Friday, 18 November 2016

Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen is the first book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series about the War of the Roses. The heroine is Elizabeth Woodville, a widow with two young boys, who has been left destitute after her husband's death while fighting for the Lancastrian cause. Her sons' inheritance has been seized back by her mother-in-law, so she waits upon the road hoping to meet the new king, Edward IV, and plead for her cause. Edward, however, takes one look at her and falls madly in love (or rather, lust) and is determined to have her for his own, even if that means going against the man who made him king, the Earl of Warwick. When Edward tries to force himself on Elizabeth she turns a knife on him, so he agrees to marry her. But as the marriage takes place in secret, with very few witnesses, is it even legal?

The beginning of the story took me a little by surprise, as it is similar to those historical romances I love to read, with not quite so much of the battles and beheadings I'm used to reading about in Philippa Gregory's books. But the characters were very likeable and realistically portrayed, and it was fascinating getting a glimpse of the real people behind the stories in the history books. The first half of the book shows the endless battles Edward went through to keep his throne (we experience them second-hand through Elizabeth, waiting patiently at home). The second half is about how Elizabeth is forced into various alliances to protect her children.

I did enjoy reading The White Queen, and would happily give it five stars, but out of the series I think I preferred the later stories. The Red Queen, about Elizabeth's frenemy Margaret Beaufort, was a far more interesting character, as was Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg (The Lady of the Rivers) and sometime 'witch'. 

As The Lady of the Rivers is effectively a prequel to The White Queen and ends at the exact point The White Queen starts, you may wish to start the series with that one. I wish I had read it first, as it would have helped me understand the characters motivation a bit more, and who they all were.

Related Reviews:

The Red Queen (#2 The Cousins' War)
The Lady  of the Rivers (#3 The Cousins' War)

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