A Winner!

I'm away on a trip, so this afternoon, while winging our way happily across the great state of Oklahoma, I asked my co-pilot to choose a random number and he picked the number four. That would be Nely!

So Nely, email me your address so Josh can mail you a signed copy of his New York Times Notable Book Matrimony!

Happy Reading (and thank you, Josh!).

Happy New Year, Blogland!

2009: The Year of the Book

May you all have an entire year of enticing reads and never ending TBR piles!

Happy 2009 to each and every one of you!

Review: In the Shadow of the Sun King

In the Shadow of the Sun King, by Golden Keyes Parsons

The Down and Dirty
The setting is 17th-Century and Louis XIV, the Sun King, reigns over France. In an effort to unify his country under Catholicism, the minority Huguenots are suffering from persecutions, imprisonment and slaughter.

Madeleine Clavell, a minor royal who has given up court intrigues for countryside family life, finds her family destroyed and scattered after the King uses religious pretenses to pursue a personal vendetta against Madeleine.
Something about the fallen nature of man loathes when another desires to praise God differently from one's personal concept of worship.
In the Shadow of the Sun King, by Golden Keyes Parsons
The Literary Criticism
In the Shadow of the Sun King is the first in a trilogy from author Golden Keyes Parsons, who is off to a very good start with this novel. Written by a Christian author and presented by a Christian publishing house, this historical fiction novel presents a fair and unbiased tale of religious persecution that should appeal to even a secular audience of readers.

Parsons' characterization of the conflicting religious sects is particularly admirable. She criticizes neither sect, instead wisely observing that each, in it's own turn throughout history, has played the role of both victim and oppressor. Indeed, the author expertly paints individuals as just that - an individual is defined not by what religion they espouse, but by their own character and actions. Kindness, like destruction, is the human condition and can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Louis XIV appearance in the novel is brief, but enlightening. Pressured by advisers and as petulant as only a person raised to be a king can be, the Sun King's misguided attempt to vanquish the new religion are, if not forgivable, possibly understandable in Parsons' expert hands.

Our Recommendation

If you enjoy historical fiction set in this time period, In the Shadow of the Sun King is certainly a worthwhile read. Religious overtones abound but don't detract from the historical aspect of the story at all. For Christians and non-Christians alike there are thought-provoking religious and moral dilemmas presented which will keep you thinking about it long after you've finished the novel. I look forward to reading the next installment of this series.

Title: In the Shadow of the Sun King
Author: Golden Keyes Parsons
ISBN-13: 978-1595546265
384 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: October 14, 2008

Additional Reviews floating around in BlogLand:

Myreadingfrenzy's Blog

My Own Personal Book Club
Want to Know What I Think?
Novel Teen Book Review Blog
Cornhusker Academy
Pudgy Penguin Perusals

What to purchase with your holiday gift cards....

The holidays are winding up and if Santa was very good to you this year, you might find yourself with a handful of bookstore gift cards. Now I don't know about you, but these little pieces of plastic are as good as gold around this house.

A Reader's Respite knows that making decisions on which books to spend those little gift cards on can be agonizing. After all, we don't want to waste them on a book that turns out to be a dud.

And so after much contemplation, A Reader's Respite is here to make our Official 2008 Christmas Gift Card Purchase Suggestion:

Nefertiti, by Michelle Moran.
Published to much acclaim in 2007, Nefertiti was author Michelle Moran's debut novel. Ancient Egypt comes to life as the rise and fall of one of Egypt's greatest queens is told through the eyes of her sister, Mutnodjmet.

Vivid and compelling, if you've never read a historical fiction novel set in ancient Egypt before, this is THE ONE.

The Heretic Queen, by Michelle Moran.
Published in 2008, you can't go wrong with this follow-up novel to Nefertiti. Easily read as a stand-alone novel, The Heretic Queen is the story of the rise of Nefertari and her epic love story with Ramses the Great. The novel does include references to events in Nefertiti and is immensely satisfying when read as a sequel.

If you haven't read either of these novels, you are missing out on two rollicking good reads. Both are highly recommended and a sure-fire way to get the most out of those holiday gift cards. Happy reading!

