Monday, 2 January 2012

Book Review: The Lady of Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta has always had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she meets his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and recognizes her own power in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the “wheel of fortune” before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.     Married to the Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France, Jacquetta is introduced by him to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the Duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the Duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.       Drawing on years of research, Philippa Gregory tells the story of the Woodvilles who achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty of the House of York.      Jacquetta fights for her King, her Queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, a young woman married to a neighbor for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

The Lady of Rivers by Philippa Gregory is the third book in her latest historical fiction series – The Cousins’ War. I loved the first book (The White Queen), I liked the second book (The Red Queen), but sadly I really struggled to read this latest offering. Although this is the third book in the series you don't need to read them in order, this is the prequel to the first book and is set before the War of the Roses begins concentrating on the life of the White Queens mother - Jacquetta. 

The characters and settings were interesting and I even thought the opening couple of chapters were quite gripping. But then I completely fell out of love with the book. The story just seemed to plod along, the descriptions were all samey and nothing stood out, it was just all a bit meh. At times it felt like more of a join the dots type of story than one with a strong and prominent plot. 

The writing as usual was good (with a tad of repetition in reference to certain characteristics) but for me, the story just seemed to lack that something special. It might have been that I already knew the outcome of certain relationships from the previous books, but I just thought the story was slow, dull and I'm sad to say a bit boring.

This book suffered from the same problems that I found in the previous books, especially the Red Queen - important events were often told from secondary characters. Instead of being right in the middle of the action with the relevant characters important events would be told to the main character from someone passing by or returning home from the front lines. I understand why this tactic was employed but after a while it just makes certain story lines duller than they could have potentially been. 

Personally I prefer my historical fiction to be fiction with a dash of fact and not the other way around. I like some research and I've never doubted Philippa Gregory knows her area but this isn't a book for people who want historical fact after fact. There is also quite a strong magical theme running throughout this book that was maybe slightly over done but I enjoyed it. 

Despite what this review might suggest I am a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and I’ve re-read some of her Tudor novels a handful of times. It was really her books that started me on a life long love affair with historical fiction and she has really helped open my eyes to some amazing stories and authors. I just hope that her next book sees her back on writing form.

Genre - Adult, historical fiction
Published by Simon and Schuster (Sept 2011)
Hardback - 497 pages

I received a copy of 'The lady of Rivers' by Philipa Gregory in exchange for an honest review. 


  1. I read this book recently and I agree with your review, it was just ok for me too.

  2. I'd still like to give this book a go.

  3. Sorry this one didn't work out for you. Like you I haven't quite connected to this series as much as her Tudor series. I was secretly hoping this third book would be based on Elizabeth, duaghter of the white queen and mother of Henry VIII! I might wait for paperback for this one!

  4. Thanks for the great insight! I'm yet to read any of Gregory's books but I'd still like to give her a go. Historical fiction is something I still need to get into. New follower :)

  5. Anne - Glad I'm not alone.

    Mystica - I hope you never let me put you off a book, what I don't like many people out there love. When you read it I would love to hear what you thought.

    Mel - I wonder if she'll tackle those characters next?? Definitely wait for the paperback of this one.

    Stepping out - Hello. Thanks for following :) If you do fancy trying some of her books I absolutely love the Tudor ones and The other Boleyn Girl is a fantastic read.

  6. Hate when it happens, falling out of love with a book, especially if the series so far has been good. Can't stand slow movers myself. ;)

    Nice to drop by again, it's been a while! ;D

  7. Niina C - Hello, I know I was just so busy towards the end of 2011, but I've missed the community. I hope you're well!


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