I’ve recently finished The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory which is a retelling of the life of Anne Neville, wife of Richard III. It is the last novel of The Cousins’ War series which started with The Lady of the Rivers about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV.
The Kingmaker’s Daughter started very slowly in my opinion. Anne was just a girl of 10 or 12 living in a family who hates the new king’s wife because she is not the French Princess Anne’s father wanted Edward IV to marry. And the rivalry between the two Neville sisters (Anne and her elder sister Isabel) and Elizabeth Woodville permeates the whole book. The fears of sorcery and betrayal are also very much present. Fortunately, the pace picks up towards the middle of the book.
Throughout the book, Anne strives and struggles to be strong and independent and tries very much to survive the court, the wars (between countries and families), the rivalry, the duplicity of everyone she knows. She wants to take her life, her future, in her own hands after having been “sold” and bargained for a crown or another. But each time, she understands, rather too late, she has always been a pawn in someone else’s game which ran wider and farther than she could have imagined. Her father, her mother, her first mother-in-law, her sister and even her husband will in the end use her to their own advantage but never, ever, to hers. Anne Neville dies quite young of heartbreak, of fear, of disappointment …
Although her life was full of twists and turns and tragic in the end, I feel like the book was too long. I felt the same when I read The Red Queen which tells the story of Margaret of Beaufort, mother of Henry VII (Tudor). My favourite book of the series was The Lady of the Rivers which can stand perfectly well alone. What I would have liked and, to my mind, would have made the series livelier, is one novel but with multiple perspectives. In other words, combining The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter into one novel. It might have been a long novel, but it would have contained the most important passages.
That being said, Philippa Gregory can still praised for her mastery in writing historical novels which make you care for the charaters. In addition, bringing to life forgotten women of history in such a lively way is highly commendable.
Ultimately, I rated this novel 2.5*/5