In Preparation...

For those of you who keep track of such things, Fall of 2009 is the scheduled release date for author Diana Gabaldon's newest novel, Echo in the Bone, the latest installment of her fabulously popular Outlander Series.

In preparation of this newest release, A Reader's Respite and Passages to the Past are joining forces to bring you the Outlander Reading Challenge: 2009. We will attempt to read - or listen to - each of the previous six books in the series (all bazillion pages of them) prior to publication of Echo in the Bone.

A side view of A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Just kidding. Sort of.

Anyone is welcome to join us. But a word of warning: this challenge is not for the faint of heart eyesight. It takes a brave and dedicated bibliophile to complete this challenge.

And that is why there will be prizes involved. Cool prizes.

A Visit from Santa

Okay, not really Santa, but the next best thing: author Joshua Henkin.
The season of giving is upon us and Josh is one author who epitomizes generosity this year! Josh has been traveling through blogland this month, offering signed copies of his New York Times Notable Book, Matrimony, and I'm happy to announce that he's making a stop here at A Reader's Respite.

And one of you are going to be the lucky recipient of an autographed, inscribed copy of Matrimony!

In Matrimony, a man and woman meet in college, fall in love, and spend the next fifteen years finding their way through the ups and downs of marriage. It’s the second novel from author Joshua Henkin, and Matrimony reflects the maturing talent of a writer who auspiciously emerged on the literary scene nine years ago with the critically praised first novel Swimming Across the Hudson.

Longer in scope, more ambitious with its characters, and grounded with realism and wry humor, Matrimony introduces us to Julian Wainwright and Mia Mendelsohn, two intensely likeable yet wonderfully flawed characters, who meet their freshman year at Graymont College, a liberal arts school in western Massachusetts. Julian, an aspiring writer, has arrived at college from New York to study with his literary hero. Mia has come from Montreal searching for something new and unknown. When they meet, folding laundry, they fall deeply and happily into first love.

But real life soon intrudes, and a family crisis arises at the end of their senior year that will cement their relationship more seriously and quickly than they could have imagined. Together they make their way through the next fifteen years — through career changes, family conflicts and losses, betrayals and successes. From the university towns of Ann Arbor, Berkeley, and Iowa City, to the brownstones of Greenwich Village, the novel moves back and forth between Julian and Mia’s perspectives as Henkin explores the choices and sacrifices we make at different stages in our lives, our changes in ambition and desire, and how we come to lead the lives we live.

From Pantheon Books

Would you like to enter? Just leave a comment telling me about the best Holiday present you've ever received and you'll be in the running!

This contest is open to all domestic and international entrants and will remain open until New Year's Eve (Pacific Time, -8 GMT), at which time we will pick a random winner. Don't forget to check back on New Year's Day to see if you won!

If you'd like to read more about Josh and his writing, visit his website and blog! Josh is also a new contributor over at Reading Group Guides where he shares his adventures in touring and also the backstory behind Matrimony. Please feel free to join in the discussions online or if you have a book club of your own, Josh regularly contributes to discussions via phone (or maybe even in person if your club meets in New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia!). Go to his website to learn more and download the Matrimony Reading Group Guide.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!

And so it snows....

I'm thinking my rosemary is done for the year.

To make this book-related: My lamppost is a little Lion-Witch-Wardrobe-ish, don't you think?

Pretty, isn't it?

Beth, proprietor of the renowned review site Beth Fish Reads, has nominated A Reader's Respite for Best Humor Blog (isn't that nice of her?). While we're not sure how much humor resides here, we love the fact that Beth at least understands us even when the humor falls flat.

Here comes the part where I list six values or characteristics that are important to me:
  1. Laughing at oneself. Duh. If you can't laugh at yourself, don't be laughing at others.
  2. Rooting for the underdog. Says a lot about a person, in our considered opinion.
  3. Standing up to bullies. Ditto
  4. The tendency to read a lot of books. Who says opposites attract?
  5. Quirky Individuality. Who cares if other people think you're weird? I like that in a person!
  6. Warmness. A warm personality towards everyone just warms A Reader's Respite's cold, black heart.

