My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"I remember my mother mourning her son and saying that when you have got a child through babyhood you think you are safe. But a woman is not safe. Not in this world. Not in this world where brother fights against brother and no one can ever put their sword aside, or trust in the law." - Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen
The White Queen is the first book in The Cousin's War series by Philippa Gregory, and tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who falls in love with King Edward IV, during the English Wars of the Roses, and the mysterious events surrounding their sons, the Princes in the Tower.
Elizabeth is from the House of Lancaster, at war with the House of York for the English throne. After the death of her first husband during the war, she is left a widow with two young sons and no means with which to provide for them. This leads her to petition the King, Edward IV, from the rival House of York, for assistance. This bold decision changes her life forever: The rivals - a commoner and a king - fall in love and marry in secret, resulting in Elizabeth being crowned Queen of England after the House of York defeats the House of Lancaster for the throne.
Edward IV's decision to marry Elizabeth and favour her family is not approved by everyone, particularly the Earl of Warwick, who had hoped for an alliance with France through the marriage of the king and a French princess. Bitter and refusing to take a backseat, Warwick tries to overthrow Edward IV, first with his younger brother George, and then later by trying to restore the mentally unstable Henry VI to the throne.
There is little peace during Edward IV's reign, who is consistently forced to fight for his throne, despite Elizabeth providing him with a brood of healthy heirs, and the two of them establishing a glittering court - usually sure signs of a stable kingdom. At Edward's untimely death his younger brother, Richard, is proclaimed Protector of the child Edward V, but later claims the throne for himself by disinheriting Elizabeth and her children. It is this that leads to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower: Edward V and his younger "brother", Prince Richard, are held captive in the Tower of London by their Uncle, now King Richard III, but are never seen again.
The White Queen is told from Elizabeth Woodville's perspective. Gregory portrays her as a woman of strong will and determination, with an unrelenting devotion to her husband and children. It is easy to feel compassion and frustration at the situation that Elizabeth finds herself in, over and over again, as she battles through an unstable England where friend and foe cannot be easily determined.
Elizabeth, as a descendant of the Water Goddess Melusina, possesses the power to control water: Lakes, rivers, storms and seas, through which Gregory adds magic and a supernatural intrigue to the events that unfold. The sad tale of Melusina is entwined within the unfortunate events of Elizabeth's life as Queen of England, perhaps suggesting that fate is the most powerful magic of all, and one that cannot be fought.
A fantastic historical novel, beautifully written and impeccably told: Highly recommended.
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I enjoyed this novel so much that I must, must, must share it! I have one brand new paperback edition of The White Queen to GIVEAWAY!
Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the 30 November 2010 will go into the draw to win it, with the winner being announced on the 1 December 2010.