I’m obsessed with the Tudors, and this early glimpse at the machinations behind the return and rise of Henry VIII is a story rife with intrigue, danger, passion, danger and political machinations: far better than any drama you could hope for. Especially as fictional imaginings are laden with fact, and brings the simple truth to light – power will corrupt.
The King’s Curse
The King’s Curse is the sixth book in The Cousin’s War series by Phillippa Gregory, a series that starts with the Plantagenet’s – a 400 year history that brought forth the house of Tudor and York and the War of the Roses.
Although this is the sixth in the series, it is the first of this series that I have read, but Gregory is meticulous in her research (although known for taking liberties) and detail, providing information necessary to the understanding of the characters and events that allows readers to catch on quickly. In just over six hundred pages, and twenty four hours of audio, the details range from broad strokes to minute, requiring readers and listeners to pay attention or miss details.
In this story, set with Margaret Pole as protagonist, is the tale of Henry VIII, and his transformation from promising Prince to tyrannical egomaniac with a child bride. Margaret is an oft-overlooked woman in history, partly because women are often regarded as having less import, but in Margaret’s case, she just wasn’t a particularly likable woman. Acutely aware of her own birth and royal blood, she’s the niece of Richard III, and her life has been a series of tragedies and political matches to remove her political power as a potential figurehead for the Plantagenet dynasty. Cousin to the mother of Henry VII, her life consisted of some minor royal duties as Lady in Waiting to the young Catherine of Aragon.
While managing to present the majority of the story in an “as you are living it” way, the historical hiccups in this story seem to come more from conflicting scholarly theories regarding the progression of events and people, rather than moments that serve the fictional plot. While Margaret’s staunch support of Katherine of Aragon and Mary and her abiding vehement dislike for all things Anne Boleyn are occasionally far beyond what I would have thought safe or prudent considering the treachery and whispers in the ranks of courtiers as everyone jostled for primacy of position, the sense of Margaret’s snobbery and self-import was solidly reinforced in those moments. Because Margaret was, above all things, a snob; measuring each encounter with an eye to bloodline and birth.
The pacing is solid and steady until near the end, when a change in the immediacy of the events being detailed seems to slacken: we are, however detailing the downfall of Henry VIII, and the events that brought it about, and that almost feels fitting.
Narration for this story is provided by Bianca Amato, and does provide the necessary elements of remove, scorn and self-import to Margaret that she needed to make the character come to life. Other characters are detailed and delivered with an overlying touch of Margaret’s opinion of their character, some silly, others sly which drew me into Margaret’s view of the world around her in a rather unique way. Small adjustments to tone, pitch and delivery did help to delineate characters, but for the most part, one was also TOLD who was speaking, and with a story so full of characters familiar and not, it was a difficult task to present distinction that was both unique and solely owned by just one character. Amato has a lovely voice and delivery style, and her careful pacing allowed for easy listening.
While not a read or listen in one sitting type of story, if the television production of The White Queen interested you, or you are a fan of Philippa Gregory’s work, this is a wonderful addition with a protagonist that will not be on the ‘most loved’ list, but certainly has an interesting place in the Tudor history.
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 3 Story 4
Title: The King's Curse
Author: Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction
Narrator: Bianca Amato
Published by: SimonandSchuster.com/Audio, Touchstone
Published on: 9 September, 2014
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio
Audio Length: 24 Hours: 16 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the Starz original series The White Queen comes the story of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.
Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII's claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter - Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret's contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.
After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret's world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and "holiest" woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.
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A copy of this title was provided via Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.