The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the fourth in Gregory’s “Cousins War” series and is the story of Anne Neville, daughter of the powerful Earl of Warwick, widow of the Lancastrian Edward, Prince of Wales and queen to Richard III. I’ve come to the point where I approach Gregory’s novels for what they are – entertainment and easy reading and I’ve read enough books (fiction and non-fiction) about the period that I know the general story. I also have a fairly high tolerance for straying from known facts, especially in the interest of crafting a good story.
Since I first picked up The Other Boleyn Girl almost seven years ago, I’ve read most of Gregory’s books and have had mixed reactions to them. The Kingmaker’s Daughter certainly isn’t the worst of them and there are several moments (especially a shipboard child birth scene) that show Gregory’s ability to write a really good story. The problem here is that those scenes are too few and far between. And that’s a shame.
Gregory once again employs first person, present tense for the narrative. Perhaps because the choice is becoming so overdone, the present tense didn’t bother me as much as it has in the past, but the use of first person still limits the range of events that can be explored. As a young girl (perhaps around eight – I can’t exactly remember or find it), Anne’s voice is rather childish (as it should be) as she observes the adults and events around her . I found her charming as she complains about always having to be last, talks about the “bad queen”, the “sleeping king”, and the imperious attitude of her older sister Isabel, and as the two fuss and fight and siblings do.
As Anne ages though her voice really doesn’t. For much of the book she still is only a teenager and so it takes on a young adult feel which is not necessarily a criticism since it would be entirely age appropriate. But by the time Richard becomes king she is in her mid-twenties and she came across as a little whiney. She has her moments though and she’s not always nice, especially when it comes to her mother.
As a whole, The Kingmaker’s Daughter was a decent read with a fast paced plot. But there were a few things that bugged me and which are unfortunately becoming part of every Gregory novel (and I have mentioned them before). The most glaring is the writing style itself – it’s too simplistic and dumbed down and the whole thing feels rather shallow. There’ also no atmosphere nor any sense of time or place. Then there is that annoying little thing about over-identifying people – for example, Richard saying “the king, my brother”. I’m sure Richard and everyone else in the story (except for perhaps the "sleeping king") knows that the king is his brother. We don't need to be told repeatedly.
The witchcraft angle of The White Queen and The Rivers Woman makes a reappearance. But here, I thought it actually worked. It’s not a matter of whether Elizabeth Woodville or her mother are witches and can “whistle up a wind” or not, but that Anne (and others) believed that they were or at least might be, and they act on and panic in response to those beliefs.
There is one other area where Gregory needs to make a huge improvement - her Author's Note. The one here is less than 2 pages, says very little and makes no attempt to detail or explain historical facts that may have been changed. She does indicate that her next book will be about Elizabeth of York and here, I have to give her credit for one thing though - she's managed to take a story and publish four (soon to be five) books out of it all just by changing the point of view.
Great women: “If a woman rises to greatness she becomes every woman’s enemy. If she fights to keep greatness, then everyone, men and women, simply hate her.” Margaret of Anjou to Anne.
The making of kings: “Now I see that every man is a kingmaker. A throne is not empty for a moment before someone is being measured for the crown.” Anne as she considers the fate of the princes and that no one is ever entirely secure.
In case the FTC asks: Review copy from the publisher