Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber
In fourteenth-century England, beautiful Queen Isabella-humiliated by her weak, unfaithful husband-is emerging from the shadows to take her revenge. But her newly arrived, twenty-oneyear-old Welsh handmaiden, Gwenith de Percy, also seeks vengeance-against the English invaders who crushed her beloved Wales. Isabella’s once-golden marriage is now her penance. Due to his rumored relations with men, Parliament forced Edward to share his throne-a demeaning arrangement that torments Isabella.
With the help of her secret, noble lover, Roger Mortimer-an enemy of her husband, imprisoned in the Tower of London-the queen plots to take control. Thrilled by this turn of events, Gwenith realizes that a king cannot afford to be weak-especially when his formidable, discontented queen seeks his power as her due. (Goodreads)
Gwenith’s family is killed when Edward I crushes Wales and Gwenith grows up with her grandmother, who makes Gwenith promise to seek vengeance for her family. She starts to serve Queen Isabella intending to bring harm but comes to respect Isabella, but comes hate the Despensers.
Book is told mostly from Gwenith’s point of view, for reasons I can’t figure out. The idea of Gwenith taking revenge for her family is kinda far-stretching. Why does she want to kill Edward II who isn’t in anyway responsible for the things that happened to her family? It would have been far more interesting to hear the story just from Isabella’s point of view. Instead we get abruptly changing POV’s which made me so confused. I had to read a sentence few times to make sense of it.
But I have to say I didn’t like Isabella either. She was just too good to be true. She is constantly complaining how the women are treated, how everyone loved her in France more and telling all the time that she is the queen.
The most annoying this was that it’s hinted through the book that Edward II wasn’t the real father of future Edward III, and it’s never told who the real father is supposed to be! I mean why!? It’s mentioned that Isabella spent some time in Scotland when Edward abandoned her and had an affair from which Edward III was born. If you invent such rubbish at least you could tell the inventory man’s name!
Isabella is also sneaking out to The Tower to have sex with Roger Mortimer, multiple times. Because queen can just leave castles wearing a hood as her only disguise. Queens are constantly watched and very rarely alone so how could she have managed to get her little trysts?
In the afterword it’s told that Edward III had huge sexual appetites and had many mistresses and illegitimate children. I don’t remember reading about any other mistress than Alice Perrers but I’m not sure about the children. Wouldn’t call it “huge sexual appetite” if he has one known mistress.
Published: NAL (2006)
Source: my own