Author: Patricia Bracewell
Publisher: Viking Adult
ISBN: 0670026395

Reading Patricia Bracewell's Shadow on the Crown made me realize how much I have missed reading historical fiction.  There was a time when all I wanted to read was historical fiction; I couldn't get enough of it. However, as different genres of books were recommended to me by friends I unknowingly found myself drifting away from historical fiction.  Reading Shadow on the Crown has definitely renewed my historical interest, if you will.

Bracewell's Shadow on the Crown has everything that I look for when reading historical fiction.  She literally transported me back to 1001-1005 England where I was able to easily visulize the landscape and get a feel of the social and political atmosphere.  Many of the events that Bracewell writes about are documented and most of her characters are based on true historical figures.  However, much of the plot has been made up for entertainment purposes.     

The narrative centers around a real person from history: young Emma, the sister to the Duke of Normandy and Queen of England.  Due to political unsteadiness with Denmark, Emma's brother promises her hand in marriage to King Athelred of England, an older royal with grown children of his own.  Emma must leave her home in Normandy and everything she has ever known, including her native tongue.  However, she is a quick learner of language and surprises everyone with the speed at which she picks up England's language.  

Emma's marriage to King Athelred is not one of passion, friendship, or respect.  Athelred felt forced to marry again when his previous wife passed.  He is not happy about having to name Emma as the Queen.  Emma finds Athelred can be cruel and is only worried about himself.  She feels quite alone in England and fears her brother, the Duke of Normandy, will enter into an agreement with England's enemy Denmark that will place herself in danger.  In order to secure her future safety, Emma must give the King a son.  Throughout the novel, Emma finds herself besotted with King Athelred's eldest son, Athelstan.  Making a promise to herself to remain loyal to her vows, Emma curses the fact that she was betrothed to the father and not the son.    

Shadow on the Crown takes place between the years of 1001-1005, a very dangerous time in England's history when it was ruled by the Anglo-Saxon King Athelred and pillaged by Vikings.  Bracewell's novel is the first in a series about Emma, the strong and intelligent Queen of England.  I was not familiar with Emma before reading Shadow on the Crown and I look forward to learning more about her in Bracewell's next book.  If you are a lover of historical fiction, Patricia Bracewell's Shadow on the Crown is definitely a book you should place on your To-Be-Read list.

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