(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Spies, poison, and curses surround her…
Is there anyone she can trust?
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters, Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.
At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.
Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick during the time of Elizabeth Woodville was queen has never been one of my favourite figures throughout history. He seemed to go wherever the winds blew, betraying this cause and that to make sure his own blood got on the throne of England. I’ve never liked historical figures like him, but I always pitied his daughters Anne and Isabel, who were nothing more than pawns in his schemes. Married off to men much older than they, told to think and act certain ways depending on their family’s current alliance and such.
I was also reluctant to pick up The Kingmaker’s Daughter because the last Philippa Gregory book I just read was The Other Boleyn Girl, which I hate with a passion right now. Still, I couldn’t resist the Cousins’ War series, not after loving The White Queen that featured Elizabeth Woodville.
What was interesting to me was seeing Elizabeth Woodville as the villain of the piece. In this story, everyone sees her as an evil witch who curses anyone who gets in her way. Why, she even kills her own brother-in-law. Anne Neville, our novel’s main character, is predisposed to see Elizabeth as the enemy and a witch because in reality she probably did. Gregory doesn’t make her out to be some sort of super-heroine that manipulates everyone around her either; she stays relatively true to historical fact and at the same time, tells a story of a woman who seized her own destiny only to realize its true cost.
Anne Neville is a three-dimensional character and not only that, she’s interesting. She’s brought to court at a young age and has to stay in that viper’s nest for a little while. It certainly makes an impression on her, but her naivete wins out when her father orchestrates a match that would make her sister Isabel Queen of England as well as later when her father does the same thing for her. As she grows, though, losing her father and her first husband, Anne really realizes the cost of all these ambitions both morally, personally and politically. Eventually she does get her dream, but it is a Pyrrhic victory.
I wouldn’t say that the plot of The Kingmaker’s Daughter is fast-paced by most standards, but it was interesting enough to keep me wanting to find out what happened to Anne. Although I’ve never been fond of her as an historical figure, I like how Philippa Gregory went above and beyond in terms of effort so that she would shine as a person, not just as a political pawn. Anne had a hard life, made only worse by the tragedies that occurred later on, so you can’t help but feel sorry for her and feel a vested interest in what happens to her next.
All in all, The Kingmaker’s Daughter was a pretty solid book. The character of Elizabeth of York really shone through in the end as her star was rising so I honestly can’t wait to read her take on things in The White Princess.
I give this book 5/5 stars.