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Book Review

Book Cover

Shadow on the Crown (Hardback)


Author: Patricia Bracewell
Publisher: Harper Collins
RRP: £14.99, US $27.95
ISBN: 978 0 00 748173 6
Publication Date: 06 June 2013

Christmas 1001 AD would see one of the worse winters to pass over the nascent European states. Amongst those carried away was the wife of Ethelred II of England and the newly borne child. With the king's wife dead an opportunity to gain an alliance with England arises. The King's nobles want him to marry Elgiva of Northampton, a voluptuous and ambitious woman, but such an alliance would give the northern lords too much power. A marriage with the young and intelligent Emma of Normandy may secure the Kingdom's boarders against the Vikings, but at what cost...?

Shadow of the Crown is a historical drama written by Patricia Bracewell. The book uses the Anglo Saxon Chronicles as its basis and, much like Greek and Roman history, facts are intermixed with created dialogue in an effort to bring the history to life.

Being a modern interpretation of historical events the reader must accept some flexibility with the language, mainly, because Anglo Saxon would be pretty unreadable to most of the modern audience. Names have been kept to their original spelling but some anachronisms, like ‘hubbub’, a word whose first recording would be five hundred years later than the events depicted, are used and have to be accepted.

I already knew this particular section of English history, a time of great threat and change where two women would play an important part in the destiny of the nation. Both Emma of Normandy and Elgiva of Northampton would become important historical figures, partially through their marriages but also because of who their sons would become.

If you’re feeling that the Tudor period has been done to death then maybe it’s time to set back a few hundred year to a more barbarous time. Oddly enough, given its current popularity the book would probably appeal to fans of Game of Thrones, as it has many of the same elements of sex and violence, characteristics that both books share, although the names are closer to Tolkien.

I’m all for anything which can introduce readers to history. Some texts can be dry, lacking in drama, so would you rather read Tacitus or Suetonius or dive into Alaan Massie’s excellent dramatizations of the lives of the early Caesar’s and who really took that much notice of Tudor history at school, but went out and bought The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory? In all of these books the history is spot on and so it is with this book. It certainly makes for a more enjoyable experience.

Patricia Bracewell does a fine job of weaving together the threads of the story, presenting them in an understandable way. Human nature changes little over the ages of civilisation and Bracewell is able to bring to the fore the duality of power and powerlessness that women found themselves in this period of history.

Overall, this was a most enjoyable book, rooted in well researched history, the author has been able to make this period of history come alive once more.


Charles Packer

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