My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars
Wow, another great book by Philippa Gregory! I thought this was just about as good as The Other Boleyn Girl. Once I finished it, I immediately went and added the sequel, The Virgin’s Lover, to my wish list as I’m really looking forward to the story of Elizabeth. Both her and Robert Dudley were my favorite characters in this book, and they’re the primary characters in the next book. :)
Just like in The Other Boleyn girl, Gregory takes historical fact and weaves a tale around it. There’s a few main characters in this book, with Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, being the main character of historical significance. She’s sometimes remembered as “Bloody Mary” because of all the supposed heretics she had burned at the stake.
This story is told from the point of view of Hannah the Fool, the daughter of a Jewish bookseller who escaped persecution with her father from Spain to England after her mother was burned as a heretic. I believe Hannah’s character is completely fictional, but her story is interesting nonetheless. She’s got the gift of a Seer, and as the Queen’s Fool, she dresses in breeches, and doesn’t really have to mind what she says as most women would… she’s “a fool” after all.
Her loyalties are continually tested as she’s a trusted companion to Queen Mary, as well as her half-sister, the Princess Elizabeth, and Robert Dudley, both of whom are later imprisoned and charged with treason in a plot to strip Queen Mary from the throne. Hannah moves among these groups and they all trust her; many times she doesn’t even realize the plots she’s actually involved in as she’s asked to bring some cryptic message from one to another. She tries to speak only the truth and often the Sight compels her to do so. Had the Queen listened to Hannah before agreeing to marry Prince Philip of Spain, she may have been saved a lot of heartache, and what eventually became her undoing.