Thursday, November 04, 2010

Book Review: THE FOREVER QUEEN by Helen Hollick

I tend to stay away from ANY book that uses “Æ”. For many reasons, one being I know next to nothing about pre-medieval England. Two my brain will not accept it because all the names with Æ are so similar. I find it really trying to differentiate between one person to the next person when only one letter is different with the Æ in the beginning. I can tell you that “The Forever Queen” was an exception to all the others I have tried before. This is the ONLY one I could finish and honestly really enjoy. It is fun to broaden horizons and this book was just the thing I needed to accomplish that.

Emma, proud and dignified made the realization at a young age that pride was the one thing no one could take from her. Granted they tried but she fiercely held onto it. Emma was sent to England at barely thirteen summers to wed to already reining English king Æthelred “The Unready”. I have a few choice words I could give about that man but I think it would be best to keep them to myself. Worthless does not even cover how his kingship abilities fared. He was a coward and later a woman beater. Sadly how could Emma love a man like that? I know I could not, impossible to say the least.

With England in constant turmoil I have to say this time period is even more complicated than the Eleanor of Aquitaine times. One thing I did not expect was the role the Vikings played in this period of England’s history. The Vikings or “i-Viking” which meant to raid, were constantly raiding England and were always demanding the Viking geld. This basically was a bribe to make them go away, more like a self-imposed tax to me. This is where Æthelred’s cowardice became clear as day. Rather than put up a good honest fight for what was his by birth right he would tuck his tail between his legs and hide from the Vikings and pay the geld.

I really can relate to Emma, she had every right to hate her forced husband and the children he got on her through violence. I do wish she had been more of a protective mother to them when they were adults. They did not ask to be born and it felt like she was punishing them just for that fact they were born. I mean really she abandoned them in exile in Normandy and then married the i-Viking leader Cnut. I found it odd that she went on to start a whole new family and never gave her other children a kind or considerate thought. I cannot blame her on the same taken though she was entitled to at least a little bit of happiness in her life. It does not make it right in my mind though but it does make it understandable.

4/5 I very much enjoyed the read. I had no idea England was that SCARY back in the 11th century. So many people died and in the most tragic of ways. I felt every-time Emma or I got attached to someone they were either brutally murdered or died some horrific accident. In the beginning I hated Æthelred’s son Athelstan but in the end really grew on me just as much as Emma’s second husband Cnut. Amazing as it is Emma was the “first queen to have a bio written”, and her coward first husband Æthelred’s “law making still survives today”. One key piece of information that i felt should have been covered very early on in the read was the word “fryd”. I really had no idea what it meant until the very end of the book in the authors notes. Fryd is the name of the army and had I known that in the beginning it would have made to reading much easier. All and all it was a wonderfully traumatic book that if you think you can conquer the Æ usage then go for it, you will more than likely enjoy the read. This book is an edited re-print of “A Hollow Crown” and the last part of Emma’s life is covered in “Harold the King” which is being re-printed and release on March 1, 2011 under the new title “I am The Chosen King”.

For more on "The Forever Queen" Check out The Forever Queen Book Club Schedule
November 4
November 5
November 8
November 9
November 10
November 11
November 12
November 15
November 16
November 17
November 18
November 19
The Forever Queen: Sometimes, a desperate kingdom is in need of one great womanI Am the Chosen King
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  1. Loved your review -- I've read from a few bloggers that Hollick's Emma is a marvelous heroine. I'm looking forward to this book!

  2. Great review Lizzy...I'm with you on reading books from this era because so many of them have hocus pocus thrown in there somehow and it makes it a little unbelievable for me. These two books sound more realistic and they have a strong woman who overcomes great obstacles and that's always inspiring for me.

  3. Audra, Emma really brought this book to life for me. She was the kind of heroine that all woman could admire for her unwavering strength in times when other people would crumble. I have to give it to her she was a brave woman.

    Roberta, Thank you I am glad you enjoyed it. See you know what I mean and honestly I do not have enough background in that ear to sift out the hocus pocus. You are right from what I have gathered from other readers an bloggers is that Helen really brings it to reality and keeps to the known facts which is something that a newbie to the time period appreciates greatly. I hate getting into a new time period and getting thrown off by misaligned facts. Emma inspired me also, any woman who gets beat and can stand up like she did well I would bow to them to because I admire their courage to take a stand.

    I hope both of you get a chance to read this one, Emma was a powerful woman to behold.

  4. When I get to those AE names I just make a gurgling burp sound in my head. It kind of works...

    I am really enjoying this book as well.

  5. OMG that is so so true except I think it makes my brain do the gurgle sometimes. You sure know how to make a girl laugh. I hope you love it too!

