Title: Shadow on the Crown
Author: Patricia Bracewell
A tidbit about the author
She’s a California girl who majored in English literature in college and taught high school – bless her! She notes that teaching is “the most challenging and rewarding careers that anyone could have.”
The year is 1002. Emma of Normandy, who many will know as the mother of Edward the Confessor, leaves her home and crosses the Narrow Sea at the age of 15 to marry the 35 year-old Anglo-Saxon king, Æthelred II, also know as Æthelred the Unready. The king is cruel and heartless, and a bit mad. The Vikings attack. To survive, Emma must find allies in this world.
The scene that made you laugh out loud or cheer
There are many scenes where cheering is called for: Emma learns what she must do to win the hearts of the Anglo-Saxon people; she outwits the evil Elgiva on numerous occasions; she attempts to escape from the Viking Forkbeard (go, Emma, go!), and Athelstan (son of Æthelred) arrives to save her.
The place where you wanted to throw the book across the room
Almost any scene with Emma’s rival, Elgiva, made me cringe. Elgiva is the daughter of a powerful ealdorman and could have been queen to Æthelred, but politics and power dictated who would marry whom. Elgiva is the king’s whore, torn between him, her father and her brother. But she has no redeeming qualities. I don’t feel a bit of sympathy for her. Bracewell may have done her job in creating a character readers will dislike, but I found myself skimming many of the scenes she is in.
A memorable line
“…he noticed a movement ahead of him and to his right, like the ripple of a wind breathing across a field of wheat. Puzzled, he stared at the brightly colored crowd, and amid their hues of green and yellow and rust, he made out a lone black form moving, swift as a hawk’s shadow, toward the king.”
This was my first foray into this time period of English history and I struggled with many of the Anglo-Saxon names – trying to keep the huge cast of characters straight was a challenge. But Bracewell paints a vivid picture of each one – so stick with the book because as the story unfolds, I dare you NOT to get sucked in.
However, if you don’t like a little romance with your historical fiction, this may not be the book for you. Personally, I loved it (and wanted more)! This is a sweeping historical adventure with a compelling story. Bracewell’s words create images of time and place – you are there. And Emma? I look forward to reading book 2 of this trilogy.