Review: The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Saturday, 1 November 2014

About the Book:
Title: The King's Curse
Author: Philippa Gregory
Series: The Cousin's War Series
Genre: Historical, Adult
Age Range: 15+
Publication Date: 14th August 2014
Pages: 604 pages (hardback)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

As an heir to the Plantagenets, Margaret is seen by the King's mother as a powerful threat to the Tudor claim to the throne. She is buried in marriage to a Tudor supporter - Sir Richard Pole, governor of Wales - and becomes guardian to Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon.  But Margaret's destiny, as cousin to the queen, is not for a life in the shadows. Tragedy throws her into poverty and only a royal death restores her to her place at young Henry VIII's court where she becomes chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. There she watches the dominance of the Spanish queen over her husband and her tragic decline. Amid the rapid deterioration of the Tudor court, Margaret must choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical Henry VIII or to her beloved queen. Caught between the old and the new, Margaret must find her own way, concealing deep within her the knowledge that an old curse cast upon all the Tudors is slowly coming true...

Anyone that knows me will know that I am a huge Philippa Gregory fan, so really it's no surprise that I loved this book. I know she's not popular with everyone because of the liberties she takes with history, but who on earth reads historical fiction for facts? I don't take her word as gospel truth by any means, I just think she has a remarkable gift for quite literally bringing history to life; her style of writing means I can visualise everything so perfectly in my mind. Of course not everyone will feel this way, her style just happens to suit me very well.

Lady Margaret Pole is an historical figure who's point of view is simply fascinating to read from; not just because of her character but also because she sees so much. Albeit from the sidelines mostly, it's still refreshing to get yet another point of view on events such as the break with Rome, the fall of Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour. Margaret herself is a great character, she's a lot older than most of the protagonists I read about but that hardly mattered, she's ambitious (though she'd never admit it), shrewd and stubbornly loyal. Loyal to the point of almost recklessness that threatens to destroy her whole family. Other characters in this book quickly became some of my favourites; Mary Tudor (who Gregory hasn't written an awful lot on) has a prominent role in this book and is written in exactly the way I expect and love, her son; Henry/Montague Pole was one of my favourites of the entire novel (though weirdly Margaret preferred Geoffrey, for reasons I will never understand) and of course my old favourite; Katherine of Aragon. I also liked the little snippet of Elizabeth of York we got, though she isn't in it much I like her despite her perhaps meek portrayal in The White Princess.

The overlap with the other books is one of my favourite things about this novel, it really bridges the gap between her Cousin's War series and the Tudor Court novels. The events of The Constant Princess were just as painful this time around, and I found it really interesting to read the events of The Other Boleyn Girl from someone quite removed from the story and on the opposing side. Once again I am quite disappointed with Gregory's portrayal of Jane Seymour who is possibly my favourite of the six wives, of course it could be Margaret's biased opinion but if I had to pick a fault that would definitely be it. But overall the plot in this book is really quite good. There's a strong sense of intrigue and danger to her position that is only really brought to the forefront because Margaret is so aware of how delicate her position is, and the later portion of the book really is quite heartbreaking, though it has it's tragic moments throughout.

I'm not really surprised that I absolutely loved this book. Margaret perhaps isn't my favourite protagonist of Gregory but the way this book has written really outshines a couple of her others; it's well paced and exciting, and I've always loved the way that she explores the possibilities of certain historical rumours/legends were they true (such as the curse of the Tudors, funnily enough). Although it doesn't make for the most accurate book it definitely gets the reader thinking. Another solid effort from my queen of historical fiction!


Georgia said...

I honestly don't read nearly enough Historical Fiction...but I DID grow up on it and found this era really fascinating. (I loved Mary, Bloody Mary...although I can't remember the authors name. >_<) This does sound really good! I LOVE it when favourite authors don't disappoint. x)

Thanks for stopping by @ Notebook Sisters!

Georgia said...

Historical Fiction is for sure my favourite. I actually need to get out of this genre a little because it's pretty much all I read. You should have a go at Philippa Gregory, her books are really fantastic :)

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