Book Review: The Cousins War Series by Philippa Gregory

The Cousins War Series – The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Lady of Rivers, The Kingmaker’s Daughter
Philippa Gregory

Let me start this review by telling you how much I absolutely adored this series, as a huge medieval history geek/fan this was a no brainer of a series to watch and from the first moments of the first episode I was hooked. My favourite characters in the whole series were Richard and Anne, I’m not going to lie I cried when they got together and they definitely had their moment towards the end of the series having started out an important background character. The TV series alerted me to the books and soon after I’d bought them and started on reading them all so here is my review of all the books, don’t worry I’ve kept them short, and the series as a whole.

The White Queen

The White Queen follows the story of Elizabeth Woodville , the woman who meets King Edward IV on the road to bargain for her dead husband’s lands to be restored to her and within days they fall in love and marry making her Queen of England. It follows her life from the good days of reigning the country and the power and riches that come with it to the dark days spent in sanctuary where she gives birth to one of her children, the first boy and heir to the throne Prince Edward, and the losses of her father, mother, brothers, child and husband. All this happens while she is trying desperately to keep her children safe and her eldest York boy on the throne of England after the death of her husband, Edward. Throughout the book, she uses her family’s heritage of witchcraft becoming a much loved Queen who is well known to help her husband during battles and bad times by conjuring the weather in his favour but it comes at a price as she is hated by many, mainly women and her brother’s family. Ending the novel weeks before the Tudors take back control of England after Henry Tudor wins the last big battle against Richard III by killing him. During this time she is in a house in the country with all her girls safe and her youngest York son Richard back with her after he’s spent years in hiding. It is as happy an ending as she could get losing so much through her life but it does end on a positive note.

The Red Queen

The Red Queen follows the story of Margaret Beauford, a girl of extreme faith who wants to live a life dedicated to God and away from sin but she soon finds out at the grand age of 12 that she has been born and bred to bear the future Lancaster King of England. She’s married off to Edmund Tudor and within their short marriage of 2-3 years she has given birth to a child and heir to the throne, Henry, named after the current Lancaster King who is fighting to keep his throne against his own cousins, the Yorks. After many battles, he loses and Margaret’s husband dies, days after this news she is told she is to be married again after her year of mourning to a man twice her age. Her second marriage to Henry Stafford is a much happier one though her husband refuses to fight and help the Lancaster cause but she is planning and scheming for her son to win the throne at the same time as having to come to terms with having him taken away from her to live with other families. After another loss of a husband it is time for another marriage to a man much older but this time of her choosing to Lord Thomas Stanley, a man close to the King and therefore good to have on her side while her son is in exile in France. She leads a tragic, eventful and finally successful life fully dedicated to her faith and her son’s cause and when she finally succeeds in what she has set out to achieve, it is the perfect place for this novel to finish. It’s a brilliant novel which helps you to understand in much greater detail a character that came across as slightly misunderstood from watching the TV adaptation last year. It’s clear to see the actress who played her played the character perfectly but not knowing the back story made it hard to understand her position and faith whereas when you read the book and find out all she went through at such a young age it makes you understand just exactly why she is so dedicated to her only son and getting him on the throne of England and putting her true faith in the God she worships so much.

The Lady of Rivers

The Lady of The Rivers follows Elizabeth Woodville’s mother, Jacquetta, from her early teenage years and her marriage to a powerful English lord to the point where her daughter Elizabeth is widowed before meeting Edward at the side of the road, which is the story of ‘The White Queen’. As a French teenager of a noble family of Burgundy and descended from the water goddess Melusina, she is a beautiful girl bound to be married off well and though she thinks it will be to someone of French royalty it ends up that she is promised to the middle aged John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to the King of England, Henry VI. Through her short marriage she learns a lot, growing up and practising her witchcraft skills she was born with by scrying and trying to tell the future for her husband. Around five years later her husband dies and she is sent to the English court where she will be married off to yet another middle aged lord but she is in love with her dead husband’s squire, Richard Woodville and he is in love with her. After asking the permission of the lords of England for the two to marry, a man playing well above his position and a woman seen to be lowering her’s are granted the marriage of love so rare in the 1400’s but they are punished by having most of Jacquetta’s riches taken from her and given to others instead. The rest of the novel sees pain and separation from her husband stationed abroad, the happiness from the birth of all her children, the drama of serving the Queen of England, Margaret of Anjou, at court through good, bad, scandals and the beginnings and violent acts of rebellions of the Cousin’s War which went on for years to come and carries on into the two books which precede this one but come after chronologically.

