Friday, November 26, 2010

"The Red Queen" Rules!

"The Red Queen" by Philippa Gregory is suspenseful and fascinating. Unlike most of the royalties Gregory introduces her readers to, Lady Margaret Beaufort is a religious, passionate and innocent woman.

This book is key in filling in the missing pieces from "The White Queen."

This is Book Two of the series Gregory calls The Cousins’ War (the original name for the War of the Roses, which pitted Lancaster against York), and the starring role is played by Lady Margaret Beaufort. A Lancastrian descended from Edward III (and thus in line for the English throne). Margaret soon discovers that her family tree will determine her entire future. This pious and intense child doesn’t see why she can’t become Joan of Arc, or a nun (preferably an abbess), or at least marry for love. But to be strategically “wedded and bedded” is her lot.
This book isn't like any other Gregory has written because Margaret is a genuinely good person. She isn't trying to rise to royalty for herself. She is only doing it because she honestly feels it is god's plan to put her son on the throne. As a result, she dedicates herself to this challenge BUT unlike any other players in this book, Margaret plays the game fair.

The Top Three Reasons I enjoyed this book:

1) Innocence

Philippa Gregory's books can get redundant after a while. There is always someone fighting for power and that person always does it in the most devilish of ways. However, Margaret is a breath of fresh air, as she relies on religion to fulfill her destiny.

Not once in the book will you see her step on someone to bring her closer to the throne. Instead, you'll see her pray. Not once will you see her sleep her way into a powerful man's position. Instead, you'll see her persuade him with her wits. Not once will you see her turn her back on her family. Instead, fighting for her family is her only motive.

Margaret is a genuinely good and innocent character that I enjoyed getting to know. In an environment where it is easy to lose yourself to power and gain, Margaret remains a virtuous women.

2) Religion vs. Seduction

I loved this book for bringing together two of my favorite queens -- Elizabeth Woodville (the White Queen) and Margaret Beaufort (the Red Queen). These two women are complete opposites, which makes the books so entertaining because you honestly don't know what is going to happen next.

Elizabeth Woodville is on the York side. She slept her way into King Edward's bed and earned herself the title of queen. She relies on her seduction and magic to get what she wants.

Margaret Beaufort is on the Lancaster side. She was thrown into marriage and earned herself the title of "queen mother" after almost dying while giving birth to Henry VII. She relies on religion and god to get what she wants.

Both women honestly think they deserve to be queens, and it is how they fight to get to it that makes this book so great.

3) Family

Gregory used a lot of pages to describe the family dynamics between the characters in the book. The one relationship that I admired the most was Jasper Tudor and Henry Tudor.

Jasper Tudor is Henry's uncle. After Henry's father dies, Jasper spends the rest of his life fighting for his nephew to wear the crown. In this fight, we see Jasper sacrifice everything for Henry, and never once regret it.

It was wonderful to see this type of relationship between uncle and nephew, especially in a book where cousins are killing each other for the crown.

Overall this book was a magnificent read and offered a completely different perspective on "The Cousins War." I give it 5 stars.

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