Book Review: “The Red Queen”

This month’s reading theme, “Month of Women,” has been exceptionally interesting, and introduced me to a lot of new female authors, books, and characters. The idea was, in honor of National Women’s Month, to read books for women, by women, about women. This week, I read Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction novel, The Red Queen.

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The Red Queen is the second in Gregory’s “The Cousin’s War” series, which follow characters throughout the infamous Cousin’s War in England in the Middle Ages. We read the first book, The White Queen, in January, and it was one of my favorite books of the challenge. The Red Queen had a lot to live up to, in my opinion, but Gregory hit a home run with her second book in the series! Where The White Queen followed the York queen Elizabeth Woodville, The Red Queen followed the founding mother of the opposing family, the Lancasters. Born as a cousin to the King of England, Margaret Beaufort was raised as a pious, regal young woman. She was forced married to a Tudor, and at the ripe old age of 13 birthed her only child, Henry Tudor, who would become heir to the throne of England. With usurpers and decades of battle, Margaret grows from a young mother dedicated to her “true king,” to a queen mother on the warpath to win her son the throne.

The Red Queen is absolutely fascinating. Margaret is a really powerful female lead, and one can’t help but allow their heart to go out to the woman who faces every misfortune on her rise to power. Unlike Elizabeth in The White Queenwho lives a rather fortunate life on her way to power, and needs to face a downfall, Margaret takes the opposite journey – struggling and desperate on her rise to power (or her son’s power), and finally successful later in her life. Gregory weaves a very successful and exceptionally interesting story, allowing readers to related to the character, feel for her disappointments, and enjoy her successes.

I found myself a bit distracted when reading this novel, trying to match up the timeline to that of Elizabeth’s story in The White Queen. Their stories run parallel to one another, and I feel like I can better understand parts of Elizabeth’s story by understanding Margaret’s. These novels tie together so neatly. Gregory’s historical edge is captivating. I am a fan of historical fiction, and her novels remind me of why. While reading her novels, I feel inspired to research the era and the families more completely. Elizabeth and Margaret are the grandmothers of the infamous king, Henry VIII, and great grandmothers to Elizabeth I. Margaret was the matriarch of the famous Tudor dynasty. I love that I learn while reading these novels, and I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

We’ve read the first of a few series during this book challenge, but this is the only time we’ve picked up a second book from a series. There is a reason – I have really enjoyed these novels, and find myself thinking about them well after they’re done (I even had a dream that I was watching the final battle of The Red Queen take place), and inspired to learn more.

So how about you? Did you read along? Have you read The White Queen or The Red Queen? Are you a Gregory fan? Share your thoughts about this novel!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Book Review: “The Red Queen”

  1. Kathleen

    I loved it and wish it could have gone on forever. I found your comment and how very different the red queens experience was from the white queen very true and interesting. It was wonderful to hear her side of a complicated cousins war. I did not like Margaret, she was self righteous and too ambitious for my taste. She treated her 2nd husband terribly even though he was sweet and generous towards her. She was grimly determined and people like that are often successful…even to the detriment of all around them. Bravo on a fascinating book! What is her next one? Also, do you think Jasper was a near do well?

    • I must agree – I was not a fan of Margaret. She was very self righteous, and “holier-than-thou” despite the fact that she had the same flaws as Elizabeth (for which she condemned Elizabeth). She did treat her husband terribly, but I think she really didn’t want to get married, and also wanted him to be a bit more ambitious than he was. I actually liked Jasper – I found him to be very ambitious, and driven to give his life to his cause. Do you think Henry Tudor is Daenerus Targarian (khalessi in Game of Thrones)? Exiled for 20 years, house standard is the dragon, heir to a mad king? That would make Jasper Joran Mormont, right?

  2. Kathleen

    Right, they are the returning Targarians under the dragon banner coming from the east. Jasper is Joran Mormont. I did like Jasper but I think he was leading Margaret on romantically and I think he left Henry Tudor at the battle to protect himself and assure he had an escape root. This makes him a ne’er do well in my book. Whatever happened to him historically?

  3. Haley

    Loved this book too. Hated Margaret. She was narcissistic and rude but driven. She and Elizabeth are two sides of the same coin. It is impressive how much she was able to accomplish being used as a pawn for all of her young life. I can’t imagine being used my an uncaring adult male as a thirteen year old virgin. It made you feel sorry for her in the beginning before you really realized how insane and self important she is. I don’t think jasper is as great as he seems. I feel like he used her like everyone else. I liked Stanley because he was completely honest about his dishonesty.

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