It’s 1485; the Wars of the Roses have ended, but the victorious Henry VII sits insecurely on his throne. Still mourning her lover, Richard III, Princess Elizabeth of York must wed King Henry to unite their warring houses. Unlike his predecessors, Henry has no personal charm, and the novel excels at depicting his paranoia as royal pretenders pop up and threaten England’s stability.
Kept ignorant of the political scheming around her and caught between her York relations and securing her children’s inheritance, Elizabeth can’t match the dynamism of her mother, Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen, 2009), or mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen, 2010), and they occasionally steal the spotlight. Nonetheless, the younger Elizabeth is an observant narrator, and her difficult position reflects historical reality, as does her growing closeness to her beleaguered husband.
The repetitive language will either drive points home for readers or drive them batty, but the novel is as replete with intrigue and heartrending drama as Gregory’s fans expect.
The White Princess was published by Touchstone in hardcover in August ($26.99/Can$29.99, 400pp). Simon & Schuster is the UK publisher (£20.00). This review first appeared in Booklist's July issue.
Some added remarks:
1 - The White Princess is #10 on the NYT bestseller list for hardcover fiction this week.
2 - This is the fifth novel by Philippa Gregory I've reviewed for Booklist; I've covered all of the books in her Cousins' War series except The White Queen, plus The Other Queen as well. My favorites are The Red Queen, about Margaret Beaufort, and The Kingmaker's Daughter, about Anne Neville.
3 - I worry I'm becoming repetitive in describing these novels as repetitive, because this is the 3rd review in which I've said something about it, but while I find the stories entertaining, it's distracting when the narrators say the same phrases over and over... and with this book, this begins with the very first paragraph.
4 - Royalty buffs and those following the series will know that Richard III is the uncle of Elizabeth of York and, yes, they're presented as lovers in this book.
5 - The White Queen miniseries begins in the US this coming Saturday. I'll be watching.