Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: The Forever Queen

The Forever Queen: The Lost Kingdom 1066 by Helen Hollick

Publication Date: November 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Formats: Paperback, 656 pp, Nookbook, Kindle Version
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN-13: 9781402240683
ISBN: 1402240686

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, IndieBound

(For review as part of The Fall Reading Club from Sourcebooks)

Synopsis (From Publisher's Weekly):

Hollick gets medieval in this excellent historical. As a young teenager, Emma of Normandy is married off to Aethelred of England to secure an alliance in 1002 C.E., and though initially frightened of her crude and violent husband, she soon learns that his bluster is a cover for his weakness and cowardice. When Aethelred dies, his throne is taken by a Viking usurper, Cnut, who claims Emma along with the crown. In him, Emma finds a love that she doesn't expect, but constant political treachery threatens their marriage, their lives, and the inheritance of their children. Hollick does a remarkable job of bringing to life a little known but powerful queen, as well as the milieu and world she inhabited. The scope is vast and the cast is huge, but Hollick remains firmly in control, giving readers and absorbing plot that never lags over the course of this fat, satisfying book. (Nov.)


At over 600 pages, The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick is an exceptional book. One of the things that I really enjoy about historical fiction is how an author can can find a character in history that we know little about and bring them vividly to life. Hollick's talent as a great storytelling gives us a striking portrait of England during 1002, as thirteen-year-old Emma of Normandy is forced to marry King Aethelred of England by her brother, Richard, the Duke of Normandy. She is a pawn in a political game to keep England safe from Viking raiders.

Emma soon learns that her marriage will be anything but loving. Aethelred is not only obsessive, but violent and demeaning. Emma's first experiences with love are scary and harrowing. Hollick brings to life a young woman who leaves her allegiances to Normandy behind and becomes the queen that England needed during this tumultuous time in it's history. Emma becomes less timid and more determined to help the English people, even to the point of giving herself to the usurper of the throne, Cnut, after Aethelred's death.

Emma becomes not only the queen to two reigning king's in England, but the stepmother to another and she remains queen during the reign of two sons and was great aunt to William the Conqueror. Though little is known about Emma from a historical point of view, Helen Hollick fills in the blanks with a great appreciation for the time period and the kind of insight that is needed to show readers how a frightened young girl became a formidable queen.

This is easily one of my favorite reads of the year. There are so many things that I liked about this book that I hardly know where to start. Emma is such a remarkable character. We meet her when she is 13 and follow her through a very illustrious life. Her determination and her resilience in the face of great obstacles was nothing short of amazing. One of the things that I really appreciated was the author's ability to focus on the heroine and not just on the historical circumstances of the story. We know that it is a very difficult time in English history, yet the story is driven by Emma's character and not the wars that England was facing. We see Emma grow in stature and in grace throughout her story.

I also was very interested in the descriptions of England itself and the places that Emma lived. From the different towns with different attitudes and needs, from the nunnery's and halls, to Emma's own home in Winchester, Hollick gives very vivid descriptions allowing the reader to be able to envision the view from Godwine's house in Bosham as the king tries to prove he is no god or the fields near Thorney Island where Pallig is struck down by the horse, saving Emma's life.

This is really a story about the struggles one woman faces in her life, not just a queen. She has problems finding friendships that last, she has resentment of a child she is forced to bear, she tries not to love a daughter she knows will leave her all too soon. She fights desperately to save herself and her son when she is cut off from help when the tide rushes in and she has no where to go. Emma seemed like a real person, with real problems, and some very real joys. Her character was believable and very authentic. Helen Hollick has a wonderful book on her hands and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a great historical read. To put it simply... I loved it!

The Forever Queen is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Helen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats, and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman/Saxon Britain and The Golden Age Piracy - the eighteenth century.

Helen Hollick's book, The Forever Queen is a part of The Fall Reading Club from Sourcebooks. Several other bloggers will be featuring review's of The Forever Queen in November and there will be a chat hosted by Monica at The Bibliophic's Book Blog on November 22nd from 7 to 9 Pm EST, where Helen will be chiming in from the U.K. Here is the list of tour dates and blogs where you can find out more about Emma...

The Forever Queen Schedule:

November 1:

The Bibliophilic Book Blog
The Calico Critic

November 2:

Passages To The Past
Life In The Thumb

November 3:

Luxury Reading

November 4:

Yankee Romance Reviews
Historically Obsessed

November 5:

Books By The Willow Tree
History And Women


November 8:

Bookworm's Dinner

November 9:

Debbie's Book Bag!
Starting Fresh

November 10:

The Literate Housewife
Carp (e) Libris Reviews

November 11:

Mrs. Q Book Addict
Books Like Breathing

November 12:

Broken Teepee
Read All Over


November 15:

Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!
Blog O' The Irish

November 16:

Jenny Loves To Read
Books And Needlepoint

November 17:

Bookalicious Book Reviews
The Maiden's Court

November 18:

Pencil Pushers And Ink Blotches
Review's By Martha

November 19:

Royal Reviews
The Tome Traveller's Weblog


November 22:

The Bibliophilic Book Blog

Book Chat: 7-9 PM EST (Helen will be joining in from the U.K.)



Kelsey said...

Great review! Will have to add to my TBR! Thanks!

Helen said...

Thank you for such a wonderful review - I am so delighted that readers are enjoying my book, but I am starting to have to pinch myself. Is it really MY book you are talking about?

One of the things I enjoy about writing is the research, which includes exploring places. Many of the scenes in The Forever Queen that I describe, I have been to. For instance, I walked along the High Street in Winchester, picturing Emma and Cnut and taking note of how the land rose, the sounds and smells. Although these would have been different in Emma's day, it was not too difficult to change the rumble of traffic for the clatter of hooves; the smell of fish and chips and petrol for baking bread and horse dung!

Audra said...

Great review -- I've heard such wonderful things about this book -- I'm thrilled it got another chance via Sourcebooks.

Mystica said...

I have also read great reviews on this book. Thanks for sharing this review.

Margaret @ Creative Madness Mama said...

This sounds like a neat read. You have an incredible background image, BTW.