Monday, March 22, 2010

REVIEW: Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

This is a brilliantly written historical fiction novel by one of the best British historians out there. I had read some of her nonfiction previously, but this is my first turn into her fiction (I think she has only 3). What resulted was a well written story backed with many real facts and a feeling for the characters that permeated every page. Weir really seems to get to the heart of all the characters, even the despicable ones. This book focuses on the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for just nine days between the death of Edward VI(King Henry the 8th's only son) and Queen Mary I (child of Henry the 8th and Katherine of Aragon) in 1553. A brilliant scholar and devout Protestant at the tender age of 15 she is thrust onto the throne by powerful and corrupt men who wished to prevent the fervently Catholic Mary from ascending, one of these men being her own father. What follows is disaster and of course the innocent Jane must face the consequences of these men's actions. A sad tale no doubt, but Weir brings it to life with the skill that only she can.

About the Author:
Alison Weir is a well-known historian specializing in British Royal history. She began her adult life as a civil servant and then became a published writer in 1989. Innocent Traitor was her first historical fiction novel. She has another called The Lady Elizabeth, which I have not yet read but definitely mean to get to. A new historical novel is being released this year, on Elanore of Aquitaine. She has written about 17 books.

A brief overview of the Tudors:
The Tudor Dynasty began with Henry VII around the time of the Wars of the Roses (around 1485). Henry conquered England at this time and married Elizabeth of York, sister to the recently overthrown ruler Edward V. His son, Henry VIII, is probably the most infamous of British rulers due to his problem with wives- he had six of them, and two of those were beheaded by his order. The dynasty goes through to Henry VIII's son Edward, who died at 15, and next up is Lady Jane Grey, the nine days Queen. Then comes Mary I and of course Mary's sister Elizabeth I, frequently named as one of the greatest monarchs in British history. Elizabeth marks the end of the Tudor era, as she died without an heir in 1603.

Other suggested reading for this time period in English Tudor History:
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (nonfiction), The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory (fiction), Mary, Queen of France by Jean Plaidy (about Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's little sister and grandmother of Lady Jane Grey)

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