Thursday, May 22, 2008

THE RED QUEEN'S DAUGHTER by Jacqueline Kolosov

I love Historicals and I love non-Tolkienesque Fantasy. That is, I love Tolkien, but I don’t like Fantasy which mimics him. So, it’s no wonder I’m really enjoying the growing popularity of Fantasy Historicals.
THE RED QUEEN’S DAUGHTER by Jacqueline Kolosov is Young Adult, but I think it should be stocked with regular adult novels as well. The story twists and turns enough for any grown-up. Also, if you’re sick of having to skip the Standard Issue Sex Scene, you won’t have to worry about it here. There’s plenty of romantic tension. It intertwines with the plot, but the rest is very skillfully left to your imagination. I don’t know about you, Sister, but I got a heck of an imagination! Maybe that’s why I’m so unforgiving of poorly written Romance novels. Anyway, this is NOT a Romance novel. Also, a lot of Fantasy novels for adults these days are too dark & gritty & grotesque for me. Ms. Kolosov manages to pull off all the scary magical stuff without resorting to a lot of blood & guts & making me want to eat worms.
History supposes that Mary, the daughter of Katherine Parr (widow of King Henry VIII) and Thomas Seymour died in early childhood because there is no mention of her after Katherine died six days after giving birth. There’s no proof, of course. It’s a pretty safe assumption since the infant mortality rate was so high. But, Jacqueline’s supposition is so much more interesting.
I don’t know about you other history buffs, but I would not have wanted to live before contraception was widely available and doctors knew to wash their hands before attending a woman giving birth. (Ancient Egypt was better off the Medieval Europe in this respect.) I would have installed myself as a nanny to a wealthy family and married chocolate. A hundred or more years ago may have been ‘the good old days’ for men with over-inflated opinions of their own masculinity, but sex was deadly for women back then. In RED QUEEN’S DAUGHTER, Mary knows this all too well. She knows her mother only escaped the fate of two of Henry’s other wives on the head-chopping block because of her intelligence and Henry’s failure to plant the Seed. Still, Mary is sure Romantic Love eventually got the better of her mother when she married Thomas after Henry’s death, because she died in childbirth and Thomas was executed as a traitor to the Crown.
Mary was fostered by two women, a duchess who was a close friend of her mother’s and a lady who comes from a long line of white magicians. Both reinforce Mary’s belief that Romantic Love is a death-trap for women, one she will never allow herself to fall into. The second foster-mother, Lady Strange (Don’t laugh. There really is an English peer whose title is Baroness Strange. It probably has some obscure and ancient origin,) takes it upon herself to train Mary in her natural talent for magic. Much more than that, she impresses on Mary the value of an education during a time when few women could read. The great thing about magic in this Fantasy is that its believable mixed with real science. That was refreshing.
Mary is sent to the court of Queen Elizabeth I at the age of 16. She finds there a 30 year old virgin queen (some scholars doubt the virgin part) and a collection of scheming backstabbers you could find in any public high school today. In fact, it reminded me of PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE by Nathalie Mallet that way. The trials of adolescence are universal it seems, because both authors pulled it off without it being contrived. That is, if they were trying to mirror contemporary high school life, it really didn’t show. Neither resorted to being too contemporary to pander to today’s readers. I hate it when Historicals do that. A truly great author doesn’t need to do that and readers are too smart for it.
Soon after arriving, Mary makes the acquaintance of Francis whom she’s told was knocked up by Edmund Seymour. Frances loves a different boy, but Edmund used the magical equivalent of date-rape to do the Deed. He didn’t do it for lust or love, but to destroy Francis’ reputation. Francis, Mary is told, was in a position to marry well and her future husband would be sure to rise up in status. At that time, if a girl got pregnant outside of marriage, she could be shamed, have her head lopped off, get tossed out into the street to be raped and murdered. I know these horrendous crimes are still committed against girls around the world today, but in America we have laws against it and social programs to help the girls. Francis’ parents were counting on her making a marriage which would be politically advantageous for them and that’s where their ‘love’ ended. Unconditional love and compassion were not lavished on this girl, so it’s no wonder she fell in love with a good young man who filled her need for it.
Francis decides to intervene, for that is her role as a white magician in Queen Elizabeth’s court. She’s there to ensure the Queen’s long and good reign. In doing so, she draws the attention of another magic-user, Edmund, and someone else she can’t imagine who. Now, she’s pitted against Edmund whom she’s sure means to destroy her as well. But, there are many ways to destroy a girl in Tudor England. If the Queen returns Katherine Parr’s inheritance to Mary, she will become a very rich young woman and the second most eligible bachelorrette in town (the Queen’s #1). It would be much more advantageous for Edmund to coerce her into marriage before destroying her. Back then, husbands got all their wives’ money upon marriage. Wives lost all power too and this is why Queen Elizabeth never married.
Well, you all know how I feel about Sizzling Hot Villains.
They say little girls tend to grow up to marry men just like their fathers, whether he was a monster or a hero. It’s often true, unless a girl consciously decides she wants *and deserves* someone else. Edmund is a lot like Mary’s father, the traitor Thomas Seymour. Mary finds herself attracted to him and, yanno, I really feel for her, ‘cause he is totally hot. Oh, those bad, bad boys.
The thing about Bad Boys is they’re totally stupid unless they’re in the hands of a skilled author. Thank God Jacqueline Kolosov is one of those authors.
One of the things I really enjoyed about RED QUEEN’S DAUGHTER is it followed Mary’s growth. A lot of Fantasy writers take great pains in setting up the fictional world, usually the first 30 to 60 pages. It seems to me even the greats like Mercedes Lackey do this. Jacqueline kind of does that, but if you’re the impatient type you won’t feel it. The first part of the story is Mary remembering the tragic circumstance of her birth, growing up as a foster-child to the Duchess first and then Lady Strange and her unusual education with them. I really liked it because if a Protagonist starts out perfect and mature and powerful, I just can’t relate because there’s no room for them to grow. Booooring. I followed Mary from her birth, through her childhood and all the angst of knowing her mother died after giving birth to her and her father was a traitor, and into her teens as educational and vocational and romantic opportunities opened up to her, all the way up to her as a confident young woman. Loved it.
As I mentioned before, this is not a Romance novel. You’re not promised a Happily Ever After and, really, there’s so much more to life when you’re a teen than just getting married. However, the other thing I liked about this novel is that it does have a satisfying ending which screams, SEQUEL! And I, for one, can’t wait.
To learn more about the novels of Jacqueline Kolosov, pop over to her website.
If you like RED QUEEN’S DAUGHTER, I just know you’ll like PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE by Nathalie Mallet and anything by Linda Bray or Eva Ibbotson.


