Author: Philippa Gregory
Published: Touchstone, July 2013
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The White Princess is fifth in The Cousin's War series revolving around the Plantagenet family. I read this series in the completely wrong order: book one, two, five, four, and then three. This would usually drive me nuts but I'm pretty familiar with this time period so it all still made sense. The latest release revolves around Elizabeth of York, King Edward IV's oldest daughter. Historically, we know her most famously for being the mother of Henry VIII, yet there aren't really many books that center around her, so this was exciting to pick up. Philippa and I have had our struggles in the past, but I still keep coming back for more.
In the series, we've left off right after Richard III is killed and Henry VII takes the throne. Elizabeth knows she comes as part of the package in Henry's ruling of England, but of course she's not eager to marry the man who stole her family's throne and killed her uncle. Henry certainly isn't a pleasant man in the beginning (aka he's HORRIBLE; what an awful portrayal of a pretty decent guy in reality), especially in his treatment of Elizabeth, but they eventually grow into somewhat happy pair. With a childhood spent in hiding, most of her family members meeting tragic ends, an unwanted husband, a rocky time as Queen, and the loss of many of her children, Elizabeth had quite an interesting life, but we don't see much of it in this book. She's pretty clueless throughout the entire thing (she says "I don't know" at least 400 times and most of her dialogue is her simply repeating what was just said previously) and at times I felt her character was underdeveloped and that she was simply observing things around her rather than participating in them (boooringgg).
Now I think Philippa Gregory writes wonderful fiction full of action (okay, not so much in this one), intense characters, and vivid scenery and life, but I don't like how she pushes many of her speculations as historical fact and her tendencies to make things over-dramatic simply for the sake of a good book rather than historical accuracy (as if this period of time wasn't dramatic enough). For instance, there's a BIG plot in The White Princess that Elizabeth was her uncle Richard III's lover (NO NO NO NO). There is only one tiny shred of historical evidence pointing to this and it's awkward to push this so heavily in a book (it's also a big point in the television show based on the series as well). Gregory's focus on Elizabeth and her female ancestors being descendants of a water goddess and consequentially sorceresses, if that's the right word, themselves is cool to an extent but mostly made me want to face-palm the entire time. The constant 'prophecies' Elizabeth kept relaying felt a little over the top - ("our family line will end with a red-headed girl," yeah yeah yeah). Still, I've enjoyed this series so far for what it is - "historical entertainment" (heavily twisted and imagined fiction as well). This was a good addition, even with a little debate and eyebrow-raising moments along the way - just don't take anything too seriously.
Giveaway! I have a beautiful hardcover copy of The White Princess to give away to one of you! US residents only - simply leave a comment below by August 16th to be entered.