Thursday, March 18, 2010
Review: The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical fiction
Trade paperback, 400 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks Publishing
When six-year-old Kate Woodville’s beautiful sister Elizabeth makes a shocking—and secret—marriage to King Edward IV in 1464, Kate and her large family are whisked to the king’s court. Soon a bedazzled Kate becomes one of the greatest ladies in the land when she marries young Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. But Kate’s fairy-tale existence as a duchess is shattered when the ongoing conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York engulfs the Woodville family.
As Edward IV fights to keep his crown, Harry’s relatives become hopelessly divided between Lancaster and York. Forced constantly to struggle with his own allegiances, Harry faces his defining moment when his dear friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester, determines to seize the throne for himself as Richard III. With lives in jeopardy and nothing less than a dynasty at stake, Harry’s loyalties—and his conscience—will be put to the ultimate test.
Lancastrians against Yorkists: greed, power, murder, and war. As the story unfolds through the unique perspective of Kate Woodville, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is wholly evil—or wholly good.
Kate Woodville and Harry Stafford are the narrators of the events in this book. Their marriage and positions at court allowed them to be observers of the major events which occurred during this time: the rise of Edward IV, the defeat of Warwick the Kingmaker, the rise and fall of Richard III, and lastly the beginning of the Tudor dynasty with Henry VII.
The chapters switch back and forth between Kate and Harry's point of view. It is them reflecting back on the past and telling their side or opinion of the events. Both are excellent story tellers and a wee bit sarcastic which I love. Whatever their faults, Kate and Harry did love each other and unfortunately live in a point in time when reason and loyalty did not always prevail.
I think by using two characters who were not major players at court (at least for the most part) Higginbotham is able to present the events in a very even handed manner. It allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. When Edward IV marries Bess, he brings her large family to court, arranging powerful marriages, and securing them high positions. How else was Edward going to break free from Warwick's influence? Edward built his own power base via the Woodville family, making them a target for every one's jealousy.
Richard III and his thirst for power: He executes anyone who is a threat to him and his bid for the throne, including many of the Woodvilles and Edward IV's two young sons. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Richard uses the admiration and love, albeit not totally brotherly love, Harry Stafford bears for him to gain the throne.
It would be easy to despise Harry for this, but when you consider his lonely childhood, his family background, being ignored at court for many years growing up, his actions are understandable. Harry had loved and idolized Richard since childhood, and at one point the two even became blood brothers. There was almost nothing Harry wouldn't do for Richard, and he knew that. Harry does try to make amends for his actions but is unable to see them through. At least Harry was the spark for the beginning of the end of the War of the Roses.
It is interesting that at some points, Kate and Harry were on opposite sides of this conflict. Yet in the end, they remained true to one another.
I loved this book. I thought the writing was free and easy; the tale just flowed. The story drew me in by the end of page one and I felt for each and every character, even Richard III. This is yet another book that makes me want to seek out more information about Richard the III, and the events leading up to Edward IV's reign.
At the end of the story, Higginbotham includes a few pages of notes and her reasoning for character selection and portrayal of events. I thought her notes were quite interesting and was the perfect way to close out the book.
My Rating: 97/100. I enjoyed the writing immensely and look forward to reading Higginbotham's other books.
2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction, Reading Romance
Thank you to Danielle from Sourcebooks for my review and giveaway copy.
If you would like to win a copy of this book, please stop here for your chance to win.