After reading the previous 4 books in the Cousins War series and really enjoying them, I bought this latest release in the hope that this would be just as good and to find out more about what happened after Richard III was defeated and Henry VII came to the throne. In terms of being informative about what happened after it succeeded but for me it just wasn’t as good or as well written as the previous 4 novels.
After Richard III’s defeat in battle, Princess Elizabeth of York must now marry Henry who she was betrothed to years ago. Though after her scandalous affair with her own uncle Richard, Henry treats her terribly and harshly before their marriage to the point where at times it is quite difficult to read. After their engagement is announced [which is quite early on] this is where I begin to lose interest in the book. Their wedding, their children and their lives I just didn’t care for at all. I hated Henry and his mother, Margaret Beauford [even though I grew to love her in her own novel The Red Queen], I wanted Henry to be defeated in battle by the boy they call the lost York Prince and Elizabeth’s brother, Richard.
The writing in these books is also not as good; it is quite repetitive and even someone like me who is pretty slow on character recognition got bored of all the explanations of who everyone was multiple times. The conversations between Henry and Elizabeth were very similar throughout, never really getting anywhere and full of hate and carefully spoken words. It’s something that made me quite bored around halfway through the book so I stopped reading for a few day and went back to it. For that reason I think the novel could have been made a little shorter than it is.
Though there are good moments like the love shown between Henry and Elizabeth before he goes to France, though that quickly changes when he returns. After a while though I did start to care about Elizabeth, she is stuck in a loveless marriage with a man she detests and constantly living on edge of being called a traitor just for being a York. It seems to me that she is an unfortunate pawn in a game others are playing for her, she was meant to unite the cousins by marrying Henry but that never really works with her constantly berated or under suspicion.
The last 100 or so pages where Lady Katherine Huntly arrives at court with the pretender to the throne completely redeemed the book for me. We get to see a better side of Elizabeth and we get to see just how much she has grown up from her teenage years when she flaunted her affair with her uncle Richard in front of his wife Anne to the demure and long suffering Queen of England and mother she has become. At this point, the girl who only cared about her beauty, marrying for love and restoring the York name is gone and in her place is a respectable woman only bothering about the wellbeing of her children and their safety.
I hate writing negative reviews but I have to be honest about it and the book left me quite disappointed. Though it follows on from the defeat of Richard III where The Red Queen ends, it just doesn’t sit as well as the previous four books. The others seem to have been written with care and are well structured to balance the history with the fiction whereas this seems a little rushed with characters that I couldn’t seem to find a care about most of the time. I think it could have been edited better to make it a shorter, more concise novel but though it is not the best book in the series if you stick with it you will be rewarded with a character you can support in Elizabeth and some very good writing.
Check out my reviews of the first 4 books in the Cousins War Series by Philippa Gregory here.