And six values or characteristics that I find hard (okay, impossible) to tolerate:
  1. Butt-kissin'. Drives A Reader's Respite nutso.
  2. Selfishness. Don't like it when people take, take, take for themselves.
  3. Malicious Gossipin'. Gossip is one thing. Mean gossip is just petty.
  4. Snobbery. We our pants on one leg at a time (although sometimes I trip on the pantsleg and fall flat on my face).
  5. People who don't read. Personal preference, what can I say?
  6. Meaness. It just isn't attractive.

Most Awesome Tequila-Lovin' Blog Friend: Amy at Passages to the Past. Too late: I've already snagged her for my best friend, so you can't have her. But you try for second-best friend status with her --- trust me, it's well worth the effort!

Best Globe-Trotting Blog: The Tome Traveller. Not only does she travel the globe, but she reads some really great books.

Funnest New Book Blogger That I Read Everyday (yes, I realize 'funnest' is not a real word, but it suits my purpose): Great Books and Fresh Coffee. Go check it out!

Best Classics-Reading Blog: Books N' Border Collies. Lezlie reads the best stuff!

Best Quote in a Header Blog: Wrighty's Reads. I'm not going to tell you what it is. You must head over there and read it yourself.

Friendliest Blogger on the Planet: Veens at Giving Reading a Chance. I *heart* Veens!

And I know I'm only supposed to give six awards, but I want to do seven (just gotta be different....what's Beth gonna do? Take my award away?). So....

Best Holiday-Look at a Book Blog: Should Be Reading. I love, love, love the Holiday feel at Miz B's place!

Nominees: you are to go forth and follow these simple guidelines:

Mention the blog that gave it to you.
Comment on her blog to let her know you have posted the award.
Share 6 values that are important to you.
Share 6 things you do not support.
Share the love with six other wonderful blogging friends.

Review: The Magician's Book

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia, by Laura Miller

The Down and Dirty
The Magician's Book is a non-fiction look at author Laura Miller's childhood love-affair with The Chronicles of Narnia. Her later disillusionment with The Chronicles and C.S. Lewis comes after the discovery of the Christian themes (barely) underlying the story. Miller goes on to explore her estrangement and later reconciliation with The Chronicles, the life of C.S. Lewis, and the magic of books for children.

The Literary Criticism
There is irony to be found in providing literary criticism of a book of literary criticism. Or perhaps it's just redundant. Either way, I have a few observations about The Magician's Book.
"[Narnia] represents a mezzanine between the dependency of childhood and the autonomy of adulthood."
The Magician's Book, by Laura Miller
Miller provides some beautiful insights into the magic of books (both for children and adults). She explores the allure books hold for children and in doing so also provides a lovely insight into the mind of a child. As an adult, we tend to remember that there were certain books we loved when we were young, but forget exactly why we loved them so much. Miller elucidates those reasons in a softly reminiscent style that is a pleasure to read.

Still, there is such a thing as too much introspection and the original essay perhaps was the best vehicle for what Miller has to say. After providing some brilliant thoughts on a particular subject, for example Lewis' thoughts on people who gravitate towards books, the subject would then be picked apart to such a degree that the original idea was sometimes lost in the process. Which is a shame, really, because there were some wonderful nuggets of wisdom that became mired.
It did not escape his [C.S. Lewis] notice that people who read a lot of good books aren't necessarily the more virtuous for it.
The Magician's Book, by Laura Miller

Miller's criticism of the themes present in The Chronicles of Narnia are precisely presented in a logical format and documents a personal wrestling match with Christianity. While some critiques of her work take issue with this, I found it enlightening and smartly written. Miller includes relevant thoughts on Narnia as well as observations from some noted authors, including Neil Gaiman, which fleshes out her own observations quite well.
The moral dilemmas faced by children in Narnia were Lewis' own.
The Magician's Book, by Laura Miller
Miller also delves into the art of literary criticism, mostly in an attempt to explain her own criticisms of The Chronicles of Narnia, but they are especially insightful and interesting to those of us who regularly engage in reading and reviewing literature.
But there's a difference between wanting all stories you read to be about you in the most literal sense, and reading with the hope that you can find a bit of yourself in all stories...
The Magician's Book, by Laura Miller
It's been said before that sometimes a story is just that: a story. To analyze the author's intent and meaning by picking apart the work sentence by sentence can ultimately destroy the story itself. Ultimately, perhaps The Chronicles of Narnia are best left for the next generation of children to fall into and enjoy the magic.