  6. The AE thing really bothers me too - I have no idea how it sounds.

  7. Oh dear all those gurgling brains! LOL :-D

    The difficulty with writing historical fiction is to know how much needs to be accurate, how much to make up - names being one of the difficulties. I _could_ have spelt them the easy way: Ethelred, Elfgifu, etc, but then I would be twisting historical fact, as their names were spelt, when they were alive, as AEthelred, AElgifu etc.

    There's no need to worry - just drop the A sound & use the e. AEthelred = Ethelred.

    I'm sorry there was no explanation of the word "fyrd" - huge blooper I'm afraid, probably caused because Sourcebooks wanted me to cut the original book (A Hollow Crown) by 40,000 words. I guess we overlooked that some important information was also cut :-(

    Thank you for a great review, and for all the lovely gurgling comments!

  8. @Helen: re "...Sourcebooks wanted me to cut the original book (A Hollow Crown) by 40,000 words."

    Interesting -- did you end up having to remove a glossary or appendix?

  9. My understanding is that Ae (particularly Aethel) just meand nobly born.

    Aethelric = nobly born Rick.
    This period really is the route of England - right from the early period circa 5th to 6th centuries (which I find fascinating and I humbly add that I write about) up to the tragic end of Anglo Saxon England at Hastings in Helen's period. Point is anyone with English ancestry should be reading about this time because they will find their origins in this era.
    These people are US 1000 or 1500 years ago. Our language and much of our legal codes and traditions do go back that far.

    I am looking forward to both Harold the King and Forever Queen.
    Richard Denning

  10. Dolleygurl, I knew I was not alone in it. Nice to know i am not the only one who struggles with it.

    Helen, thank you for the visit it is so nice to see you here. First off loved the book really it is the only one that far back I really enjoyed.

    You are right I think in my mind I always dropped the A and went to the E instead. I needed some help on figuring out how to process the AE usage, thank you for the info it does help. It does make a lot of sense and personally I would rather it be accurate than not. My hat is off to you cutting 40,000 words could not have been an easy feat and bravo for accomplishing it. I had kind of guess Fryd was the army or some type of military group but I think it all goes back to my own lack of knowledge on how the government was set of then. I really did not know it was broken down into sections with different Fryds. Really a big applause you really made me enjoy this read and thank you. You opened my eyes up to a whole new period of controversy. Now I want to read more on Emma and I will have to know what happens to her in the next book.

    Audra, lets see in my review copy it has a pronunciation guide in the beginning, but I am unsure about the glossary or appendix because in the back of my copy there is quite a few blank pages that just say reserved on them. I will check on a finished copy to see if it does or not. 40,000 words is a lot to cut and I wonder what the bulk of that was. Hum I will have to do some digging and I will let you know.

  11. Richard, man I did not publish you comment until I already commented but I just had to come and check out your comment. Really, nobly born rick you say? It sounds like it would make plain sense. Very very cool info you offered, I think you are right it is a wonderful period and I guess the hard part is where should a newbie to this period start? With Emma or would you recommend going farther back to make better sense of things?

  12. @ Audra - no I cut the story itself. Some chapters were not necessary, others I had repeated the "plot" - and I cut a lot of the political narrative. To cut 40,000 words was very daunting at first, but I had never been too happy with the original UK edition - A Hollow Crown - as I felt it had never received a final "polish" edit. Sourcebooks gave me the chance to create a great book from a good book. (I hope!)

    @ Richard. Yes aethel means "noble". Thus Aethelraed means "noble counsel" but as he was such a weak king this was soon changed (behind his back) to aethel unraed - ill-counseled
    (which in turn has become corrupted to Ethelred the Unready!)

    @ Lizzie J - I think the blank pages are going to be readers' group questions?
    And where to start with history.... the periods change quite a bit. I suppose one place you could start would be with my Pendragon's Banner Trilogy (The Kingmaking, Pendragon's Banner and Shadow of the King) Although based on the early stories of King Arthur, there is no magic or later Medieval influence - no knights in armour, castles. no Merlin or Lancelot or holy grail. MY Arthur story is set 450 A.D. between the going of the Romans and the coming of the Saxons - so the start of Saxon England.

  13. Helen, thank you so much for coming back by to answer some of the questions. I think you are right the blank pages are going to be the readers guide. Thank you very much for the heads up on where to start I am not really a magical Arthur kind of girl so I think Pendragon would be a good fit for me. I need to read more on the beginning of Saxon England.

  14. Aeon Flux was one of my favorite AE names.

    Wonderful review, I tweeted it to my following.

  15. Man of la Books, Is that really where the name originated from? If so then I had no idea. You must be a comic lover to love that name. It has always been one of my favorites and YES I love comic books. Aeon Flux was one of my favorites for a long time. Thank you for sharing a re-tweeting, I am glad you found me here.


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