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Monday, December 13, 2010

Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King

Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland Publisher: Crown
ISBN: 0307452794
Pages: 352 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction/Scotland
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

Summary from Publisher:
Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .

Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises to aid Edgar and the Saxon cause in return for the hand of Edgar’s sister, Margaret, in marriage.

A foreign queen in a strange land, Margaret adapts to life among the barbarian Scots, bears princes, and shapes the fierce warrior Malcolm into a sophisticated ruler. Yet even as the king and queen build a passionate and tempestuous partnership, the Scots distrust her. When her husband brings Eva, a Celtic bard, to court as a hostage for the good behavior of the formidable Lady Macbeth, Margaret expects trouble. Instead, an unlikely friendship grows between the queen and her bard, though one has a wild Celtic nature and the other follows the demanding path of obligation.

Torn between old and new loyalties, Eva is bound by a vow to betray the king and his Saxon queen. Soon imprisoned and charged with witchcraft and treason, Eva learns that Queen Margaret—counseled by the furious king and his powerful priests—will decide her fate and that of her kinswoman Lady Macbeth. But can the proud queen forgive such deep treachery?

Impeccably researched, a dramatic page-turner, Queen Hereafter is an unforgettable story of shifting alliances and the tension between fear and trust as a young woman finds her way in a dangerous world. 
My Review:
I usually avoid books about saints for the simple reason that I had lessons about the lives of saints shoved down my throat as a kid and I wasn’t interested then and I most definitely am not interested now. The only thing that caught my interest was that it was historical fiction and romance. I was thoroughly surprised with how much I liked this book when I let go of my childhood trauma.

I usually must make a connection to the main character in order to like a book. It’s a quirk of mine but it’s become a necessity. I must admit that I did not like Queen Margaret at all. I could not understand her. Her religious beliefs bordered on the fanatical and I think that alone created a disconnect. She was constantly worrying if she was praying enough and quite frankly it was exhausting. I can commiserate with having faith and beliefs but to go as far as to continue to fast while pregnant and to endanger your child because of your beliefs is beyond my comprehension. This is coming from a woman who has no children and is never planning on having any. I did, however, like the other two characters in the book, Malcolm and Eva. It was so much easier to identify with them.

There was much I loved about this book. The depth of historical research was really wonderful.  Susan King really knows her stuff and it comes through in the storytelling.  King’s writing style is engaging and interesting and is the true highlight of the book. She really shined in her descriptions of Scotland. She created a landscape that felt almost tangible. The descriptions made me want to visit Scotland even more, if that’s at all possible—it’s my dream vacation. 

Overall, I did like this book quite a bit. The issues I had with it were character related. I loved the writing and everything else about it. If you like Helen Hollick, or Elizabeth Chadwick’s books, you will probably like this one.   

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog. 

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