August 30, 2013

'Queen's Gambit' Giveaway!

To coincide with my review of Queen's Gambit (here - Don't worry, no major spoilers) and Elizabeth Fremantle's Virtual Blog Tour, we here at the Tudor Book Blog have been gifted TWO copies of the novel to give away to TWO lucky readers!

To enter, leave your name below and tell us (briefly - a sentence or so) what interests you about Katherine Parr.

You have until Sept. 5th at midnight to enter. I will be announcing the TWO winners (who will be randomly drawn) on Sept. 6th.

This giveaway is only open to the US. Sorry about that :(

Good luck!

The Tudor Book Blog Book Reviews: 'Queen's Gambit' by Elizabeth Fremantle

Reviewed by Elizabeth of The Tudor Book Blog as part of the Queen's Gambit Virtual Blog Tour.


Katherine Parr as Queen.
Following events surrounding Catherine Parr’s life, particularly her marriage to Henry VIII, Fremantle paints a stunning image of Tudor England under Henry VIII. Opening in about 1542, Katherine Parr finds herself a widow…for the second time. Luckily she is rich, thus in no rush to get re-married. She travels to court with her maid, Dot, and step-daughter, Meg, to attend on Princess Mary. While there, she meets two men; King Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour, who both set their sights on her. As anyone who has read about Katherine Parr knows, Henry VIII won…at least at first. He takes her as his sixth wife, and Katherine is forced to use her intelligence and wit to keep from going the way of her predecessors, all the while pining for Thomas Seymour.

My Thoughts

A handsome Thomas Seymour
(complete with ostrich feather).
I have read my fair share of books set in Henry VIII’s court. However, this particular novel is one of the most beautifully and intelligently written pieces of historical fiction I have ever read. From the first page I was drawn in, finding myself easily picturing the massive halls, lead glass windows, and bustle of hundreds of silk skirts as the ladies rush to-and-fro. Fremantle has obviously spent a good deal of time researching, not only the events and characters, but the time-period; the smells, tastes, and sights. To me, this is one of the most important aspects of a novel. Unlike a movie or show where the audience sees the grandeur, a novelist must create that grandeur with words and descriptions. Fremantle does an excellent job of setting the stage for Katherine’s game.

My favorite scenes were those shown at court. When Katherine first arrives, it is to attend the Princess Mary. Fremantle uses such eloquent and detailed descriptions that you cannot help but imagine yourself there. For example, when Katherine arrives at Whitehall Palace, 
“the courtyard is ankle deep in slush and, in spite of the sawdust that has been strewn in a makeshift path across the cobbles, Katherine can feel the wet chill soaking through her shoes, and the damp edges of her skirts flick bitterly at her ankles…”
Her excellent descriptions do not stop there. One of my favorite introductions is that of Katherine and Thomas Seymour. When Katherine first sees him, she sums him up pretty quickly, thinking him vain as he,
“waves a velvet cap adorned with an ostrich feather the size of a hearth brush that bobs and dances as he gives the thing an unnecessary flourish…” 
In contrast, 
Henry VIII’s “tightly laced black and white doublet, which on closer inspection is encrusted with pearls, seems to hold him together, with rolls of him spilling out from its edges and giving the impression that were he to remove it, he would lose his form all together…”
Her descriptions really appeal to me personally, almost like art for the imagination.

An old (and rather cranky looking)
Henry VIII.
I also really enjoyed Fremantle’s writing style. She jumps from character to character, letting you see the story as it progresses from various points of view. She focuses mainly on Katherine and Dot, allowing the reader to view characters from two very different points of view; that of the Lady (Katherine) and the humble maid (Dot). Thus, Fremantle is able to set scenes and really round out her main characters by allowing the reader to see other characters' (of varying backgrounds) views and opinions of them. I love her use of character development through the use of other characters’ thoughts and eyes. For example, Katherine worries over her stepdaughter’s weight. After the rebels held them hostage during the Pilgrimage of Grace, Meg lost a lot of weight and is very nervous. Though Katherine does not know the extent of her stepdaughter’s anxiety, you as the reader do by seeing her described by both Katherine and Dot (who witnessed more than the Lady...). 

My only con is that for someone who knows nothing about Tudor England or the wives of Henry VIII, this is probably not the best novel for you to start with. While it is beautifully written, it does require some “reading-between-the-lines” and background knowledge of the characters, otherwise you may find yourself getting a little lost as it jumps about person to person.

