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Review: The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

[ 6 ] September 20, 2012 |

Reviewed by Rebecca Berry

Philippa Gregory’s latest novel, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, is part of a series about the Cousin’s War, the long battle for the throne between the closely related Houses of York and Lancaster. Set in 1465 – 1482, Gregory writes about the rise and fall of Edward IV and the subsequent rise to the throne of Richard III, who is known to history as the likely murderer of the princes in the tower.

The Kingmaker was Richard, Earl of Warwick, whose power in the 1400s rivaled those of England’s kings. At the time, the Earl had more money than the royal treasury and owned more land, and hence could command a bigger army. During his lifetime, his opposition played a major role in the end of the reign of Henry VI, and his support put his protégé, Edward IV, on the throne. Having no sons, Warwick’s daughters, Isabel and Anne, became his pawns in his attempts to tie his family directly to the throne through marriage. Isabel and Anne are controlled by their father’s ambitions and then by their husbands’ as their family name and their inherited wealth bring them closer and closer to the throne.

Philippa Gregory brings to life the nearly undocumented Anne Neville, imagining her to be a central figure in the court of Edward IV. Certainly, the facts support this view: Anne was the Kingmaker’s younger daughter; then the wife of Prince Edward, son of Margaret of Anjou, who challenged the reign of Edward IV; then wife to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later became Richard III, making Anne his queen.

As with all of Gregory’s books, the historical facts are accurate and meticulously researched. The fun of historical fiction is imagining how things might have been to someone who lived through a certain time in history, and Gregory is a master at this task, made even more challenging by the scarce documentation of the women she uses as her central characters. Anne Neville is another fascinating woman and we witness her helplessness as a young girl, her growing fears and courage as she is married, widowed, and married again, and her mixed feelings as she finally fulfills her father’s dreams.

This book is part of a series on the women of the Cousin’s War, but it easily stands on its own. People unfamiliar with this period of English history may be slightly confused by the quickly shifting alliances of the story, but Gregory does an admirable job of making them as clear as possible. For those readers who like to research a quick history of the time period before or after reading, the book The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser is one of my favorites and the chapters on Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III can help clarify any lingering confusion.

Also of interest: as I was researching the details of this book, I learned that Gregory has also co-authored a non-fiction work titled The Women of the Cousins’ War which documents the lives of the other women in this series: Jacquetta Woodville; her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, queen to Edward IV; and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII who takes over the throne after Richard III. Consider this one added to my list of books to read, along with the other books in this series, as The Kingmaker’s Daughter has completely captured my interest in a new group of historical English women.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Also by Philippa Gregory: The Lady of the Rivers

Rebecca is a stay at home mom and lives in Plain City, a sleepy little town in central Ohio, with her husband and young son. She enjoys cooking, eating, Zumba, crafting, and of course, reading!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Category: Biographical, Contemporary, Genre Fiction, Historical, Literature & Fiction

Comments (6)

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  1. 3

    I love Historical Fiction! Especially with accurate historical facts. I have never read one by Philippa Gregory! I know lots of people read her, just haven’t tried one yet.
    wall-to-wall books-wendy recently posted..Fun Friday!

  2. 2
    Colleen Turner says:

    I absolutely LOVE Philippa Gregory. She has such a wonderful way of bringing these women from history alive and making them appear so vividly (so you feel like you could be living along with them, not just reading about them). I know some people complain that her books are not as accurate as they should be, but she brings history to life in a way someone sticking ONLY to facts couldn’t do, as not enough is known about some of these women. I’ve read the first two books in this series and am very excited to continue the rest. Thanks for the review!

  3. 1
    Carol Wong says:

    I think I am a beginner at the war of the roses, I have only read two books connected to it. Right now it is sort of like fighting the pieces together in a giant puzzle. I do the Red Queen and the White Queen and the Lady of the Rivers all on my TBR shelf so I think I might want to read them first. How about it Coleen?

    You mentioned that Philappa Gregory is always historically accurate and it think this is up for dispute. I read a book by another author that came out and said that she is not accurate. However, I had a great difficulty reading that book. I think I would prefer a book that is not a struggle to get through and after I have read it, I can check the accuracy. Of course, if a book is easy to read and accurate too that would be a bonus.

    I am looking forward to reading it. Think I will need to sign up for a chunkster challenge next year so I can get started.

    Carol Wong

    • 1.1
      Carol Wong says:

      Sorry, Colleen, my finger slipped and so went your name!

      • 1.1.1
        Colleen Turner says:

        No worries, Carol! I have actually read the first two books in the series and, while I am sure this one would stand alone just fine, I would still recommend reading the other ones because they are really enjoyable! This Plantagenet time period and the Tudor one that follows are my all time favorites and Philippa Gregory does a wonderful job of making them come alive in a way a lot of the nonfiction books just don’t. I bet you would really enjoy it!

    • 1.2
      Rebecca Berry says:

      Hi Carol – You have a good point, and that’s one of the comments that I should have caught when I proofread my review! It’s way too far-reaching to say that every single thing in the book is accurate. It is fiction, after all. What I should have said was that the great many of her facts are accurate; however, she does take creative liberties as one would expect in a work of historical fiction. As far as I have been able to tell, most of the dates, battles, the shifting allegiances between people, the politics of the time, etc. are all fairly accurate. I believe that she does take liberties with her characters, especially since the main characters are women, and their lives are not especially well-documented.
      I hope this makes sense. I think that all of her books are a great way to get a little bit of background of the times, and to pique interest in a fascinating historical period, but definitely shouldn’t be taken as completely factual.
      However, the other part of that statement, regarding her research, I would stand by! Her bibliographies are extensive, as is the amount of research she puts into each book. Also, in the book, The Women of the Cousin’s War, she writes about history vs. historical fiction, and how much of each should be in a historical novel. I am eager to read this part of the book in particular to see what she says!

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