Thursday, 17 October 2013

Book Review: The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory

Three powerful women, three powerful stories.

I have so far read three of this series. After catching a glimpse of the TV series White Queen I decided that I would much rather read the books. I started with the prequel of the series The Lady of the Rivers. Personally this is my favourite of the 3 I have read. The prequel tells the story of Jacquetta Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the lead female in the next book The White Queen. Personally I preferred this book as Jacquetta was actually a likeable character whereas I have struggled to like Elizabeth or Margaret Beaufort from the Red Queen.

The first book follows the timeline whilst Henry VI is ill and how his queen Margaret of Anjou fights for the Lancaster throne as the York rivals seek to take it for their own. Jacquetta is involved along with her family in the fight to keep the Lancaster line on the throne. Though I love reading about strong women it is a shame that you do not get to read about many of the battles except from the point of view of a wife waiting for her husband.

The end of the book leads seamlessly into The White Queen. Here Jacquetta’s eldest daughter marries the new York King Edward and becomes the Queen of England and a Yorkist one at that. The time line follows on from the previous book and we read as Edward continues to fight for his throne against his own kin as well as keeping the persistent threat of the Lancastrian dynasty at bay.

This book moves at a faster pass then the first book I found myself utterly confused at why Elizabeth Woodville acted as she did. I actually had to research her and double check if she did flee into sanctuary as opposed to face her brother in law. It made me dislike her and I felt very much the same as her daughter Elizabeth (lots of Elizabeth’s here) It seemed like Elizabeth the elder had led her family into a place they could not escape from with her suspicions. As we all know her boys (the princes in the tower) were never seen again after Richard had himself declared as King. Here Gregory uses artistic licence and her own historical opinion that Elizabeth did not send both her boys to Richard and that her youngest son escaped and was reunited with her in later life. However, personally this is a tad farfetched for me. Considering that Richard III was removed from his throne by a Lancastrian surely if there had been a York heir more fighting for the throne would have ensued especially if Elizabeth Woodville was as ambitious as Gregory suggests. The White Queen finishes with Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter betrothed to be married to Henry Tudor and a great battle begins to take place at Bosworth.

I opened the Red Queen expecting the book to follow on. Sadly however it does not. The timeline is restarted back to Margaret of Anjou being Queen of England. This isn’t a huge problem but it made the start difficult to get into as I wanted to read on from the story. In addition it makes the book incredibly repetitive. In fact you will notice bits you read from the others in the series frequently and personally that repetition makes for dull reading. When the story actually focuses on parts we did not know about from the other books it does become a more riveting read. There are a few printing errors in my edition of the book which were annoying.

As with many of Gregory’s novels the books are all quick to read. They are not greatly challenging and the style of her writing flows freely off the page. For fans of historical fiction these books are worth a read. However , if you like slightly less artistic licence being taken these books might cause you to buy historical fact books just to make sure you have your history correct! Although not marketed as a young adult book we have found this series popular with our older readers.  I will probably read the rest of the series soon as I did enjoy them.

A good series for historical fiction fans


  1. I didn't bother with the Red Queen because I'd heard it was repetitive and I also found her character annoying! I loved the TV series though especially as I learnt so much history! Lady of the Rivers is now next on my list to read.

    1. I found her character annoying as well Rachel. She is just not endearing. Hope you enjoy the prequel :)

  2. I love the tv series and will definitely have to check out the books someday! Especially since you said they're all quick reads!

    1. Thanks for reading the review Jenna, I think if you enjoyed the TV series you will like the books as from what I have heard the episodes stay quite true to the stories :)