I wasn’t exactly sure I wanted to read this book after finishing The White Queen. While reading that book, I found myself already disliking Margaret Beaufort almost every time that she was mentioned. I was shocked when I started reading this novel and I liked her.
After about 100 pages, the fluffy feelings toward her disappeared and that familiar loathing feeling returned. There’s something that is purely despicable about any character who describes the children of her enemy as being young and trembling next to their mother, which gives the reader the impression that they are innocent, before describing them (on the same page) as “little traitorous boys who wept for their defeat.” She is describing children who are about 7 and 10 years old as traitors. She is mocking them. She continuously criticizes anyone who doesn’t live up to her “righteous” standards. What kind of standards must someone have to vilify a child?
The annoying obsession of The White Queen was Melusina. This book also has a character with her own annoying obsession. Instead of a pagan goddess, she is obsessed with Joan of Arc. It starts as a simple childhood obsession, but becomes a lifelong one. She fangirls over Joan throughout the whole book, and even prays to her. She wants to be Joan of Arc. As a child, she dreams of becoming a nun. Then she wants to be a warrior for God once she has heard the tales of her heroine Joan of Arc. She decides while in childbirth that she is like Joan in delivering a future monarch, though Joan’s delivery wasn’t through childbirth.
There are definitely times when Margaret deserves sympathy. Being neglected as a child, suffering through months of marital rape from a husband who is more than a decade older than her, and being treated like an object or a pawn because of her gender makes it very, very easy to feel bad for the girl. Her judgmental attitude lessens that sympathy, though. And her near-constant whining makes her insufferable to read about. It’s awful that a person who should be an easy-to-admire character (because of all that she has been through) ends up being no more than an amalgam of several negative tropes. Her joy for learning and desire to be independent is not able to triumph over that self-righteous, snide attitude that she embodies.
Other than my issues with how contempt-worthy I find the main character, I find myself truly torn about my feelings toward the book and the author. As with the first book of this series, I enjoyed the first part of the book. I felt there was too great of an emphasis on her obsession. I constantly wanted someone to go ahead and develop some Thorazine to give her so that she would calm down. I didn’t like that this book (like the last one) had times where it would suddenly switch from 1st person to 3rd person. With that respect, the one thing I can be glad of is that this one didn’t have nearly as much of that as the previous one did.
Though it was mostly an easy read, I can’t understand why people are so enamored with this author. Her stories may be accurate from a historical standpoint (or as accurate as one can expect in a work of fiction), but her style isn’t really any greater than most of the writers out there. She’s quite average and seems to capitalize on the drama and scandal of dramatic and scandalous families. She doesn’t really create much conflict, and sometimes I wonder if she should be writing these as biographies instead of as works of fiction. There is nothing truly extraordinary about the stories of hers that I have read so far.