Tuesday, July 5, 2016

REVIEW: Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith

Daughter of York
by Anne Easter Smith

Publisher: Touchstone
Page Count: 594
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Format: Kindle

How got: personal buy from Amazon

First attention getter: Margaret of York


From GoodReads:

History tells us that the intelligent, wealthy, and powerful Margaret of York had everything any woman could want, except for love. The acclaimed author of A Rose for the Crown takes us between the lines of history and into her heart.

It is 1461: Edward, son of Richard of York, ascends to the throne, and his willful sister, Margaret, immediately becomes a pawn in European politics as Edward negotiates her marriage. The young Margaret falls deeply in love with Anthony Woodville, the married brother of Edward's queen, Elizabeth. But Edward has arranged for his sister to wed Charles, son of the Duke of Burgundy, and soon Margaret is setting sail for her new life. Her official escort: Anthony Woodville. Margaret of York eventually commanded the respect and admiration of much of Europe, but it appears to history that she had no emotional intimate. Anne Easter Smith's rare gift for storytelling and her extensive research reveal the love that burned at the center of Margaret's life, adding a new dimension to the story of one of the fifteenth century's most powerful women.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3.5

Margaret of York is one of those historical figures that just makes history interesting by her sheer force of personality, even if the work that portrays her doesn’t quite live up to her. This one excels at making her strong will and political acumen shine through; yet some of the storytelling and writing choices made by the author keep this from being one of the greats about this fascinating historical figure.

Smith is known for her attention to details and historical realism. This work is no different. Colorful medieval jousts, court scenes, and weddings make their appearances as expected. Everything is lovingly described and portrayed.

Margaret is someone most people nowadays haven’t heard of; only someone really interested in the Middle Ages would have heard of this dragon lady. I’ve only heard of her as I adore strong female figures from that time period, and she’s one of the strongest. She basically held together one of the strongest and richest kingdoms of the late Middle Ages after her husband died through sheer force of will and determination. Her smarts and connections preserved the duchy for her step-daughter for at least a few more decades after Charles’ death.

I love what Smith did in portraying her. Margaret’s never been more forceful and resilient against incredible odds and prejudices. A brutally abusive marriage and a society that didn’t appreciate her genius illustrate her strength of character when facing such. I love an intelligent medieval woman who knows how to work the system and earns the respect of those around her due to more than just her pretty face. Margaret is one of those women that made things happen.

Yet for all this strong frontal character and a great medieval background for her, the author made some story flow and telling options that kept this from reaching a great level. The ending left something to be desired. The author chose to leave off telling Margaret’s story at an odd place, knowing all the drama in her life coming that the author chose to leave out. While I can understand the want to leave the story ending on a positive note, the author choosing where they did made this story feel incomplete and with a sudden drop of an ending with no resolution. Maybe someone completely unfamiliar with Margaret’s story wouldn’t notice this odd ending, but I definitely did.

Also, a trait I found annoying was the author’s habit of inserting side paragraphs/speeches describing what was happening or an outsider’s impressions of people and places. You’d be immersed into a vivid scene, flowing along with the story, when suddenly we’d get a completely different POV describing how beautiful or wise Margaret was or something along those lines. Usually, it was to further describe and praise Margaret. I found these side speeches annoying; they pushed me out of the narrative more than they added anything to the flow.

A great story and primary lead make this an enjoyable read, but I’ve come across better in the genre. I loved the historical details and Margaret; she alone makes for a great tale. This one is a great escape for lovers of medieval historical fiction. The items that irked me may not bother another.

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