Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Review of Alison Weir's Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, book three in the Six Tudor Queens series

Jane Seymour, the queen who bore Henry VIII’s longed-for son and died shortly afterward, left little behind in period sources, and popular history stereotypes her as meek and plain. Best-selling Weir’s impressive novel shows why Jane deserves renewed attention. Without any dull moments, Weir illustrates Jane's unlikely journey from country knight’s daughter to queen of England.

To evade the domestic scandal stemming from her brother’s unhappy marriage, the devout, sympathetic Jane comes to court as one of Katherine of Aragon’s maids of honor. This third volume in Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series offers new angles on its earlier subjects: Katherine, aging, resolute, and losing influence, yet kind to her ladies; and sharp-tongued Anne Boleyn, whose religious beliefs Jane finds dangerous.

A woman of principle, Jane courageously holds her own among prominent court personalities, no easy feat. Later, as Anne’s influence wanes, Jane intelligently navigates a path amid a surprising romantic pursuit by King Henry, whose love and generosity initially overshadow his crueler side, and her family’s ambitions.

From the richly appointed decor to the religious tenor of the time, the historical ambiance is first-rate. With her standout novel in the crowded Tudor fiction field, Weir keeps the tension high, breathing new life into a familiar tale and making us wish for a different ending.

This starred review was published in Booklist's latest historical fiction issue (4/15/18).  Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen will be published next week by Ballantine in hardcover and ebook (576pp).  I think this is the best in the series so far. One theme of this book is: don't underestimate the quiet ones. Jane is a terrific character, and her story is well worth reading even if you think you've had enough of all things Tudor.

Also: the fourth volume in the series, about Anne of Cleves, has a title and a cover on Goodreads (it's still early, so it's not clear if they're final). I really like them both -- it's a great way of presenting her in a new light from the get-go -- and hope I get the chance to review the book next year.


  1. I’ve read and enjoyed Alison Weir’s non fiction. I haven’t tried her novels yet. Perhaps if my library has them...

    1. This series is particularly good - I think the novels have gotten better with each book. I'm also a fan of her Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, which I've read cover to cover - it's fascinating.