Thursday, August 25, 2016

REVIEW: The Boleyn Reckoning by Laura Andersen

The Boleyn Reckoning (review covers whole trilogy)
by Laura Andersen

Publisher: Ballantine
Page Count: 416
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal buy; via Amazon

First attention getter: already followed series

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

A choice to forever change the course of history.


While English soldiers prepare for the threat of invasion, William Tudor struggles with his own personal battles: he still longs for his childhood friend. But Minuette has married William’s trusted advisor, Dominic, in secret – an act of betrayal that puts both their lives in danger.

Meanwhile, with war on the horizon, Princess Elizabeth must decide where her duty really lies: with her brother or her country…

Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, The Boleyn Reckoning concludes the trilogy of the Tudor king who never was: Henry IX.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3

I became interested in this series for the idea behind it, a son by Anne Boleyn would have changed so much in history. Alternate history is a particularly favorite subgenre of mine. That combined with the premise promised much. It’s that historical story that I liked the most despite the overabundance of melodrama that emerged as the story progressed. Love for certain characters waned, but interest in the story itself never grew stale.

I love what the author did with the history behind the story. We get some intriguing “what-ifs” on a Boleyn king and how that would have played out. Protestantism was given a clear avenue to progress, the Seymours never rose to such prominence, and new plots/intrigues developed. Real figures were also utilized well. Seeing how everyone’s fate changed with the different circumstances was a key feature to this trilogy. Some fates, however, stayed the same, just arriving at their demise or rise under different circumstances.

It was the real historical figures rather than the fake leads that I felt more connection to. Elizabeth, especially, shined. Seeing how her development was changed or not when she still had a living mother and a Protestant brother to succeed rather than a Catholic sister made for interesting reading. She kept her politically savvy ways yet retained a vulnerability and thirst for love that real life Elizabeth didn’t seem to have.

The two leads, Dom and Minuette, as well as William I was lukewarm on. Dom and Minuette were too perfect, a common failing I’ve come across this year. Utterly loyal, beautiful, and desirable are just some of the descriptors used for these two. The extent that some will go to secure the love and desire of these two almost comes across as disgusting at times. Their only saving grace was how trusting, stupidly at times, these two were. They trusted that everyone was as honorable as they were to their detriment towards the end.

William wasn’t as bad as I could see why he changed and developed given the circumstances. Yet, as one other reviewer put it, it seemed like William just got all of Henry VIII’s bad qualities while Elizabeth got all the good. He got to the point of being a mustache-twirling super villain that read as unbelievable at the end. He got some redemption at the very end, but his journey to that end was filled with too much melodrama.

And that is where this trilogy had its biggest failing. The soap opera quality of the melodrama between characters and in relationships is off the charts. At times, this series read more “Days of our Lives” than a serious alternate history series. That might have been the author’s intention, but it backfired for this reader. I couldn’t empathize enough with the main players in the drama enough to make me appreciate it more. The final book is the worst offender in that everything culminates in a huge melodramatic finale with assume death, blackmail, offended parties, and feely soup.

For what this is, an alternate history exploring the Tudor era, it’s an interesting read. For Elizabeth herself, I’d have kept reading. Seeing her develop was fantastic; there’s a follow-up trilogy detailing her reign and how events of this trilogy impact that. So I’m looking forward to those books. However, this trilogy is a toss-up. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t incredible either. The series ends on a whimper with melodrama drowning out everything else. Don’t know that I’d recommend it particularly, but it’s a great way to kill some time. At least it sets up a fascinating future trilogy.

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