This one is a very good read and my second favourite of the series. It is well written, interesting and Jacquetta is a brilliant character that has had a very dramatic life which has raised high and fallen low on the wheel of fortune that is life, something which crops up many times in the book. If you watched the TV series and was intrigued by Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta and how she came to be in such positions then this is a very good book to read and something you will be interested in. Her back story was not really explored or explained in the series and therefore seemed a bit confusing how she knew so many of the lords and royalty of England when it looked like she had just risen to high society through her daughter’s marriage when in fact she had been there for many years herself in service to the Lancaster Queen. A wonderful third book in the Cousin’s War series.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter

The Kingmaker’s Daughter follows the life of Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick and the girl who was born to be Queen. The youngest of two daughters everything her father does is to put one of his daughters on the throne. Supporting the York affinity and helping them get Henry Tudor and his wife Margaret of Anjou off the throne and get Edward Plantegent on the throne instead. Though when Edward is King he betrays Warwick by marrying Elizabeth Woodville, a simple village girl instead of marrying a French princess like Warwick planned. From this moment he decides he needs to get another York on the throne instead and picks George, he marries his eldest daughter Isabel to him but in the end loses that battle. Changing sides and tactics means he marries Anne, his youngest daughter, to Henry Tudor’s son and Lancaster heir to the throne, Edward. After a failed attempt to get Margaret, Henry, Edward and therefore Anne onto the throne, the Earl of Warwick and Edward die, Margaret of Anjou is imprisoned and Anne is seen as a traitor, widowed, orphaned and desperate for help. Help that she finds in the youngest York brother, Richard, who saves her from a traitor’s fate by taking her to live with her sister but after he sees the way she is treated, imprisoned and ignored while trying to fight for her inheritance, he vows to save her again but this time through his love for her.

This is a beautiful tale of a girl who goes through so much and loses so much just to follow her father’s wish to end up Queen of England but when she gets there it is not what she hoped and it is something she would give up in a heartbeat. Her courtships and marriage to Richard is so beautiful and wonderful and was quite emotional to read, the TV series was an emotional moment to watch but in the books it is even more special and beautiful. She goes through so much pain, heartbreak and feelings of fear but ends up married to a man she loves and ends up on the throne with him but it is not something she feels is worth the loss of her father, son, sister and brother in law. Anne Neville was my favourite character when I watched the TV series and reading the book about her showed just how strong a character she was, stuck in the middle and played as a pawn in a huge game of fighting for the crown with backstabbing on battlefields and at court but through it all she remains strong, she knows what she wants and she fights for what she believes in and that is why I loved her character so much. This book did not disappoint about the character I loved the most and it was the book I enjoyed the most too.

All in all, it was a brilliant series of books that I would fully recommend to anyone whether you watched the TV series or not. Really only the first book follows the TV series and therefore that was the book I enjoyed the least as I knew what was going to happen not that it wasn’t well written just I knew the story. The series did get better as it went on with other characters featured more and different time periods that had not been featured in the show. There was some time overlap in places but seen from different perspectives made it still interesting to read. The whole story of the war from the eyes of the women is a brilliant idea anyway showcasing just how important they were but also the characterisation was wonderful and beautifully written, they were clearly amazing women and they have now become great literary characters too.

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