It’s not often that I read historical fiction, but when Starz announced their plans to adapt Philippa Gregory’s bestselling Cousins’ War series into a show, I became enthralled by the story’s premise. As a fan of strong women in history, I was immediately drawn to the fact that the series tells the stories of the women and their roles in the War of the Roses/Cousins’ War. But what really sealed the deal for me was that Gregory plays heavily on the rumors that Elizabeth Woodville and her mother were descendants of the water goddess Melusina and believed they had magical powers. With my excitement for the show growing, I immediately set out to read the first book, The White Queen, and am so glad I did!
Gregory’s writing style is clear, accessible, and entertaining, making for a relatively quick read. The descriptions are short, yet colorful, and her dialogue follows suit. My biggest complaint would be that the novel lacks any real, tangible tension. For example, Elizabeth worries over Edward’s safety in one paragraph, but the next finds him back in her arms. As a result of such hurried tension, the action often fails to excite. What I loved, however, is the way she portrays the witchcraft/magic in the story. It all seemed very natural and believable.
I had expected a third person past narration, but was pleasantly surprised by Gregory’s decision to have Elizabeth Woodville tell her story in first person, present tense. This allowed me to connect with Elizabeth on a more personal level and helped keep some of the characters and events straight. I loved how fiercely protective Elizabeth is of her children and that her feelings for Edward come across as true and pure, as do his for her. Gregory did a great job illustrating Elizabeth’s love, ambition, and humanity.
Overall, The White Queen is an enjoyable read that has definitely sparked a deeper interest in learning more about Elizabeth Woodville and her time as Queen of England. Gregory is a skilled writer who manages to weave historical facts seamlessly into the story without boring the reader, and I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
And don’t forget to catch The White Queen on Starz next week!