whom met as young children and later on married.  Don't be all too surprised when Jane abruptly states that she has given birth to thirteen children, all of which apparently live at home with her and Jane.  Interestingly enough, Jane works for Elizabeth, King Henry's last wife who "survived" his rule.  Jane's a pleasing character for the book; she's smart, loyal (especially to her husband), and she's independent.
Though at this point of the book I can't tell if John is a major character, he also has a very well-thought out role.  He is loving to his wife, and he seems to take on his role as a father quite well.  He too works in the palace with his wife.
Frances, on the other hand, is Jane's mother.  She was the cousin of the King, but she has always married off her children so that they would never have to take on the responsibilities as a ruler.  So far I can't decide on how I feel about her, but she seems to care deeply for her children.
Plot: Immediately when the book begins Jane is writing her will, talking about the wishes she has as a "dead woman."  Shortly after, we are thrown back to a flashback of her as a four year old.  As she is narrating this scene, she suddenly changes her voice and is an adult married to John.  
While Jane is performing her duties around the palace, she steps in to visit her husband (who is also working at the palace).  He informs her that King Henry has been dead for two days, and it was the king's adviser who chose to hid the unfortunate news from Queen Elizabeth.  However, Queen Elizabeth is told soon after this about the King's death and discovers that Henry changed his will privately so that she could not rule the thrown.  Elizabeth, understandably, is outraged to say the least.
Meanwhile Frances narrates the story, explaining how at a time her daughter, Jane, was offered to be Queen.  Frances seems to know that royal life is not all that it seems, but despite her knowledge, Jane may still fall into the wrong hands.  Everyone is stressed over the new king, but all the people may really be seeking is a king who they can truly rely on--something that Henry was not.
History: While this book is a historical fiction novel, it definitely is anything but boring.  It's fascinating to read how Elizabeth reacts to her husband's death; even Henry's daughters seem to mourn not for his lost but for the pain he caused them.  Henry is portrayed accurately as the villain he truly was and the poor husband and father he was to his family at home.
The bloodlines of all of these families was researched amazingly.  (The family tree was the first page I noticed.)  Fortunately all of the characters are attached to the role and family they're involved with at the beginning so that if you ever do get lost, you have reference.  

Final thoughts: I'm most likely breaking a reviewing "law," but I'll just tell you now that I give this book 4/5 stars hands down.  The reading reminds me of the work of Phillipa Gregory, who is one of the greatest historical fiction writers I've read --if you haven't read her work, definitely do it now.  This is a truly amazing story with characters you'll find yourself falling in love with.  The only reason I wouldn't give this book 5/5 stars is because of the fact that sometimes the change in characters or the year can be too abrupt.  In the first chapter I was just getting used to Jane's first, and then suddenly Frances started narrating the book from an entirely different year than Jane's.  
Overall, though, I am so glad I bought this book, and my only regret is that lately I've been slacking on reading it because of the work I have to do.  I highly suggest this to all historical lovers, fantasy lovers, and most of... anyone who enjoys a good book. This is something you'll want to read again.
After all, who doesn't want to know the untold story of the Tudors?
Lindsey R. Sablowski


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