review by Hadi Dudley, special to The City Wire
A native Arkansan, Hadi Dudley earned both bachelor’s and master’s of arts degrees in English from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She earned an additional master’s degree in library and information science in 2004 from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Dudley joined the Bentonville Public Library staff in 2000 and became library director in 2007. She played an integral role on planning and opening the city’s new library on Main Street.
More information about Bentonville Public Library can be found here.
Book reviews: The Lady of the Rivers (Touchstone, 2011) and Changeling (Simon Pulse, 2012), both by Phillippa Gregory
BENTONVILLE — In my premiere book review for The City Wire, I selected two fiction titles by Philippa Gregory. I’ve read thirteen of Gregory’s books and I always enjoy her writing style and storytelling abilities. She often writes in series or trilogies. The Lady of the Rivers was a natural selection, since I’ve read the previous two series titles. Changeling was a unique selection, since it is a young adult story.
I appreciate Gregory’s positive portrayal of women. Her stories feature strong female protagonists whose circumstances are dominated by men during time periods when women were not able to be independent. Free choice is not an option for Gregory’s female characters. However, the willfulness of her leading ladies does not disappoint, even if the heroine’s fate is predetermined.
The Lady of the Rivers
This book is historical fiction and takes place in France and England. The story is told from the perspective of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford. Other characters in the story include her first husband, the Duke of Bedford, and his servant, Richard Woodville. Jacquetta also provides a glimpse into the reign of Henry VI and his queen Margaret’s court. Interestingly, Joan of Arc is also a character discussed in the first chapters of the book.
The Lady of the Rivers is book three in Gregory’s The Cousin’s War series, primarily focusing on the House of Lancaster and the House of York in English history. The story weaves mystery and witchcraft together with love and courtly traditions, plus war and battles during that time period.
I like the way Gregory is able to tell a story, where the reader experiences the life of the English court and monarchy. She successfully conveys the narrator’s perspective and the other characters in the book, such as the king and queen. I also appreciate how Gregory incorporates fact with fiction and represents women’s stories in history.
Readers who enjoy historical fiction will like this book. Those who read stories of English monarchy, renaissance and romantic tales, or other books by Philippa Gregory, such as The Other Boleyn Girl, will appreciate The Lady of the Rivers.
This book is young adult fiction and takes place in Italy. The story revolves around the perspective of two characters: Luca Vero, a young man enlisted by the Church to investigate phenomenon, and Isolde Lucretili, a young lady forced into a nunnery after her father’s death.
Changeling is book one in Gregory’s Order of Darkness series, primarily focusing on the 15th Century Order of the Dragon movement to defend Christendom. Many of Gregory’s books may be enjoyed as stand-alone stories or can be read out of order, but the Order of Darkness series should be read in order. It is clearly written as a sequential “What will happen next?” story. Changeling weaves suspense with mysticism and religion, plus humor and a budding romance. In some respects, the characters in this book are participating in an odyssey, facing challenges and obstacles along their journey. At the end of Changeling, the characters are beginning a new journey, leading the reader toward the forthcoming installment in the series.
A trend in contemporary literature is crossover authorship. For example, authors who typically write for one age level write new stories for a completely different age level, specifically targeting a different audience. In fact, many best sellers are being reproduced for younger ages.
Gregory’s young adult book is much shorter than her adult titles. It begins with the male protagonist’s story, a different beginning from most of the books I’ve read by Gregory. Changeling is more story-driven, where her historical fiction titles are more character-driven.
Readers who enjoy supernatural fiction will like this book. Readers who enjoyed the climactic action in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga may enjoy Gregory’s Changeling. It is appropriately written for a young adult audience. Fans of Gregory’s typical works may, or may not, enjoy this book. Compared with her other titles, her usual descriptiveness and enjoyable details are scaled down. In my opinion, it is a nice read for teens; it has good plot, important underlying themes and likable characters.
Gregory’s next installment in The Cousin’s War series entitled Kingmaker’s Daughter is scheduled for release on Aug. 16.