Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir (Review)

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon The True Queen

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

Blurb

At sixteen years old, Catalina is alone among strangers. Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And Catalina can find no comfort in any of it. She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother. She cannot trust even those assigned to protect her. The first of henry’s queens. Her story.

Review

I have been collecting the series of the Six Tudor Queens since they were first published and finally I have started to read them. Thankfully so far I have not been disappointed.

I have always been fascinated by the Tudors and I have fond memories of my big sister teaching me about Henry VIII and his six wives. Elizabeth I is my favourite Tudor and I am fascinated by her history. Due to this I could not resist a historical fiction novel by Alison Weir.

I love Katherine of Aragon. She was a queen who knew how to rule and her leadership won a war against Scotland. Henry would have done much better if he had followed her advice but sadly she was another woman who was ignored because she was a woman.

This novel is fantastic at portraying the life of Katherine and I love how most of the letters that are contained in the book are genuine letters, although the language has been modernised to suit a modern novel. The other element I love is that it contains songs that Henry VIII composed and performed because as we know he was a very accomplished composer.

To start with I could not get enough of this book and I couldn’t put it down but as it drew to the inevitable I had to keep having a break because I felt so sorry for poor Katherine. She was the perfect wife, who did everything that was expected of her and more apart from producing a male heir and for that she was punished most severely and unjustly.

Katherine was unbelievably strong and never stood down from her principles and the rights of her daughter Mary. She could have so easily stood down and possibly have had an easier life, but then she would have lost everything she stood for and a woman of Katherine’s character would never have lived with the thought of giving up.

This book was beautifully written and the detail included was excellent. I also liked the characters that Weir created for the ladies in waiting and maids because no real knowledge about those characters are known so that was pure Weir. Maria was an absolute favourite of mine. She was a woman of fire and spirit.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am very excited to start the next one in the series about Anne Boleyn who in my opinion helped change the course of history, although I don’t think she was a very nice person. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction fans and just Tudor lovers. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. It did not get the full 5 sadly because I did have to take a few breaks from it.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Review)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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About the author

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Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

Blurb

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Review

I have heard great things about this book and so when lockdown began I ordered it so I could read it during lockdown and I must admit when I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.

This modern retelling of Homer’s Iliad is a wonderful love story that is full of magic and wonder. Patroclus is the complete opposite to Achilles. He is not strong, or talented in battle. He is not a typical Greek warrior and has never really been understood by the people around him, especially his father. Due to this I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Patroclus and I kept feeling sorry for him because through this story he always suffered in one way or another. However, what Patroclus was, was brave, loving, strong and a fierce friend, you could not ask for a more loyal man.

Achilles was his usual annoying self, he drives me mad in the Iliad and he drove me mad in this book. Achilles is a spoilt brat who is definitely a son of a god and because of this he has a massive chip on his shoulder. The one thing I did pity Achilles about is that he knows his fate and there is no mystery about his future. I find it hard to imagine living knowing exactly what will happen to you, it must be enough to drive you mad.

I absolutely loved this book and I can see people not from a classics background reading this book and falling in love with the mythology of ancient Greece. I highly recommend this book to everyone who likes historical fiction or a love of the classics. I loved the style of writing that Madeline Miller has and I can’t wait to read more of her books. I have given this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Review)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

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About the Author

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Sara Collins studied Law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years. In 2014 she embarked upon the Creative Writing Masters at Cambridge University, where she won the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Recreative Writing and was shortlisted for the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Prize for a book inspired by her love of Gothic Fiction. This turned into her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

Blurb

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

Review

I must admit I was really excited to get this book and read it after seeing it on Facebook with rave reviews. I was also really pleased to get a signed copy from Waterstones. So it was moved to the top of my TBR pile. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

I found this book really annoying, when I first started it I was happily reading away, however it then began to get on my nerves and I was reluctant to keep going. I even stopped reading it for about a week but did return because I wanted to know what happened at the end.

I’m not entirely sure what it was that got on my nerves so much but I think it was the writing style. It just made me reluctant to pick the book up and read it. I also did not like the fact that the blurb pointed that there would be more of a trial being featured and sadly there was hardly any of the trial in the story, it just felt like an afterthought added at the end.

This book includes many themes, slavery, drug abuse, abuse, depression and much more and I think overall there are too many themes covered and it makes the story murky. I also found that certain elements of the story were highly predictable and that made it rather dull to read at times.

