Two women, two very different destinies, drawn together in the shadow of the Tower of London:
Elizabeth of York, her life already tainted by dishonour and tragedy, now queen to the first Tudor king, Henry the VII.
Joan Vaux, servant of the court, straining against marriage and motherhood and privy to the deepest and darkest secrets of her queen. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, as conspiracy whispers through the dark corridors of the Tower.
Through Joan’s eyes, The Lady of the Ravens inhabits the squalid streets of Tudor London, the imposing walls of its most fearsome fortress and the glamorous court of a kingdom in crisis.
I am delighted that it is my turn on the blog tour for The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson, set during my favourite historical period. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
I was delighted to be invited to read this book because it covers my absolute favourite period of history, but during a window of time where my reading has been sorely lacking. The Wars of the Roses are my historical obsession, and I have read a myriad of books about the reign of Henry VIII, but period immediately following the Battle of Bosworth and the early reign of Henry VII is a time period which has largely slipped through my historical fiction net, until now.
Despite the fact that the author clearly does not share my love of Richard III, I absolutely adored this novel. It ranks up there with the best historical fiction I have read by my favourite authors in the genre and I completely lost myself in the text, transported back to the fifteenth century and the Tower of London. The selection of the central character to tell the story, Joan Vaux, a commoner risen high in the fledgling Tudor court, is inspired, as it allows her a to look in on the court from slightly outside it and give us a more rounded view of what life was like in the country at that time, than would the use of someone who was confined entirely within the royal family at that time. Aside from which, she is a fascinating character in her own right, and quite extraordinary for a woman of that time. I loved reading of the intimate relationships between Joan and the young Queen Elizabeth, and Joan and her mother. A fascinating insight into the difficulties faced by women at the time who had little personal power and were largely treated as valuable chattels to be traded for power and favour, and their ingenuity in finding ways to influence events regardless.
This is a time of great turmoil in the country, as the newly founded Tudor dynasty tries to cement its hold on England through marriage between Henry Tudor and the Yorkist daughter of Edward IV, Elizabeth of York, whilst challenges to the throne continue to come from Yorkist rebels who are unwilling to admit defeat. The ongoing mystery surrounding what happened to the ‘Princes in the Tower’ gives additional credence to rumours that boys with a better claim to the throne than Henry may still be alive, and the importance of the children that Elizabeth bears for Henry and the alliances that can be made with the noble houses of Europe through marriage cannot be stressed enough. It was a time of great tension, which the author makes us relive throughout the pages and it makes for a riveting tale.
I find the minutiae of life, both in and out of court, at this time endlessly fascinating and the author peppers the book with the luscious details of how families were arranged, households run, children raised and the court operated. As well as an entertaining story, this novel is a great history lesson and this fact great enriches the reading experience; indeed it is my primary joy in reading historical novels. This one really brings it all to life and transports the reader right into the heart of the period, the sights, sounds, smells, textures, medicines, ailments, food, drink, farming, battle, building, property ownership, titles, protocol – it is all here in riveting detail, but in ways that enhance the story and do not in any way impede the pace of the writing. The author’s voice is modern and refreshing and easy to read, and carries an obvious passion for the period. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of the book and, on reaching the end, was already wanting to move to the next title.
All lovers of historical fiction, especially the Tudor period, should buy this book. As well as being rich in period detail, and a stonking good story, the book itself is beautiful. I loved it so much, I had to buy a hardback copy to grace my shelf, as I know I will read it again. It is hard to tell from my photo, but it has sumptuous gold detailing on cover. I am already planning on buying another copy to give my Tudor-mad mother for her birthday. Already on my favourites of the year list. I may even forgive the author for her disdain for my beloved Richard…
The Lady of the Ravens is out now and you can buy a copy here.
There are lots more fabulous blogs taking part in the tour, so make sure you visit them too:
About the Author
Joanna Hickson spent twenty-five years presenting and producing News and Arts programmes for the BBC. Her first published book was a children’s historical novel Rebellion at Orford Castle, but more recently she has turned to adult fiction, concentrating on bringing fifteenth century English history and some of its fascinating principal characters to life. She is married with a large family and gets inspiration from her Wiltshire farmhouse home, which dates back to her chosen period.
Connect with Joanna:
Facebook: Joanna Hickson