IsabellaPlease welcome Colin Falconer, author of Isabella: Braveheart of France as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Reviewed by Sara Drake

Mr. Falconer presents us with the tale of Isabella, a princess of France who marries King Edward II of England. Isabella, only twelve when she gets married, struggles to understand the complex dynamics between the King and his nobles. King Edward may wear the crown, but much of the power of England lies with his nobility. The King’s habit of extreme favoritism does not sit well with many and as Isabella becomes increasingly aware of the nature of the King’s relationships, it does not sit well with her either.

Writing historical fiction can be tricky. Authors have to take events (the history) and build convincing personalities to intrigue the reader. As much as I love historical fiction, I find few authors who actually can pull this off. I found it hard to understand Isabella’s motivations throughout the novel. Of course, it did not help that Mr. Falconer did a great deal of telling without showing. Yes, Edward is no one’s idea of an ideal husband. Yes, Isabella increasingly found herself at odds with the King and his favorite. However, she seems to shrug off all of her own values to engage in a relationship that did not seem to interest her much. I just didn’t find it believable.

Characterization problems aside, the book needed serious editing assistance. The verb tenses tended to be inconsistent. I am not a fan of using present tense in historical fiction but if you are going to use it then stay consistent. I tend not to notice editing problems, but this book had punctuation so wrong I could not help but notice. Additionally, one chapter in the book was repeated verbatim with a different chapter number. Editors are an essential part of producing a readable book and it becomes obvious when one isn’t used.

I also felt like all the interesting moments happened off stage. I can understand that using a limited point of view restricts which events the reader gets to see up close and personal. Yet, Isabella’s greatest moments as Queen occur off the page; the reader simply hears about them. I wanted to actually see Isabella charm the nobles and help make peace, not be told that she had done so. The book had a little over 200 pages, plenty of room for some more scenes.

I also wanted some more descriptions. I don’t like heavy descriptions in a book but I do appreciate enough description to be able to picture the people and setting, especially in a historical fiction book when the world differs so much from the one I live in. We get some descriptions, especially of King Edward, but the settings and buildings are left to our imagination. I’d prefer to know more.

Despite all of this, I found the book engaging enough to finish it. It helped that it was short. I’ve read worse.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Colin Falconer. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.