Saturday, February 4, 2012
The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry
Joan is the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. She is often caught between the power struggle of her father, mother and various brothers, none of whom get along with each other. Joan herself tries to keep everyone happy, but she finds herself a political pawn of her parents and shipped off to a marriage that she does not want. Trying to live up to her mother's directions on being a good queen, Joan finds the odds stacked against her and can't shake her interest in a childhood friend for whom she had feelings. Forced to act or be devoured by the politics around her, Joan uses her intelligence to try to protect herself and maybe stand for who she really is.
This book proved to be surprisingly good. I never know what I'm getting into with YA historical fiction dealing with "princesses" because there's a tendency to romanticize things. I'm not saying this book DIDN'T take a lot of liberties, but it also kept a lot of reality to the plight of being a royal female used as a political game piece. Joan isn't a weak willed person, but she is living in a time when women simply didn't have many options, especially women born into power. Joan has much of the mentality to be expected from women of the time. She values strength more than kindness and despises her husband for being weak more than anything else. Her first marriage is tolerated and she is caught in the trap of having to go between a vindictive sister-in-law and a mother-in-law who recognizes her daughter's scheming. The conflict between Henry II and his sons is portrayed interestingly as well. Neither side is blameless and both groups of men have some seriously unlikable flaws. Richard, who is Joan's favorite brother, proves to be a bully and downright cruel to Joan when she defies him, yet no one sees this as odd as men of the time were expected to act no differently. Joan's second husband who she greatly loves has plenty of illegitimate children running around. This was the middle ages and things were different. The book is honest about that and interesting because of that.
I only don't give the book a higher rating because there was a LOT of liberty taken with history and the author admits it. Also Joan seems much older than she actually is. Even in the middle ages I don't think a 10 year old would talk and react to things like Joan does. Other than that, it's a highly enjoyable read.