Monday, 23 February 2015

"Succession" by Livi Michael reviewed by Pauline Chandler

Set during the tumultuous Wars of the Roses, “Succession” combines the stories of two Tudor women, royal wives and mothers, two Margarets, both used
as pawns by powerful marriage brokers, in the intricate game of politics around the English throne.

The prologue of the novel prefaces much of what is to come, touching on several of its themes. Margaret Beaufort is remembering a time, when as a four-year old child, she wandered, lost and terrified, down the long corridors of the strange house she has been brought to, the home of her new guardian, the Duke of Suffolk, and meets him by chance for the first time.  She already knows it is shameful to cry, except in penitence, and that she is female and therefore subject to a man’s control, but what she also remembers is that the Duke spoke to her about the courage and determination of a woman, the warrior Joan of Arc, whom he greatly admired.  She remembers too how the Duke met a terrible end, condemned as a traitor and savagely beheaded.  She herself is a rich heiress and mother to the future king, Henry VII.

We next meet Margaret of Anjou, the French king’s niece, who has been brought to England to marry Henry VI, in a union that should ensure closer links with France, but, as Suffolk knows, the bride brings no dowry and the match has cost England valuable French territories.  Henry himself has insisted on the match. He is weak and malleable, and as Margaret soon discovers, he is not inclined to consummate the marriage. To the earls and power brokers of the English court, a secure and stable succession is paramount. If Henry has no children, who will succeed him?  The stage is set for fascinating but terrible power games, in violent times, where torture and death are commonplace.     

This is a complex period in history, handled expertly and with conviction by Livi Michael who creates an intensely engaging narrative. The author deals with her subject in an unusual way, by interspersing her fictional scenes with material from contemporary primary sources: eye witness accounts and the testimony of medieval chroniclers. Underpinned by meticulous research, the stories of the two Margarets are vividly brought to life in beautifully described settings. I should like to thank the author for guiding me kindly through this complex period of our history.

Pauline Chandler

Pauline’s latest book, "Warrior Girl", historical fiction for young adults, tells the story of Joan of Arc, alongside that of her cousin, Mariane, who has her own battle to fight. A new edition of “Warrior Girl” is pubished by Cybermouse Books.



Pippa Goodhart said...

It sounds absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for bringing attention to it, Pauline. I shall go and seek it out.

Penny Dolan said...

Sounds wonderful - well, both books do! Thanks for this review.

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