Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Published: 2010
Page Count: 377
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Note: Book 2 in The War of the Roses series
There are a lot of historical fiction books out there and even a lot to choose from by this author, but this novel is a solid choice for those interested in immersing themselves in the lives of the dark, politically driven British monarchy.
*Unique main character *Good ebb and flow of drama
*Main Character can be annoying
“I tell you that God will have my son Henry on the throne of England.” Margaret Beaufort has only ever wanted a life in service to God, but women don’t get to decide their futures in Medieval England. She is passed from husband to husband in order to further her house’s fortunes, but she sees this as nothing but a distraction from her true calling of being a great servant of God. It is only with the birth of her child, Henry, that she believes she has finally found her calling, which is to make him the king of England.
There are a lot of historical fiction books about queens out there. The dark queen, the white queen, the virgin queen, the red queen….they all start to blend together and I was hoping I hadn’t already read this book and forgotten about it. However, when you start reading The Red Queen, you can tell it is something completely different from what you’re used to from Philippa Gregory and other authors of the genre. This is not some saucy seduction tale of a young maiden making her way to the throne. The main character is the most chaste and religious of Gregory’s characters I’ve read and she is seeking a throne for her son instead of herself. Because Margaret is part of the backbone of her son’s campaign, the reader gets to see a lot more of the political backstabbing and plotting that was usually background noise in other novels. One can feel the uncertainty of the times, the desperation, and the helplessness of a woman trying to play in a man’s world.
Though Margaret is a strong female character, she can sometimes come across as self-righteous and extremely blind to her own faults. She spends the entire book trying to reassure herself that she is the embodiment of a perfect servant of God and that she is not easily swayed by things like greed and vanity. However, her emotions get the best of her near the conclusion of the book and it’s evident she is not immune to jealousy and pettiness. You really just wanted to slap her at some points, because her justification for her actions were so forced. She’s not a lovable main character in my book but with what she has to deal with, you can at least respect her ability to outwit and outlast the best of England.
I was losing faith in historical fiction since a lot of the stories seem very similar. However, The Red Queen is a fresh look into the past that has a good balance of history, romance, and politics. It’s also an interesting read if you’ve indulged in some of Gregory’s other books in The War of the Roses series as they all tie together. I’ve still got a few more books to read in that series, but I can’t wait to see the events from this book through another famous person’s eyes.