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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!