Thursday, 15 April 2010

Book Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

Product Details:
Pocket Books
Paperback, 400 pages.
Release date: April 15th 2010.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Series: Cousins' War Book 1.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Product Description:

Philippa Gregory presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses.

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London...

I loved Gregory’s ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and have always been pretty interested in the Tudor period in English history, but I have no great knowledge of the preceding Plantagenet age in which this book is set.   I know a little of The Wars of the Roses and of  the  Missing Princes in the Tower, but that’s it.  Before reading this book on Elizabeth Woodville, I knew nothing of her at all.  However, Gregory really brought these characters to life for me.  she has chosen a fascinating female protagonist, and the era in which this is set is just as exciting and interesting as the Tudor era.

My lack of knowledge on this period in history made this book a very exciting read for me.  I usually find lengthy battle scenes in historical novels pretty boring, but here I found them to be tense and exciting since I didn‘t know the outcome of most of them. If there was one main difference between Gregory’s Tudor books and this one, then it was the suspense factor for me. The Tudor books didn’t hold much surprise for me as through study, books and even TV, I have a good background in Tudor chronology. Here, I feared for the characters at every turn.  I didn’t know what hand fate would deal them next, and I loved it.

While my lack of background knowledge on the time period added to my enjoyment of the book, it brought it’s problems too.  With so many battles, so many changed allegiances and so much plotting going on, it is sometimes easy to get confused.  That’s before I even mention the names.  There are so many Edwards and Richards in this book, that things can get a little muddled.  I did a little background reading and looked up a chronology of English Kings and Queens online, and this helped. 

Elizabeth herself is an interesting character to read about.   As powerful and resourceful as she is ambitious and ruthless,  I liked her for the most part, although her relentless ambition was a little grating in the end.  I loved the added supernatural element to Elizabeth’s story, in which Gregory weaves the tale of Melusina, the water goddess alongside the story of Elizabeth for she and the female members of her family are descended from this otherworldly being.  I loved the additions of magic and witchcraft to the story - it was something I hadn’t expected, but it really worked for me.  Gregory also has an interesting viewpoint on the missing princes in the tower.  It is a mystery that has never been solved, and I  very much enjoyed reading her take on it.

Overall I think this is a great read for fans of historical fiction.  It  is a wonderful prequel to Gregory's Tudor series, and  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, The Red Queen, due for release in August 2010.


  1. Great review! I also loved this book and am looking forward to The Red Queen. I didn't know much about the time period either before I read this book. It definitely kept me entertained. I liked the supernatural part of this novel, too! :)

  2. I thought the supernatural stuff was great, but I read some reviews where people really hated that part of the book. There's a third book too about Elizabeth Woodville's daughter Elizabeth. Seriously, with the names! They only used like five different names back then!

  3. I love a good historical fiction novel, and this sounds like one! I'm really interesting in read The White Queen - I'll be on the lookout for it in the library next time.

  4. I think you'll enjoy it for sure, Emidy. Just remember to look up a family tree online - it really helps with this one!

  5. I'm really glad Gregory is writing about the Plantagenet'a now. I didn't know much about them before I read The White Queen but they're so interesting it's hard to believe the only other exposure I had was Shakespeares Richard III!
    I'm looking forward to The Red Queens release later this year, but I think I'm more excited for the third book following the younger Elizabeth.
    Love the Review!

  6. Thanks! I'm also more excited for the third book in the series. I think it'll be a really good one!

  7. I also LOVED the Other Boleyn Girl and have this on my TBR list so quite a while. I've got to read it!

  8. I can't wait to read this book. I'm in the process of another book at the moment but my next is this book.


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