The Kingmaker's Daughter
by Philippa Gregory
Fourth book in the Cousins' War series, following The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Lady of the Rivers.
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is known to his countrymen as the Kingmaker. It was with his aid that Edward IV gained the throne of England. He's head of one of the wealthiest families in England and the powerful leader of the North. He's raised his two daughters, Isabel and Anne, with a full awareness of their family's greatness, and constantly he and his wife scheme to place their elder daughter Isabel on the queen's throne. Should she fail, then Anne will follow in her footsteps. Both girls are groomed from a very young age for their future roles. But Anne is terrified of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's queen. She's convinced that the beautiful woman is a witch, and as the years pass and her family's fortunes rise and fall, Anne is certain that Woodville has a personal vendetta with herself and Isabel. At every tragedy or turn in the family fortune, Anne blames Elizabeth Woodville, and the hatred threatens to consume her.
I have found the books in the Cousins' War series to be rather uneven. The White Queen was excellent. The Red Queen was not. The Lady of the Rivers was incredibly entertaining. The Kingmaker's Daughter is not, which suffers from the same problem that plagues The Red Queen: an unlikeable narrator.
Anne Neville's story starts when she is quite young; she is only eight years old when she is first introduced to Queen Elizabeth in the opening scene. Understandably, her grasp on the politics of the day is childish. She refers to the previous monarchs as “the sleeping king” and “the bad queen” and fears them because they might come back and seek revenge against her father, who unthroned them. The trouble is that she never really grows past this mindset, even when she's an adult. It could be called naivete or innocence, I suppose, but it really seems more like haughty stubbornness by the time she's in her late teens. The narration is very clunky as Anne constantly reiterates thoughts expressed in previous chapters. Like, in one chapter she'll have a thought like, “Elizabeth Woodville is a witch.” In the next chapter, she'll mention this to her sister or her father. In the next chapter, she'll brood over it, only to bring it up again a few pages later. This repetition makes Anne sound like a nagging, whining child.
The novel is being advertised as Gregory's first “sister” novel since The Other Boleyn Girl because of the focus on Isabel and Anna. They are both rivals and best friends, and I have to admit that their relationship was one of the things I liked best in the book. As children, Isabel plays the haughty big sister who will get the throne of England while Anne will always be common, but as the two girls grow older they remain very close. Anne doesn't appear to make friends, in part because of her family's precarious situation but also, I suspect, due to her personality, so her sister is often the only person willing to listen to her. Isabel definitely suffers from some of the same character flaws as her sister, but her older years grant her a maturity to understand and accept events when they don't go quite as the Kingmaker planned.
At the end of the novel, I was eager to separate fact and fiction, so I was looking forward to the Author's Note. It was frustratingly brief. At less than two pages, there just wasn't enough information about political events after the novel's end, or on what changes she made to history for the sake of a good story. This may be due to the fact that much of this information has been addressed in the notes following the other stories in this series, but if I was someone who had not yet read those books, that wouldn't do me much good.
I'm a little disappointed with the jacket design for this book. For the other books in the Cousins' War series, there was a definite uniformity to the book covers:
Sadly, it looks like this was abandoned for The Kingmaker's Daughter.
3 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Graveminder by Melissa Marr
2008: The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins