Sunday, February 12, 2012
Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber
Welsh orphan Gwineth as promised her family that she will avenge the ravaging of her homeland by ruining Edward II. Working as the handmaid to his neglected queen Isabella she finds herself sympathizing with the woman and loathing the many indignities Edward and his ruthless favorite Hugh Despenser subject her to. But Isabella is no weak woman and soon starts her own affair with Roger Mortimer, leaving Gwineth torn between her own safety and overthrowing the weak willed king.
I've always felt a little for the She-Wolf of France. She got a raw deal. She was married off to a man who was by most accounts a homosexual who flaunted his affairs in front of his wife and whose favorite, Hugh Despenser was a horrible, power hungry villain. So I feel like she simply acted like a man in a man's world and has been vilified herself for it. So this was an interesting more sympathetic take on the queen. Probably more sympathetic than she actually was, but being honest that Mortimer was just as power hungry as Despenser was. I think the most telling thing about Isabella in history is that her son banished her and killed Mortimer, but didn't banish her that far away and by most accounts she lived a long, relatively content life. That speaks of someone whose son didn't quite see her as a total monster as she's been portrayed.
The book itself was well written, though Gwineth and Owen felt like rather flat characters. The real characters were far more interesting. The romance also felt bland as Owen really had no personality. Most of the action is centered on Isabella's life right before she rebelled against Edward II and the ending felt rushed because of it. It was a book that made me look more into Isabella and how she's been portrayed. She was an interesting woman who may have gotten a raw deal from history.