This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book Review: Young Bess

Young Bess, Margaret Irwin
3 roses

Young Bess is the beginning of a trilogy by Margaret Irwin being republished over the next year or two by Sourcebooks. It relates the early life of Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, from her early childhood years up until her brother Edward VI’s death. This is a period of Elizabeth’s life that is not focused on very much; her late teenage years and the years of her reign are widely covered. However this was a very dangerous time in Elizabeth’s life – growing up in the shadow of her infamous mother and constantly dodging political traps. Margaret Irwin gives us a very compelling look at what happened during those dangerous years.

The story is told through the eyes of several narrators – Elizabeth, Catherine Parr, Edward VI, the Seymours, the Duchess of Somerset – which made it a bit confusing and difficult to follow at times, but it also gives the reader many different view points on particular moments in history. I did enjoy seeing events through the eyes of Thomas and Ned Seymour and most especially from Ned’s wife, the Duchess of Somerset’s view point. I think her character was actually the most interesting in the entire novel; she really comes across as greedy, grasping, and manipulative. It was refreshing to get different perspectives which are not usually narrated in novels about this time period. The majority of the story focuses on the budding relationship between teenage Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour and his quest to wrench power away from his older brother, the Lord Protector. Irwin has her own interpretation of the depth of Elizabeth and Thomas’s relationship and doesn’t fill the pages with unnecessary seduction scenes. The reader is plunged into the depths of Tudor court intrigue and is given a “behind the scenes” look at how these very powerful people felt and operated. In wonderful detail, Irwin shows us religious and political conflicts, various alliances and betrayals, and descriptions of everyday life and issues of the period.

I did enjoy reading this novel but, while wonderfully written, it did not include any new facts about the period. It was an easy read for the most part despite the many narrators, though it did seem a bit juvenile in its writing style. I believe it would be a great book for young adult readers, or someone new to the genre, to read in order to become better acquainted with the time period and the many colorful characters. The second novel in the trilogy, Elizabeth, Captive Princess is due for reissue in October 2010 and the third novel, Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain will be out in the Spring of 2011.

*Reviewed for Bookpleasures

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the way Irwin handled this part of Elizabeth's story. I think it's often either glossed over or the author succumbs to the pregnancy rumors. Here I thought Irwin showed nicely how her experiences with Thomas Seymour shaped Elizabeth and her reign. I'm looking forward to the next one!