A Map...in case you need to find your way around Narnia.

A Reader's Respite's Recommendation
If you enjoy reading in-depth literary criticism (or are just addicted to stunningly beautiful cover art), this would be a lovely addition to your library, especially for book bloggers. Be careful, though, if you think the dismantling and reconstruction of The Chronicles of Narnia might ruin a precious childhood memory of these tales.

Read a Salon interview, A Spy in the House of Narnia, with the author.

Title: The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia
Author: Laura Miller
ISBN-13: 978-0316017633
320 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date: December 3, 2008

Other Reviews in Blogland:
The Indextrious Reader
Kristina's Favorites
The Book Nest
Bermudaonion's Weblog

In Which A Reader's Respite Resolves

A Reader's Respite is getting a head start on New Year's Resolutions.

Why so early, you ask?

To begin with, we've never actually resolved any resolutions before. Ever. Hitherto (isn't that just the best word?), we've thought New Year's Resolutions as a list made with good intentions, but ultimately doomed to fail and induce gut-wrenching guilt and feelings of failure and shame.

But as 2009 hurtles towards us at light speed approaches, it has become patently obvious that we need one essential ingredient to start the New Year off right:


In order to accomplish this task set before us, A Reader's Respite has identified the following steps that must be taken.
  1. There are about a gazillion fabulous blogs out there in Blogland. I currently subscribe to 142 of them. Organization means commenting on the blog posts I enjoy so much every day. After all, how can I expect you to keep feeding (ha! great pun!) me such great information if I'm not telling you how much I love your posts?
  2. Writing book reviews is almost not quite an art form. A craft, if you will. Organization will be facilitated by honing my craft and improving my review writing skills. Perhaps a workshop is in order?
  3. Keeping an up-to-date and appropriately tagged online database is essential for organization. A Reader's Respite currently keeps several scattered and woefully incomplete and inappropriately tagged online databases that are, for all intents and purposes, utterly useless. Not to mention embarrassing.
  4. Email inboxes are not useful if ignored. 'Nuff said.
  5. Only the weak-minded are easily distracted. This is perhaps best summed up by the powerfully philosophical dialogue in the immortal George Lucas film, Star Wars, in which we are reminded:

In short, A Reader's Respite will be attaining organization by 2009. That will mean


What's going on your shame-and-guilt-inducing list?

Diversifying My Bookshelves

The Chicago Tribune tipped me off to this book. It allegedly contains the longest literary sentence. Sadly, the book was overlooked for an award for the longest literary sentence due to
  1. an obscene number of "blahs" that appear in the story
  2. it's literary value is highly questionable

There are more volumes, too. Eleven of them, in fact.

Because I care about you all and want to expand your reading horizons, I'll share an excerpt of The Blah Book, Volume 10:

