I have just finished reading Shadow On The Crown by Patricia Bracewell, courtesy of NetGalley.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction, the first in the trilogy of novels about Emma of Normandy. It is well written and engaged me from the first page to the last. It is often hard to keep a balance in historical fiction between providing hard and cold facts of history and making the story flow. Patricia Bracewell seems to have found a good balance. There were many interesting details of life of the time, including life in court, but not so much as to overburden the reader. The details were well placed and did not overload me as some of the other historical fiction novels do (where I want to skip pages at a time). There was quiet a lot of action that kept the story moving along and a nice pace throughout. Most of the characters were well developed and interesting. I like to read about women who are able to shape their destinies and are strong characters, even in times when they were not allowed to be so. Emma certainly seems to be such a character, at least she's growing into being one.
The novel is written from four points of view: Emma herself, her husband, king Æthelred, his oldest son, Æthelstan, and the scheming daughter of a powerful nobleman, Elgiva. The one major flaw that I found with the story is that Elgiva's point of view seemed unnecessary. Her story didn't lead anywhere and didn't really add to the plot. It seemed almost completely separated from the rest in many ways. Since this is a trilogy, however, it is possible that it will have more meaning in the rest of the books and there will be sense to where her story is leading.
I would definitely recommend this novel to any historical fiction enthusiast.
Shadow on the Crown is coming out on February 7th. A special thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read it ahead of time!