'Lewis' Chess Pieces. Source.
The book is appropriately titled, as Katherine’s life as Henry VIII’s wife was very much like a chess game. One bad move and the game is over. In life, as shown so well in the novel, Katherine had to be one step ahead of the King and her enemies, skillfully and wittily plotting her moves. Fremantle mentions on her website that “Katherine Parr has been mis-represented by history in that she is remembered as the dull nursemaid who saw an irascible king through his dotage. She was far from this, and hopefully my fictional representation of her goes someway to show what a dynamic, and politically savvy woman she was.” In my opinion, Fremantle has done exactly that. 

I give this novel a very much deserved 5 Tudor Roses.

A huge thank you to author Elizabeth Fremantle and Amy from Virtual Blog Tours for providing me with a copy of the novel, as well as two copies for giveaway! More on that soon ;)

Be sure to check out Elizabeth Fremantle's website for more on Katherine Parr and her other writings, and follow along her virtual blog tour here.

Elizabeth Fremantle is also joining us here at the Tudor Book Blog for an author Q&A on Sept. 4th. Be sure to check back then!

August 28, 2013

'VIII' - A Teen/Young Adult Take On the Life of Henry VIII

The world of Henry VIII comes to life within the pages of H.M. Castor’s VIII, in stores today, an historical retelling of the infamous king’s life from childhood to death. Written with teen readers in mind, the novel plots an intriguing course through the king’s life — with suggestions of madness and ghosts and hauntings throughout his years.

Sounds interesting! I'll certainly give it a shot. Read more about it here.

August 23, 2013

FREE Tudor eBooks!

Thanks to a reader on Pinterest, I stumbled across an excellent site for those of you interested in reading primary and secondary Tudor resources. The list includes some Victorian works, as wells as The State Papers of Henry VIII!

All downloads are free, and can be read either on your computer or Kindle!

Access the list here.

I will also be adding it to my Links list. Let me know if you stumble across anything you find really fascinating! 

August 21, 2013

What Tudor Historical Fiction Novel Do You Want to See on TV?

Now that we have seen a few adaptions of several of Philippa Gregory's novels, what other historical novels would you like to see turned into a movie or show?

August 20, 2013

BBC History Magazine Celebrates The Battle of Flodden's 500th Anniversary, With Gifts for You!

BBC History Magazine has a treat for you Tudor lovers!

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, they are offering you a free 30-day trial to the interactive edition of BBC History Magazine. The free trial will start with the September issue, giving you access to the special Flodden bonus content.

What bonus content, you ask?

The cover star for the September issue, on sale in the UK now, is Henry VIII, with the main feature exploring the Battle of Flodden and why the Scots attacked Henry’s kingdom in 1513. Leading historian of the battle George Goodwin looks at the build-up to the largest ever clash between England and Scotland and recounts the drama of the battle itself. 

Alongside the print feature George Goodwin will be interviewed during the weekly podcast

In the special interactive/digital issue (for the iPad and iPhone) you will find:
  • An interactive step-by-step guide to the battle, with maps and video footage
  • The in-depth article by George Goodwin
  • A video interview with George Goodwin explaining the battle and its consequences
This sounds great! I can't wait to get my hands on it!

August 6, 2013

The Tudor Book Blog Reading Challenge: August

Hello Tudor Reading Challenge competitors!

A big welcome to our two new courtiers DeAnna and Anjula! So glad you joined us for this challenge!

Along with our two new entries, July also featured quite a few new reviews - probably all that beach/pool side reading :)

  • evaevaeva923 reviewed Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII by Linda Porter on Goodreads. She also posted The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir and The First Marie and the Queen of Scots by Linda Root.
  • Fencing Mom reviewed The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones here on The Tudor Book Blog.
  • Esther posted Maria Perry's The Word of a Prince and The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir here on The Tudor Book Blog.
  • Sarah reviewed Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb, The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen and Witchfall by Victoria Lamb on her blog.
  • Jenn D posted Death and the Virgin Queen by Chris Skidmore and Queen's Own Fool by Jane Yolen & Robert J. Harrison her blog.
  • Chrissy posted a review of My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes, At The Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill, and The Virgin's Lover by Phillipa Gregory here on The Tudor Book Blog.
  • Colleen Turner reviewed The Tudor Secret at Goodreads and The Tudor Conspiracy on her blog.
  • Lisa reviewed The White Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, and The Pirate Queen at her blog.

If I missed anyone or any reviews, please let me know! 

You may now start posting your August reviews here. You guys are amazing, and are really rocking this reading challenge! For those of you who have just stumbled across the challenge or have yet to sign up, you can sign up until mid-December here.