Blah intimidated, they blah to blah blah, where blah and blah passed a blah blah. Blah little blah that blah blah one blah surprised to blah what blah their blah were blah.
‘I always blah a blah to blah a blah,’ he blah blah.
‘I like blah.’
‘You can’t be a babyoubiquitouseadogablahomeffectonightobyeassymmetri-cityowlablaheatenderopechoeslightlyuppiepitheturnsweetoastiedgedificexcre-tadamanterribleducatedrumustablahisisterealityearnobodyesirapacityounde-rstandoorbellicksensuousecretownevereadsimplelationatchomiciderectionabo-blahisuperediagramustoleratevenominalovenergyahoopsorryoudderunoxiou-slutablahuousetstrongamevermorenjoymentaboopensweetreasurevokexac-teamsterepackageseveninelevenockeauseartifactseldomorelapselectrocut-evilivesilentlyahublahementonightomorroweaponeverespondeblahidde-nebulaboutediousleeprisoneverafflesteadfastemptingearoamoblahalfres-hotoastereactsillyesidehilliftstupidadealtooptionaleagueatsausagearnestu-blahooderangesmallevelowolfishybridizationamingametiarismorianblahian-blahismeadowblahianicoachingenusexadecimaloopingpongabbereadyamoa-nuouseanchorismiraculousuityuppiemigrantubelationoblahistablebblahorr-endousuabilityesoupismediandumacaroonablahablegomanialtitudexchang-eablexcisionalismoblahuousementetragonicivilianacreousingoaltendereda-blahablescalatoracecardoorentopaquescapismoblahabilentrancingarbagele-ctricsoapboxysteraceastablahuousistementrashedoodahuddlembalmoistu-rearldomagnificationaffreakyesheatsundownothiseasonymphomiacellaret-eninelevenublahubbyellowindowoodwormerelyohobelizechoingoopersonic-kerabidivingrabbleconomyuckebablahismealoadstonephemeralabourecall-ementeacheroadielaborationationalinguisticsuasionobblelevatoreactionice-lyearbooknagrablahookvassensuousensuousensuouspringubbinsmalleftur-nibblescapadescapadechoscillationucleustackookudospellablahistablahicc-upingovernmentediouspiraleftakejaculationationalismoreffectivefferentru-ismajorityurtamponakedeadoorunsouthundredaysimultaneouslyalecauda-tecovereaffirmationopositelocutioniblickamikazedelweissporteenyellibera-lismoccasineaparallelabeliblahableuclideanuclearareditoreadsolemnubbin-slowomanizationaevustillicksevenoblahublahueagernessimpleagletruegov-ercomestabledacityachtingentlemanodsacredatabouterribleffigyeastablea-geroamiddleggymnasiumoblahismoderadiationodalasereedubbinamelesse-asonearlyearedemandsomeasyearsoperaticreamarmaladendayuckyesabr-eternalongoalifeveno-cksuddenablahitablahementalismatutinalipoisonom-inationowhereverywhereveneverunuchaleisurepidemiculturexp…

So, who's up for an ARC of the next volume? Show of hands, please.

Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling

The Quick Synopsis
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, mentioned in the final Harry Potter novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is a collection of five stories for young magical children, much like the fairy tales we Muggles tell our own children. Translated by Hermione Granger, The Tales also include commentary and notations by Albus Dumbledore, which were found among his effects after his untimely death.
Whether there was ever a washerwoman who was able to transform into a rabbit is open to doubt; however, some magical historians have suggested that Beedle modeled Babbitty on the famous French sorceress Lisette de Lapin, who was convicted of witchcraft in Paris in 1422. To the astonishment of her Muggle guards, who were later tried for helping the witch to escape, Lisette vanished from her prison cell the night before she was due to be excuted. Although it has never been proven that Lisette was an Animagus who managed to squeeze throught the bars of her cell window, a large white rabbit was subsequently seen crossing the English Channel in a cauldron with a sail fitted to it, and a similar rabbit later became a trusted advisor at the court of King Henry VI.*
*This may have contributed to that Muggle King's reputation for mental instability.
Albus Dumbledore commentary on "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump."
from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling

The Literary Criticism
Let's be honest: what is there to criticize? It's another piece of the Harry Potter phenomenon that will appeal to any fan of the series. Children who are Harry Potter fans will likely enjoy the Beedle Bard's tales, while adults will find Dumbledore's notations more interesting.

The Recommendation
For anyone who has collected the Harry Potter series, I would recommend this volume if for no other reason than to round out your collection.

If you're not a collector of the books, this little "extra" is not going to enhance the series or provide any additional insight into Harry.

If you've never read the Harry Potter series (is there anyone left out there?), then I honestly cannot think of any reason you might want to pick up this book.

A photo of the original Tales of the Beedle Bard, handwritten by
J.K. Rowling. Sold at auction for a cool $4 million.
No, really. I'm not making this up.

