Wednesday, May 11, 2016

REVIEW: The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney

The Constant Queen
by Joanna Courtney

Publisher: MacMillan
Page Count: 352
Release Date: April 21, 2016
Format: Hardcover

How got: personal buy through Amazon UK

First attention getter: loved the first book in the series

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

'You need not take England without me, Hari, because I will be your constant queen - there with you; there for you.' Elizaveta is princess of Kiev, but that doesn't stop her chasing adventure. Defying conventions, she rides the rapids of the Dneiper alongside her royal brothers and longs to rule in her own right as a queen. Elizaveta meets her match when the fearsome Viking warrior Harald Hardrada arrives at her father's court seeking fame and fortune. He entrusts Elizaveta to be his treasure keeper, holding the keys to his ever-growing wealth - and eventually to his heart. Theirs is a fierce romance and the strength of their love binds them together as they travel across the vast seas to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. In 1066, their ambition carries them to Orkney as they plan to invade England and claim the crown ...The Constant Queen is a powerful, absorbing novel which tells the story of a daring Viking warrior, his forgotten queen and a love that almost changed the course of history.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I knew with the first book in this series on the Norma Conquest queens that I’d hit on something special. Courtney pleases with this book as well. It’s rich with historical details, larger than life personalities, and a relationship so emotional it’ll make your heart burn.

Before delving into this book, Elizaveta of Kiev was just a name on Wikipedia to me. Harald Hardrada was a remote vicious Viking king who I only knew for trying to conquer England at the end of the Viking era. Now, my eyes have been opened to a stubborn, courageous, and adventurous queen who pushes people to their limits. I also see a king who was as dedicated to building trade and peace within his kingdom as he was to conquest and warfare.

Courtney seems to have this talent at giving historical figures a personality as human as anyone on the street today. This is a talent she shares with such greats as Elizabeth Chadwick and Susan Higginbotham. Elizaveta and Harald benefit from this skill, giving us two figures who try to build a kingdom and empire al the while living life to the fullest and pushing their boundaries. They vibrate with life and feel like real people to me. I liked that Courtney didn’t downplay the faults to benefit the virtues; everything was portrayed and incorporated into their portrayals.

I adored the main romantic relationship between these two as well. From an instant connection after first meeting to the end when they had to say farewell in spirit, their emotional pull to each other is amazingly shown. Mutual adventurous spirit and fiery personalities make for a sometimes rocky road; yet, their support of each other shines through regardless.

I have got to give props to Courtney for her delicate use of the relationships in the story and how they impact the story as a whole. I’m thinking, as a prime example, the trio relationship of Harald, Elizaveta, and Tora. What could have been used as a plot device for melodrama and angst was actually handled very diplomatically with all parties behind it handled well. While there was some initial jealousy and drama, ultimately all three characters came to an understanding dynamic and worked together like a well-greased wheel to take care of Norway and build a future.

From the sophisticated court of Kiev to the pine-filled forests of Norway, this book tells the epic tale of two people that history has either forgotten or misrepresented (depending on who you ask, I guess). The reader gets a passionate romance, suspenseful tale of conquest and blood, and a humanization of obscure historical figures. This book is a historical fiction lover’s dream. I can’t recommend it enough! Now I can’t wait for book three on Matilda of Flanders and William the Conqueror. Keep ‘em coming, Courtney!

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