Ahh, I would have read this sooner but I wanted to buy it and I didn’t want to buy it in hardcover ’cause I’m cheap. Well, finally, it’s out in paperback and I finished reading it — so glad it lives up to my expectations of Gregory’s Cousins’ War series, especially since the last one on Jacquetta was okay, but a bit duller than what I expected. Also, I had little idea who Jacquetta was and frankly, just didn’t care about her. This one, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, is on Anne Neville (the wife of the infamous King Richard III), which to me, is considerably more interesting. By the way, I do talk about the story points rather freely — I don’t consider them spoilers because it’s, well, historical. But if you haven’t a clue as to what happens to Anne and Richard and all these historical figures, perhaps skip this review :)
In this book, it describes Anne’s life from a young girl to adulthood. She is the daughter of Richard Neville, who is known as the Kingmaker because whoever he supports becomes king. The fact that he is a strategist and that he only has 2 daughters and no sons means Anne and her sister Isabel find themselves becoming pawns in their father’s grand plans. One way or another, he vows to make one of his daughters queen and hopefully, a grandson will follow, eventually putting a king with Neville blood in his veins on the throne.
Anne is the younger sister and finds herself in a sort of rivalry with her sister, both wanting to be their father’s favourite daughter, both wanting to be Queen of England. However, the current Queen of England, Elizabeth Woodville, hates the Neville family with all her heart and Anne fears her greatly. She believes Elizabeth Woodville to be a witch, and is afraid of her wrath and powers. Fortune’s wheel rises and fall, and all the players in this story find themselves rising high and falling very low as well.
I really enjoyed this book a lot! I’ve never really noticed Anne Neville before this book, to be honest. Anne Neville is a character that is usually just brushed over in novels (granted, not much is known about her) and her perspective, as well as Richard’s, is a refreshing one. Often they are portrayed as villains because it’s all too easy to do so. In this book, Anne and Richard are devoted to the previous king, King Edward V, and are shown to be loyal to him to the very end. Everything they did was for the sake of Edward’s legacy and the country of England. Elizabeth Woodville is portrayed as a villainous witch; Anne trembles with fright just thinking of her. Many people think Elizabeth Woodville is a witch in this story, but there is no proof that she actually is one, by the way. Anyway, I love this flip of portrayals! Especially since I remember reading The White Queen by the same author, and loving Elizabeth Woodville and thinking, “Oh god, everyone is so mean to her, what a hard life this poor woman is living!” And then, in this book, I think, “That Elizabeth Woodville, she is so malicious and vindictive, sheesh! Poor Anne, none of this is her fault at all!”
I’ve seen some one-line reviews that call this book a sister story, but I don’t really think it is. Not that that’s a problem or anything, just something I noticed. While Anne and her sister Isabel’s rivalry figure prominently in the beginning of the story and explains Anne’s desire to become Queen, after Isabel dies, the rivalry dies off too and it’s all about Anne. I did enjoy reading about their relationship though, and it did bring back positive memories of Philippa Gregory’s other book on sisters, The Other Boleyn Girl.
I wasn’t too crazy about what I considered the climax of the story — when Anne finally became queen. I kind of expected more pomp and excitement from Anne when it happened, but it was so low-key. Anne talks about how she was born to be queen, and how she has fulfilled her father’s ambitions, but there wasn’t anything more than that. It was a little disappointing to be honest. I thought I would feel happy for our protagonist when she finally succeeds over Elizabeth Woodville, her lifelong enemy, but when Anne became Queen, I didn’t feel much of anything at all.
But the lack of excitement at the climax hardly puts a damper to the rest of the story. I feel like I learned so much more about the War of the Roses by reading this book from another character’s perspective, and a minor character at that too. It had everything I wanted — lots of historical details, creativity without straying too far from history, great plotting and pacing. I look forward to her fifth book on Elizabeth of York very much!