My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Red Queen is the second novel in Philippa Gregory's Cousin's War series, and tells the story of the Wars of the Roses from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort, Lancaster heiress and cousin the mentally unstable King Henry VI.
The novel covers the same period as Gregory's first in the series, The White Queen. However, Margaret Beaufort is a completely different character to Elizabeth Woodville: Gregory's story of Elizabeth is one of magic, intrigue and grace, whilst her portrayal of Margaret is a bundle of contradictions. On one hand, Margaret's a religious fanatic, so pious that she can spend days and weeks fasting and at prayer. However, at the same time she is a bitter, scheming, compassionless woman who will willingly sacrifice innocent lives to achieve her greatest desire: To see her son, Henry Tudor, on the English throne.
Margaret isn't a particularly likeable character, and her belief that she is chosen by God for great things feels strained and desperate, as if the author knows this story fails to hold the mystical allure found in The White Queen. The Red Queen isn't historically accurate either, which can lead to immense frustration for those readers familiar with this period of English history. In addition to that, it seems highly unlikely that Margaret would have risked not only her goals but also her neck by disclosing her scheming ways through written correspondence - she strikes as being far more conniving and clever than that.
Margaret's life isn't as exciting as Elizabeth Woodville's either: She spends most of her time locked away, either by her husbands or her King, and as such nothing much ever seems to happen, aside from a lot of hoping, praying, and wanting. This also makes the story feel very repetitive, and often I found myself hoping, praying and wanting just for something exciting to happen.
The Red Queen does have redeeming moments, such as Margaret's marriage to Henry Stafford, and her volatile opinion of her rivals, which brought smiles and the odd chuckle, but it simply isn't as good as the beautifully written The White Queen.
Since I offered up a giveaway for The White Queen, I thought I would do the same for The Red Queen.
All you have to do to enter the draw is to leave a comment on this post. Entries will be taken until midnight (Australian Central Standard Time) on Sunday, 23 October 2011, with the winner being announced the morning of Monday, 24 October 2011.
Giveaway is open to everyone, on the condition that the Book Depository ships free to your country.
The winner will receive this paperback copy of The Red Queen.
Best of luck!