*A Note Regarding the Publisher: The Tales of Beedle the Bard is published by the Children's High Level Group, which is a registered charity. All net proceeds from the sale of this novel will be donated to The Children's Voice campaign, which champions children's rights across Europe.

Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
ISBN-13: 978-0545128285
107 pages
Publisher: Children's High Level Group
Date: December 4, 2008

Other Reviews from Blogland:

Dark Lord Center
Out of the Blue
Temporary Worlds
Bryan's Book Blog
The Book Lady's Blog
Pipe Dreams and Professions
Wrighty's Reads

Review: Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

The Quick Synopsis
Welcome to Bon Temps, a small town in northern Louisiana. Here you'll meet the adorable Sookie Stackhouse, a local barmaid with a "disability," and her boyfriend Bill. Bill the Vampire, that is. Yes, vampires are a part of society in Dead Until Dark, the first book in the Southern Vampire Series written by Charlaine Harris. In fact, vampires have come out of the coffin, so to speak, and live openly - if not fully accepted - in society.

But a series of young women have been found dead in Bon Temps recently and suspicion naturally falls on Bill the Vampire. Worse, it looks as if Sookie might be next on the killer's agenda. Sookie and Bill must find the killer themselves if they want to live happily ever after, if indeed one can live happily ever after with a vampire.

Dead Until Dark is the basis for the new HBO series, TrueBlood.

The Literary Criticism
When an author creates a paranormal world like the one in Dead Until Dark, they must also create so-called rules for their paranormal creatures. Fiction about human beings, by and large, need not state their rules because as humans, you and I know those rules quite well. What the paranormal rules are specifically doesn't really matter. What is important is that the author stick to their rules to give the story legitimacy. Harris, I'm happy to report, excels at this (unlike another well-known vampire author who has been all the rage recently), which brings a cohesiveness to the story and keeps you comfortably ensconced in her world.

Harris also creates an amusing vocabulary all her own when it comes to vampires.

Vampire groupies?
They're called 'fang-bangers.'

A vampire's ability to hypnotize?
They're simply 'glamoring' you.

And assimilation, or 'mainstreaming,' into society eerily parallels the difficulties experienced by other minority groups in the American south. As light-hearted as this mystery is, there is a dark undercurrent of small-town American prejudice there for any who care to look for it.

The Recommendation
For a reader who professes not to care for westerns or the paranormal, I sure seem to be picking up an awful lot of them recently. But in the case of Dead Until Dark, I'm glad I did. The book is much more light-hearted than HBO's adaptation and the characters are far more sympathetic when you meet them on the pages instead of the screen.

Dead Until Dark could be considered what is often referred to as a light read, but I just consider it plain fun. Enjoyable for a plane ride or a fun interlude between more serious novels, I highly recommend it.

There are currently eight available books in the series. If you suffer from series OCD like I do, you might want to collect them all.

The Southern Vampire Series
  • Dead Until Dark
  • Living Dead in Dallas
  • Club Dead
  • Dead to the World
  • Dead as a Doornail
  • Definitely Dead
  • All Together Dead
  • From Dead to Worse
Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
ISBN-13: 978-0441016990
304 pages
Publisher: Ace
Date: May 2001

Other Reviews in Blogland:
Reading Adventures
The Girls on Books
Stephanie's Written Word
Ciara Stewart
Morbid Romantic
Book Awards Reading Challenge
Thrifty Reader
Passion for the Page
Working Title

Diversifying My Bookshelves

The Shark-Infected Custard
by Charles Willeford

Fyrefly's Book Blog brought this to my attention. Not sure how I missed it.

I think this would put an existential spin to my library, don't you?

How to Make A Reader's Respite Cry

Well perhaps the term would be "mist up." Either way, it results in Big Kid stating, "mommy, you haf tears."

Method #1: Be a Secret Santa to A Reader's Respite.

Dar at Peeking Between the Pages has perfected this method by sending a reader's utopia of gifts that she picked out using my weekly wishlists that I ramble on about and included such items as Toni Morrison's A Mercy, Eva Etzioni-Halevy's The Triumph of Deborah, bookmarks, sticky notes (How did she know I *heart* sticky notes?), and a handmade ornament for the tree.

