Saturday, 28 February 2015

Book: The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen

Title: The Boleyn Reckoning
Series: The Boleyn Trilogy (#3)
Author: Laura Andersen
From: Netgalley
Genre: Alternative History
Release Date: 15th July 2014
Challenges: Winter COYER, 2015 Reading Assignment, 2015 Prequel & Sequel Challenge (2 points + 10 point bonus), 2015 Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge
Links: Goodreads - Amazon

Despite having survived the smallpox, William aka King Henry IX of England, still suffers from the affects of his illness, no longer giving the careful thought to matters of state that he used to. Announcing to everyone that he intends to marry Minuette, he causes anguish and rifts in his court, as well as between him and his best friend, Dominic, who Minuette married in secret. When secrets get revealed in the Tudor court there can be hell to pay, and even a friend's love can not stand against a lover scorned...

I cried. Just getting it out there. In the last few chapters of the book (and by that I mean the last quarter) I cried several times at the pure tension, emotion and hell that the characters are put through. I considered for a while how best to write this review, because I want to try and involve spoilers, but in some ways that just isn't possible. So though I will try and avoid them where possible (even if that means getting a little cryptic) but one or two may be about.

So firstly...Minuette and Dominic's relationship. This was pretty well established by this point (considering they were married at the beginning of the book) and yet, they had so many hurdles to overcome. I loved the fact that, despite the times they had a marriage of equals (maybe down to the fact that no one actually knew they were married) but even so at times the contemporary views about marriage came out. There were points where my heart was breaking for the two of them, even when I knew that things were better than they thought and later in the book I was openly crying.

There is a pretty big twist. Which I guessed before it happened, but even so when what was 'supposed' to happen happened I cried (after all Tudor wrath isn't easily dealt with without violence) and I couldn't stop reading until I knew the truth about events. More than that though, I kept waiting for certain characters to be rescued only to be disappointed, or it to happen in ways that I didn't expect. Hope that was spoiler free enough! (I'm not talking about the obvious characters in some of that!)

The Boleyn Reckoning is an alternative history story, and as such some events changed, meaning that the fates of several other characters changed as well. As this is about the son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, obviously Edward didn't exist at all, and his mother and Henry's other wives didn't get a look in. But what I found interesting was what Andersen did with several other characters. Most notably Mary Tudor (who never ruled), Robert Dudley, Jane Grey*, George Boleyn, Jane Parker-Boleyn (or Lady Rochford) and several others.

I was going to say that Mary Tudor and Jane Grey's fates were the only ones that were changed much, but then I realised that it wasn't true. Actually a lot of characters' fates was completely different (the closest to historical truth was Jane Parker-Boleyn's fate, though for obvious reasons she didn't help Katherine Howard commit adultry with Thomas Culpepper). With the exception of Robert Dudley's fate, the other characters happened close to how I would imagine they would have done anyway had Anne Boleyn had a son, they fit with the events and the story in a way that clearly worked. Robert Dudley's fate is slightly different. Though he didn't have to end the story in the way that he did, I think it would have interesting implications for Elizabeth, both as a rular and as a woman.

Now...Elizabeth, torn between affection for her brother and her country. While William went a bit crazy (though to be fair to him if anyone found out their best friend secretly married the woman you want to marry they'd probably go a bit mad), Elizabeth was trying to ensure that the country ran smoothly. It was a fine line she balanced between treason and loyalty and I felt that this really captured the spirit of Tudor politics, which actually have played a large part in the series as a whole. Elizabeth had to get to where she was going to be anyway**, and I felt that The Boleyn Reckoning really got her there.

William was cleverly characterised in a way that made it clear whose son he was. He had the temper, the power and the wrath of his father, with some of the calculation of his mother and uncle. I liked the way that a lot of his actions mirrored his father's, both in his personal life and in his diplomatic life, it seems in line with the influence Henry VIII would have had on his son, as well as on his personality. But the one thing it did do was make you scared for the characters around him. And that was any character, even Elizabeth and his other sister Mary.

I seem to have talked a lot about various other characters and not so much about Dominic and Minuette, who I felt were the main characters, and who really made an impact on me. I loved the two of them as characters individually and together and I'm sad that I have to part from them at the end of their story.

I haven't even touched on many of the minor characters (other than in my cryptic paragraph) but I did find it hard to remember that this book wasn't real history at points, with the rich descriptions and believable characters. I may have been crying at some points (and seriously scared for some characters) and at others I wanted to call them idiots, but I loved every minute of this book, well the trilogy really. I'll certainly be less wary of Alternative History in the future, and anything Laura Andersen writes will definitely be on my TBR list!

*For anyone that isn't all too aware of English Royal History, Jane Grey ruled England as Queen for 9 days between Edward and Mary in an attempt to avoid England returning to Catholisism under Mary, obviously it failed, and Jane died for her part in the plot.

** The whole premise of the series was that Anne Boleyn had a son but Elizabeth still became Queen anyway.