Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII's claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter - Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret's contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.
After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret's world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and "holiest" woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.
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Dignified End of a Very Ambitious Series
This books ranks somewhere in the middle of all the audiobooks I have listened to, and that is probably because I have been listening to great books and wonderful audio performances as of late, so the middle is not bad at all. When listening/reading, It is very important to give Philippa Gregory her due as a writer, with an excellent grasp of York/Tudor history, and a wonderful imagination that she expertly uses to weave fiction through established historical facts. Philippa is a very effective writer....so effective that she keeps those of us who already know the end of her stories, reading until the last page. My somewhat tepid reception of this book probably has to do with the fact that I was too eager to get my Tudor fix and was expecting this to be one of the best books of the Cousin's War Series and (in my opinion) it was not.
This book covers most of the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (in other words, the establishment of the Tudor dynasty). Margaret Pole, the narrator of this story, is the niece of Richard III and the grand daughter of the Earl of Warwick (the King Maker) and thus a scion of the House of York - the house that the Tudors supplanted when Henry VII defeated Richard III in battle. Margaret is also a cousin of the "White Princess" and niece (by marriage) of the "White Queen" (both have their own novels in the series). It is not unfair to compare the book, then, to other books in the series. In my opinion, "The White Queen" was the best, with the "Red Queen" following a close second. The central characters of these books, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beauford were extremely compelling women and unique for their times, and this probably helped the author when writing the novels. Margaret Pole, regardless of her exquisite pedigree, was certainly not as interesting and not one of the power players, although she is ideally positioned to witness many of the key moments at the end of the Yorkist era and a good part of the beginning of theTudor age.
Personally, I did not like Margaret's in this book; she comes across as haughty, arrogant and shallow (which in itself says something about Philippa Gregory's skill in making the character believable---she made me believe in the character enough to dislike her).
My favorite Philippa Gregory novel is "The Boleyn Inheritance", which I found to be better written and more original in outlook than "The Boleyn Girl" (which for me was a guilty pleasure since it was almost all fiction and no history). "The King's Curse" is not as original as "The Boleyn Inheritance" and certainly less entertaining than "The Boleyn Girl". But it is still much better than most of the Tudor fiction out there.
I did not like Bianca Amato on this narration as much as I have liked her in her other works. Again, this may be because I developed a dislike for Margaret Pole...the character that she lends her voice to in this book.
I must say that I was more than a bit annoyed by the fact that the dynasties involved in this book (York and Tudor) are presented in a very black and white fashion. I don't know if Philippa Gregory presents them this way because this might be the way Margaret Pole would have seen then. She certainly knows better....the sons and daughters of these dynasties were all but cardboard cut-outs! Edward IV (York) was charismatic and very courageous in battle but he was also a womanizer and a rascal (actually Herry VIII- his grandson and a Tudor- resembled him quite a bit). Henry VII is depicted as a neurotic wreck and mama's boy! (for a great, realistic portrait of Henry VII, see "The Winter King"). He had many talents. Politicians at the highest levels were as ambitious and ruthless in the 15th and 16th century as they are today.
This is a worthwhile listen if you are a Tudor junkie; if you have read the previous 5 books then it is a must. You will enjoy it if you are willing to accept Margaret Pole's haughtiness as part of the overall picture. My low overall rating here has to do with the fact that I expected better from Philippa - and because I was probably thinking of Hilary Mantel ;)- And after this book I know for sure that Philippa Gregory is a Yorkist and possibly a Ricardian!!
A DISAPPOINTING ENDING TO AN GOOD SERIES
- Linda Lou