Overall, I felt no sympathy for the characters especially Frannie and some of them really got on my nerves, mainly Madame. I felt no real love for the story and will not be reading it again. Most people I am sure will enjoy this book but sadly it was just not my cup of tea. I have given this book 2 out of 5 Dragons.

Purchase links

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Review 15: Dark Tracks by Philippa Gregory

Dark Tracks: Order of Darkness Volume IV by Philippa Gregory

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About the author

Philippa Gregory was born in 1954 in Nairobi, Republic of Kenya. When she was two years old her family moved back to England. She studied English literature at the University of Sussex, where she later switched to the history course. Gregory earned her doctorate in 18th century literature at the University of Edinburgh and has taught at the University of Durham, University of Teeside and the Open University and was made a Fellow of Kingston University in 1994. Gregory’s first work was published in 1987 and she has been writing ever since, one of her most famous works The Other Boleyn Girl has won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award and has been made into two separate films.

Blurb

Luca Vero is a member of the secret Order of Darkness, tasked by his master to uncover the truth behind strange happenings. Although Lady Isolde, her friend and Ishraq, Luca’s manservant Freize, and Brother Peter, Luca travels miles across medieval Europe – seeking out the signs of the end of days, judging the supernatural and testing the new science.

Trapped in a village possessed by dancing madness, the group fights to keep their own sanity. When Isolde dances away in red shoes and Ishraq takes dramatic revenge on their covert assassin, the young people discover that the greatest risk is in the men who have come to their rescue. These are the truly dangerous madmen of Europe who carry a dark hatred that will last for centuries.

Review

I waited for ages for this book to be released and just recently I finally got around to buying it. I have read all the previous books in the series and really enjoyed them, I loved them so much I bought the first two as a present for my niece to read. So as you can imagine I was quite excited to read this book. Sadly the book did not live up to my enthusiasm and I doubt I will be recommending it to my niece.

The story continues with the same five characters from the series, Luca, Brother Peter, Freize, Isolde, and Ishraq. Luca is a novice not yet a full monk who works for the Order of Darkness a secret order that is monitoring things for the signs of the end of days. Brother Peter is a full monk who is following Luca writing down everything that they see and writing the reports for the secret order. He is also the oldest member of the five and makes sure that Luca remains faithful to his training to one day be a monk. Freize is Luca’s manservant who is extremely loyal and unfailing in his service. Isolde is a noblewoman who is trying to fight for her lands and castle with her friend Ishraq who she grew up with.

Luca, Brother Peter and Freize have been sent off to follow and study the people affected by the dancing sickness or madness, people in groups have decided to go off and dance leaving everything they know behind them. As their road is the same as Isolde’s and Ishraq’s they carry on travelling together.

The dancing sickness or madness was a phenomenon that was recorded in medieval times and times after that and there have been many theories as to the cause, however it has never been confirmed as to what it is. I always enjoy Gregory’s books because of the historical references within them and I was intrigued by the dancing sickness when reading about it in the blurb, however the book did not reveal as much as I would like to have learnt about it and the final result the characters came up with regarding it was a huge disappointment, it was like Gregory just wanted the book to finish within a certain word count and so gave up.

The other issue she discussed in the book was the treatment of Jews in the medieval times and this I did find interesting and was horrified about what I learnt from it. The scene at the end of the book was also very interesting. This issue is basically why the book did not get just one star.

In this book I found the two females sadly lacking, in the previous books they had been so strong and not the typical weak female of the time. However, this time Isolde fell in love with a pair of shoes and Ishraq some earrings when they knew they were meant to be on their guard. They came across as very vain and uninteresting. Ishraq did show her fighting skills and that was good to read but Isolde just came across as a protected spoiled brat and the more I read regarding her the less I liked her.

Considering this is the fourth book in the series the characters are not growing and to be honest have grown stale. I want to see their characters develop and to see them grow intellectually and emotionally and to be honest they almost went backwards in this book. Brother Peter and Freize were the only two who made the book bearable.

Overall the book showed what we already know, nobility in medieval times were horrible, self centred and cared nothing for their people. The treatment of Jews was a surprise for me and the dancing sickness was interesting to read about. However I could read about the Jews’ history and the dancing sickness in a history book and probably find it a great deal more interesting. The characters were severely lacking and quite frankly dull. I doubt I will bother to read the next in the series which is a great shame as the previous three were excellent. My rating was a 2 stars out of 5.

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