Toni Anderson said...

That looks like a great read. What age would you say it was good for? My daughter is 8 is now reading TLOTR. I can't believe it, but she just picked it up and started reading once she finished the Harry Potters. Eek. I need to fill the house with books that don't have sex in them!!!

Kimber Chin said...

Forget back in the day, if my hubby hadn't swept me off my feet, I would have married chocolate also.

Kimber An, you crack me up. If the book is half as entertaining as the review, it is a must read. Thank you for giving me my first belly laugh of the day.

Kimber Chin said...


If you need someone to hold those sexy books for you...

Kimber An said...

Toni, I'd say age 12 and up, because it has definite teenage issues in it and I don't think 8 year olds would be interested in them. LOTR and HP both have universal and ageless themes. The Romantic parts are written in such a way that an experienced person will understand what's going on, but a less experienced one will breeze right over it.

Kimber Chin, I gave you a belly laugh this early in the morning? Whoa, I am so flattered!

Tia Nevitt said...

That was highly entertaining, as always! I'm really enjoying my own fantasy historical!

Kimber An said...

Yeah, they're so cool.

Anonymous said...

i loved this book ...jacqueline kolosov needs to write a sequel!

Kimber An said...

Oh, me too. I think it ended in a way conducive to a sequel. So, if this one sold enough copies, I betcha there will be one.

Abigail said...

I am right in the middle of The Red Queen's Daughter. I actually picked it up in the sales bin at Vanderbilt University's bookstore. I love it, but unfortunitly, i have recently lost it in the mess of my house...
But Jacqueline is one of my new favorite rising authors. She mixes a great bit o historical fiction with romance and some sci/fi. The pefect combo, in my opinion. The past few years, authors have sterio-typed all of the roamance books. I do have to say that I'm a sucker for a good love story, but it has to be unique in some way. I just recently finished reading the "Summer Boys" series, and it was like any other teenage flick. Breakups, makeups, and stupid love is just not appealing. I get it that it is hard to live up to 'Romeo and Juliet' sort of stuff, but get a little creative! I'm only twelve, but my reading level has surpassed high schools levels for many years. It shouldn't be this hard to find a book with romance and a little twist. Does anyone have any suggestions? I have the whole summer to read, and the only things on my list so far is to reread 'Pride and Prejudice' and to try and tackle 'Withering Heights" again. Twilight and Harry Potter are so overrated, although there authors are very talented.

Kimber An said...

Good morning, Abigail.

For starters, you can click on the tags at the bottom of the RED QUEEN'S DAUGHTER review. Of the books you'll find, my favorites are

NEFERTITI by Michelle Moran

These are all officially adult, but I've worked with young people all my life and I think they're fine for your age group.

Also, pop over to my other book review blog

You'll find a variety there, including a Middle Grade one which remains my favorite of the year so far even though I'm forty years old - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISLAND.

But, now, my very own middle grader has taken that genre away from me and started her own blog

Best of wishes finding great books!

CelticLady said...

The title caught my eye as I will read anything about the Tudor and Elizabethan era. Great review!