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A Reader of Fictions: Review + Giveaway: Shadow on the Crown

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review + Giveaway: Shadow on the Crown

Shadow on the Crown
Emma of Normandy, Book 1

Author: Patricia Bracewell
Pages: 416
Publisher: Viking Adult
Source: Publisher for Review

Description from Goodreads:
A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers.

First Sentence: "She made a circuit of the clearing among the oaks, tree times round and three times back whispering spells of protection."

I read a fair amount of historical fiction, but so much of it covers the same eras and places over and over again. Not that there's not a lot to draw from in Tudor or Regency England, or from WWI and WWII, but it's so refreshing to read historicals that draw from other eras, ones that I know less about. In fact, I knew nothing about the time period in which Shadow on the Crown is set, early eleventh century Europe, primarily England. Bracewell draws a brilliant portrait of a young woman sent to foreign shores to be Queen of England.

Shadow on the Crown captured me immediately. The beautiful writing and vibrant characters pulled me into this past era and made me want to stay there for a while. Bracewell has a knack for description and sets the scene so well. She introduces her rather large cast of similarly named characters with a deft hand, and I had no trouble remember which names corresponded to which characters.

Emma, though a product of her age, is not a weak woman by any means. In fact, her brother sends her to wed Athelred, King of England, instead of her older sister, because he thinks she will be of more use. Though intimidated by her new role in life, Emma does not cower or shrink. She confronts Athelred with her thoughts and opinions, though he has no wish to hear them. I love her for her spunk, and I felt horribly for every horrible thing she went through, of which there were many.

Emma's relationship with Athelred is rocky. He is accustomed to a weaker wife, and ends up seeking pleasure in other arms, scheming ones. Though she doesn't miss him, Emma needs an heir to cement her role as queen. Further complicating matters are Emma's mutual feelings for someone so close to her but so out of reach. Their love is heartbreaking in its dedicatedness in the face of lack of hope.

All of the characters are well-drawn, not just Emma. Especially fascinating is Athelred, haunted by the memory of his brother Edward, slain so Athelred could have the crown. Beset by his inner demons, Athelred descends into ever-worsening spirals of paranoia and cruelty. Even Elgiva, the scheming sexpot from the Northern part of the country is more complex than she at first seems. I love that Bracewell took the time to add depth to even minor characters, like Hilde, daughter of a traitor.

In so much of the historical fiction I've read, England is a strong country, dominant on the political scene or at least a force to be reckoned with. In Shadow on the Crown, England is sorely pressed to keep the Vikings from taking over. Though there are not many conflicts that occur within the pages of the novel, the Vikings are a looming menace throughout. The Viking attack scenes that do happen are intense.

Towards the end, the pace of the book did slow a bit for me. I started worrying that everything would not be able to wrap up, and it didn't. Evidently there are more books in the works, though this information is not yet on Goodreads, so I made up my own series title. I am not completely happy of the ending of this installment, but if I had the next book within reach, I would eagerly dive into it. I must know what happens to Emma, and will try to resist the urge to google that.

Historical fiction fans, do yourselves a favor and procure a copy of Patricia Bracewell's Shadow on the Crown. I expect that I'll be reading many more Bracewell books in the future.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote: "'You are not the first bride, Emma, to go to the bed of a foreign king, and you must be very clear about what is expected of you. Bear in mind that you go to your lord not as a woman, but as a queen. In the same way, he comes to you not as a man, but as a king. He will not be father to you, not lover, nor even friend. Do not expect it. All you can expect from his hands is what any of his subjects can expect, and that is justice and mercy. You, as queen, though, must demand one thing more. You must demand his respect. Never forget that for a moment, and never do anything that might cause you to forfeit it.'"

The good folks at Penguin are offering up a giveaway copy to one of my readers in the US. Just fill out the Rafflecopter to enter!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blogger Emily Blake said...

I've always enjoyed historical fiction about queens and royalty, especially adult historical fiction, and I've never heard of this book before. It looks really awesome and I'm really glad you loved it. Fingers crossed I win! Lol ;P

February 15, 2013 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's so good, especially if you're into those genres anyway. AND the cover is gorgeous too. Your odds should be decent, since generally less people get excited about the non-YA books, sadly.

February 15, 2013 at 4:29 PM  
Blogger Adriana @ BooksOnHerMind said...

I love the drama! I don't think I've ever read a historical fiction book based around a king and queen which is odd because it's one of the most interesting eras in history. God! I feel the injustice that she must face with her man running around with other women. Being a woman herself she must be cast aside a lot too. Vikings? Badass. Makes me want to read it more... hmm... I wonder what books out there are have Vikings too...

February 15, 2013 at 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had doubts about reading this book. I'm glad you liked it! Now I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on it!

February 16, 2013 at 1:07 AM  
Blogger Carol N Wong said...