Have a looksy

Method #2: When A Reader's Respite's munchkin (aka Little Kid) says MaMa for the first time. I tried my best to coax a repeat performance out of her just for you, but the lure of shiny electronic equipment proves to be too much of a distraction.

So you get this:

Review: The King's Daughter

The King's Daughter, by Sandra Worth

A Quick Synopsis
This is a historical fiction novel about Elizabeth of York, daughter of England's King Edward IV, wife of King Henry VII, and mother of King Henry VIII. Told in first person narrative, the story follows Elizabeth from her childhood to her death at the age of 37.

Elizabeth of York

The Literary Criticism
It is important to understand that author Sandra Worth was taking a chance here: many of the characters that appear in The King's Daughter (Elizabeth Woodville, Richard III, Henry VII, et al) have sharply divided both historians and historical fiction readers for years and as the old saying goes, you simply cannot please everyone all of the time.

Being relatively open-minded when it comes to any of these historical figures often frees me to read many books that might offend others, although I freely admit to being particular downright picky about historical fiction in general. Writers such as Sharon Kay Penman, Dorothy Dunnett and, more recently, Michelle Moran have set the bar, as it were, quite high. As a result, I am more critical than perhaps I ought to be when picking up a historical novel.

Perhaps The King's Daughter and I started off on the wrong foot. The word "woe!" is uttered four times within the first six pages. Melodramatic, thought I.

I also took exception to the good versus evil characterizations in the novel. Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth of York, is not just portrayed as ambitious, she is downright evil. Every nasty historical rumor ever uttered about this controversial woman was played out in this novel. She is a practicing witch, a hateful mother who engages in out-and-out physical cat fights with her daughter, a scheming harridan who would pimp out her virgin daughter to obtain throne of England. While there is enough historical evidence to conclude that Woodville was ambitious to a fault, the heaps of evil attributed to her in The King's Daughter ends up detracting from Worth's argument: that it was her ambition that significantly contributed to the ultimate demise of the Yorkists.

Richard III and Queen Anne, on the other hand, are presented as veritable saints. Not simply good people with only honorable intentions, but with a domesticity that could have been much more convincing were it not so drenched in saccharine. The perfect King, so in love with his perfect Queen, living in a fairy tale that the evil Lancastrians want to destroy. Again, a sound premise that was taken to a theatrical extreme.

King Richard III and Queen Anne

It must be said that Worth did not scrimp on the research for this novel. While there is no absolute evidence for many of the conclusions she reaches in the novel, this is quite within the historical fiction author's purveyance. The conclusions may have been more convincing, in my opinion, with more subtlety. It is indeed possible that Elizabeth harbored a love for her uncle and wished to marry him, but passages such as "We were never alone again after Anne's death, but our hearts were one each time our eyes met" were ever-so-slightly over the top.

I felt the novel greatly improved as the chapters went by. Once Richard kicked the bucket and Woodville headed off to the nunnery, things became far less melodramatic. Worth's characterization of Henry VII was temperate and because of this, quite believable. In fact, the novel improved so much that I even found flashes of absolute brilliance, such as the references to Machiavelli during Henry's reign. (Loved that!)

The basics of this novel are present: good research and plausible conclusions. I can't help but think that if Worth had just scaled it back a bit on the characterizations, this would have a very good piece of historical fiction instead of a fairy tale-esque melodrama.

The Recommendation
Whether or not you seek out a copy of The King's Daughter is going to depend entirely on your taste in historical fiction. If you've come to expect the quality of Penman, you might feel this one misses the mark, at least for the first half of the novel. But if you're more flexible with your historical fiction and can overlook the initial histrionics, you'll likely enjoy this read.

Title: The King's Daughter
Author: Sandra Worth
ISBN-13: 978-0425221440
416 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Date: December 2, 2008

More reviews of this book in Blogland:

S. Krishna's Books
Cheryl's Book Nook
Reading With Monie
Devourer of Books
A Biblio Paradise

*Would you like to read this book? Leave me a comment and I'll draw a random name at on Friday and send it on to you!