Saturday, October 22, 2011

REVIEW: Lady of the Rivers (Cousins War #3) by Philippa Gregory

Lady of the Rivers tells the story of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, beautiful descendant of the water Goddess Melusine and mother to Elizabeth Woodville.  In the beginning of the novel we meet Jacquetta as a young woman who forms a friendship with the ill-fated Joan of Arc, an encounter that teaches Jacquetta that women out of the ordinary face much danger.  Her ability to see glimpses of the future makes her one of those women.  The powerful Duke of Bedford, regent in France and Uncle to King Henry VI, recognizes this ability in Jacquetta and marries her thinking to put this ability (coupled with her virginal state) to use for his own purposes.  When the Duke dies unexpectedly, Jacquetta forms an attachment to his squire Richard Woodville  which blossoms into a deep and lasting love.  When King Henry VI decides to take Margaret of Anjou as his bride, Jacquetta is chosen as part of the envoy to greet her and winds up becoming the close friend and confidante of the new and ambitious queen but Jacquetta sees what fate holds for her own family in her visions and they may not coincide with those of the house of Lancaster to which she is loyal.

My Thoughts: Usually when I am reading a Philippa Gregory novel (and this is my 12th so I am obviously a fan) I prefer the historical to the more fantastical elements she incorporates into her books.  Even though she tweaks history to serve the story in a lot of her novels I have still always enjoyed her spin on historical events. In this one I actually really enjoyed the parts that dealt with her friendship with Joan of Arc and her abilities with the sight inherited from her ties with Melusine.  I think this whole aspect actually saved the book for me.   Jacquetta is a person that you don't hear a lot about in history, mainly because not much in the way of historical records exists about her.  She has the potential to be such an interesting character because the lack of information on her leaves an awful lot of leeway.  The problem I encountered in Lady of the Rivers was that instead of taking this woman and realizing that potential, this Jacquetta is not really her own woman and is completely defined by her relation to others in the book.  The only excitement to be had here is 1) her relationship with Richard Woodville and 2) her friendship with Margaret of Anjou whose fiery personality as opposed to Jacquetta's more tranquil one allows her to completely steal Jacquetta's thunder.  I was actually more interested in the doings of impulsive, ambitious Margaret and her dangerous liaison with the Duke of Somerset than I was with what was going on with Jacquetta.  One thing I will give Gregory props for here is her Margaret actually had a heart (however misguided it was) as opposed to other portrayals of her as some sort of cold calculating devil queen.

I also think the history was hampered by being confined to Jacquetta's viewpoint although I liked the few battles that she was present at and actually able to describe (as opposed to the others we are told about).  There was a lot of "and then I got knocked up again" or "and then Richard was sent off ___ again" instead of actually being in the action.  I don't know what it is exactly, but with the Cousins War books I just don't feel as engaged by the story as I did by her Tudor related novels or even her Wideacre trilogy.  This one was just ok for me.  I am bumping this one from a 2.5 to a 3 because I liked the Joan/Melusine elements.


I received this book from Simon & Schuster via Galley Grab.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

7 comments:

  1. I totally agree with your review. I got so bored with her having babies and then leaving them for someone else to raise. Margaret's character was much more interesting. Great review!

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  2. Have to agree with Anne as well, the having babies didn't exactly lend a lot of excitement to it.

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  3. I haven't finished yet, but I'm enjoying this book so far. I always enjoy Philippa's books. But you mean Richard Woodville right? One of her sons was named Anthony and Rivers was the title they took.


    Amber
    The Musings of ALMYBNENR

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  4. I haven't read this one yet, but I am going to the Philippa Gregory event in CT next Saturday so I will be picking it up then. I'm interested in hearing what she has to say about this book. I haven't read the Cousin's books yet but certainly will as I am a huge fan too. Thanks for this review.

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  5. Amber-thanks for catching that. Must not write reviews without caffeine :)

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  6. LOL no problem. It's fresh in my mind since I'm not even halfway through it yet.

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  7. Hey I am new follower would you please follow me back thanks :)

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