I am reading "The Devil's Queen" by Jeanne Kaalogradis, set in the 1500s and am struck by the promenince of astrology. I am enjoying the change from Tudor England. I like to balance the historical fiction books with lots of variety. Thank you for the giveaway,


February 16, 2013 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I'm reading this ebook right now! Let's see if we agree on this one. *quivers*

February 16, 2013 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger Historical Reminiscing with Marilyn said...

Sounds wonderful...
Marilyn (ewatvess@yahoo.com

February 17, 2013 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

Ooo, you don't know what happens next in Emma's life? Oh boy. I DO know, and that's why I was so upset by the ending because I was all "but but but what about XX and XX?" So yeah. There better be a sequel or I'll be super peeved.

And yay, I'm glad you liked it and rated it so highly! (The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because I read another book about Emma and had some preconceived ideas about how her story should be told. So you know...)

February 17, 2013 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Bewitched reader said...

I totally agree with you on the era's that are always repeated over and over. For me it gets boring and maybe that's why I don't read to many historical fiction very often. After reading your review and knowing its set back way further in time the book sounds really interesting. I'm actually looking forward to reading this book. Thank you for such a GREAT review on this book!!

February 18, 2013 at 3:04 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wow! I don't know how you've missed those. The Tudors at least! :-p

She does get cast aside a lot, but she's not meek at all. I feel so bad for strong-willed women with the misfortune of living in that time period.

February 18, 2013 at 8:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

So happy to hear that! It's a wonderful book!

February 18, 2013 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've never heard of that book/author, so I'll have to look into it. Astrology isn't my thing, but, depending on how it's handled, that could be lovely!

February 18, 2013 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Christina said...


February 18, 2013 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

There were several references on the internet to this being a trilogy, including the author's website. Perhaps Penguin hasn't officially picked them up yet, or maybe they just haven't announced the series name, so it's not up on GR yet. I really don't know.

Oooh, another book about Emma? That sounds awesome.

February 18, 2013 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

At this point, I hardly want anything to do with The Tudors, though I did love Gilt by Katherine Longshore. It's just so overdone, when there are so many other interesting eras of history. I hope you love it!

February 18, 2013 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...

This sounds interesting. I'm always interested in historical fiction since I love reading about what the different eras were like. I think it's also great to read something from a woman's perspective, especially one that is not subservient. Thank you for the great review!

February 18, 2013 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

This is such a great one. So glad you're interested in Shadow on the Crown now!

February 19, 2013 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I also love good works of historical fiction. I find that I've read lots on Tudor England and Ancient Egypt myself, so it is always refreshing to find out about well-received books from other eras. Also! This era is right before when William the Conqueror wins the Battle of Hastings, so that's really interesting. I know a little about William but not about the state of the country beforehand. I'm glad to hear that you found the characters well-developed and the story enjoyable overall. I will definitely make sure that I keep this book in mind when I need a solid adult historical fiction.

February 19, 2013 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

This one is so good! Oh, huh. I wonder if the series will get there! You should read it for sure.

February 20, 2013 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Psalms w guitar said...

Thanks Christina for another great recommendation! The plot was so well woven. Without spoiling anything, I really enjoyed the character Margot and how she stayed calm and gave key advice.

February 21, 2013 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Interesting that Margot stood out to you so much. I also thought her relationship, and her lack of shame at having a child out of wedlock, was marvelous. Margot is a good supporter, and I don't know if Emma would have made it without her.

February 21, 2013 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Psalms w guitar said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 22, 2013 at 5:43 AM  
Blogger Psalms w guitar said...

I was deeply touched by the way Margot becomes the embodiment and extension of the voice and hands of Emma’s mother. When Emma doesn’t know what to do with the king, her "voice" is there. When Emma would give up in the midst of stormy seas, her "voice" is there. It’s the voice of her mother.

no html spoilers...ok...SPOILER

In light of that, how appropriate that the hands of Margot become the "hands" of her mother to bring forth!

February 22, 2013 at 5:46 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Huh. I don't entirely no what you're getting at to be honest...but it sounds like you really put some thought into that. My focus wasn't on Margot nearly as much. Maybe on a reread I'll be able to delve more deeply into her character.

February 22, 2013 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Psalms w guitar said...

Yes, when I listened to it the second time, I saw this even more. But it is only a small part of the tale. Anyway, it's neat that you have a blog and read so many books. Keep going!

February 22, 2013 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm a huge historical fiction fan but primarily focused on the Tudors and England in general so I agree, this time in history is unfamiliar to me. I have this one but haven't been able to get around to it yet though! Glad to hear you enjoyed this, I've seen several other high ratings for this one... look forward to getting around to this soon. :) Great review!

March 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I plan to.

March 12, 2013 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ah, I'm pretty tired of the Tudors at this point, though I'll make an exception for a really good one. I definitely recommend this!

March 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM  

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