The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Phillippa Gregory

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Anne and Isobel Neville are the daughters of one of the most powerful men in the country – the Earl of Warwick, also known as ‘The Kingmaker’. As children, the girls are close, spending much of their time together dreaming of being Queen; silly childish musings that their ambitious father wants to make a reality. As they grow older, both girls find themselves to be pawns to their father’s ambition, their lives playing out like pieces in a chessboard. When the balance of power dramatically begins to shift, Anne finds her life is about to change forever and nothing is safe anymore.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is a beautifully written account of the War of the Roses, shown from the perspective of Anne Neville, the short-lived Queen of England and wife to Richard III. Although Anne’s own history remains somewhat vague, Gregory enriches every detail, rationalises every decision and gives Anne a real part of history, not just as someone who simply sits aside and lets history swallow her up. Throughout the course of the novel, Anne grows from being the youngest, the last child, easily forgotten, into a strong woman determined to fight for what she deserves as events surrounding her try to tear her down. Gregory demonstrates the whole dynamics of court, the anger, fear and mistrust that riddled everyone close to the crown. At the heart of it, Gregory makes it clear that no-one is safe. No matter how high someone rose, it would merely take a small gasp of air to send them pearling back to the ground, or worse: death. In a time where power is everything, ambition presides over all else – even over blood, love and loyalty. The power balance is always turning, always at risk and Gregory keeps up this tension throughout the novel.

Gregory’s writing sweeps you away with such easy grace that you even begin to believe Anne’s insistence of a witches curse; she writes with such confidence and conviction that you hardly think to doubt it. Gregory has a fantastic grasp about the difficulties and dangers of being not only a woman at this time in history, but as one with any sort of power.

A fresh and captivating look into a particularly turbulent time in history.

By Jessica Reid