I did not want to put this book away. Its that simple. My little laptop was my best buddy with this audiobook playing. It accompanied me on all my house chores, while I knitted, even while I showered. I know. I have an addiction, but we arent here to talk about that; we are here to talk about this awesome historical book that I requested simply because I knew so little of the time and location. Patricia Bracewell sure does make ancient, dusty, moldering English history riveting, thought-provoking, and worthy of paying attention to.
Emma was so easy to connect with, and so uncomplicated in her desires and motives; yet she was put in this impossible situation where so much was not within her control. Her simple, perhaps even childish, dreams of a loving marriage and safety had to be set aside for bigger considerations. Through it all, she met it with poise and honor. King Athelred, long bedeviled by a sense of guilt over his brothers death, might finally be loosing it. But in so loosing his wits, he may loose his hold on his kingdom. In his fear and anxiety, he often places unwarranted blame on Emma and forces her into demeaning marital obligations.
Of course, there are also the intrigues and politics of her homeland, Normandy, haunting her. King Ahtelred and her brother, the Duke of Normandy, signed a written agreement that included Normandy no longer provided harbor to the Vikings, who annually ravage the northern coasts of England. Emma is well aware that her brother couldnt possibly turn away Fork Beard and his horde when they appear in their Viking ships, all bedecked with pointy metal bits, ready to ravage any city or village, English or Norman. This knowledge adds to Emmas anxiety as she tries to safely navigate the intrigues of the English court.
Excellent Debut novel. Very good pacing of stary and she brings our characters alive. Each chapter wants to make you read more.
In this stunning debut of a planned trilogy, Bracewell tackles the life of Emma of Normandy who was sent to marry King Aethelred of England in the place of her ailing sister in 1002 A.D. One condition that was requested by Emma's father, Richard of Normandy, was that Aethelred would anoint her as queen which leads to Aethelred instantly regretting his decision after their marriage. Aethelred already paranoid and mistrusting of everyone around him turns his anger towards his young wife. Emma learns fast that she must tread lightly and that having a son would be the only way to secure her position but even she can predict what Aethelred might do next. Aethelred's oldest son Athelstan is instantly attracted to his father's new wife even though he knows it is forbidden. He also knows he should fear that Emma bears a son to replace him in line for the throne because his father has no love for his eldest son and is constantly berating and humiliating him in public.
Emma is thrown to wolves when she comes to England. Even with her vast knowledge in languages she is unfamiliar with court politics and her eyes are opened wide when her rival Elgiva of Northampton comes to court and insinuates herself in the King's bed in hopes of him setting aside Emma. Emma knows she needs to win the hearts of the people of England and forge some alliances with some influential men because Swein Forkbeard and the Vikings are knocking at the front doors and ready to take over England in revenge for the St. Brice's Day Massacre in which Aethelred ordered the extermination of all Danes that included Forkbeard's sister.
Bracewell does a remarkable job mixing the real events in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle with her own imagination without detracting from the heart of the story. She weaves a story of innocence lost, treachery, hope and love that ends with Emma realizing that she must do whatever needs to be done to make her son the next king. This was a refreshing storyline and I look forward to the next installment.
(Book was provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)