Menaced By Vikings And Enemies At Court, Queen Emma Defends Her Children And Her Crown In A Riveting Medieval Adventure Readers First Met Emma Of Normandy In Patricia Bracewell S Gripping Debut Novel, Shadow On The Crown Unwillingly Thrust Into Marriage To England S King Thelred, Emma Has Given The King A Son And Heir, But Theirs Has Never Been A Happy Marriage In The Price Of Blood, Bracewell Returns To When A Beleaguered Thelred, Still Haunted By His Brother S Ghost, Governs With An Iron Fist And A Royal Policy That Embraces Murder As Tensions Escalate And Enmities Solidify, Emma Forges Alliances To Protect Her Young Son From Ambitious Men Even From The Man She Loves In The North There Is Treachery Brewing, And When Viking Armies Ravage England, Loyalties Are Shattered And No One Is Safe From The Sword Rich With Intrigue, Compelling Personalities, And Fascinating Detail About A Little Known Period In History, The Price Of Blood Will Captivate Fans Of Both Historical Fiction And Fantasy Novels Such As George R R Martin S Game Of Thrones Series The Price of Blood, by Patricia Bracewell, is the second book in The Emma of Normandy Trilogy The first book, Shadow on the Crown, followed fifteen year old Emma as she left her homeland of Normandy and everything she knew to marry Aethelred, the haunted King of war torn and pillaged England Viking invasions were blooding the land and causing much internal strife The second book picks up in 1006 where Shadow on the Crown leaves off and then ends in 1012 While these books are fiction they are based on real people, actual battles, and true events that have been recorded in history Bracewell used many works by Anglo Saxon scholars to conduct her research What resulted is an extraordinary piece of historical fiction that uses rich language, detailed plot lines, and extensive character development Bracewell is a wonderfully talented writer which is seen in Shadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood.Queen Emma is an unforgettable heroine that easily captures reader s hearts, as well as the hearts and support of the English Court and commoners This does not endear her to the King or her stepchildren They view her and her young son Edward, who was named the rightful heir to the thrown, as threats She is strong, intelligent, and dialed into the political landscape Emma also keeps tabs on what is going on inside her family, the Court, and with other nobles.In Shadow on the Crown, Emma falls in love with her eldest stepson, Athelstan He returns her feelings but they know nothing can ever come of their dangerous love except heartache When The Price of Blood begins the King already distrusts and dislikes Emma and he thinks Athelstan is out to steal his crown If Emma or Athelstan gave the King any reason to think that they had feelings for each other it would lead to their destruction This leads to the two battling their desire for each other throughout The Price of Blood.The Price of Blood does a wonderful job of illustrating just how hard it was to be female during this time Women practically had no say in their lives and belonged fully to whichever man they were betrothed to It saddened me to see Emma have no control of her son Edward s life The King wanted them separated so that Emma would not influence Edward as he grew older, thus he had him sent away Bracewell also demonstrated how disease heavily plagued the people of that age Sickness spread like wildfire and there was nothing they could do but pray.Patricia Bracewell has created an exceptional historical trilogy in Emma of Normandy The Price of Blood is well written, well researched, and I thoroughly enjoyed it I am eagerly awaiting the final novel in her trilogy to see what becomes of England, Emma, Athelstan, Aethelred, and her children If you are looking for a pivoting series to read then you definitely need to get The Emma of Normandy trilogy I was provided a complimentary copy of this novel by the Publisher for a honest review Emma of Normandy is best known as the mother of Edward the Confessor despite her own queenly life dramas which are worth noting on their own grounds Patricia Bracewell returns with the second book in the Emma of Normandy Trilogy revisiting Emma, Aethelred the Unready, Athelstan his eldest son , and the villainous Elgiva in, The Price of Blood The Price of Blood is very similar to Shadow on a Crown in terms of structure, style, prose, and essence Bracewell introduces the cast of characters and even a glossary of terms which is very helpful as The Price of Blood follows in its predecessor s footsteps of alternating chapter view points from character to character you will flip back to the descriptions In line with this, The Price of Blood wouldn t really work as a stand alone novel and is definitely recommended to be read as a follow up to Shadow on the Crown , as intended Bracewell s novel begins with a somewhat slow start which eventually melts into a faster paced plot The story isn t necessarily as eventful or action packed as Shadow on the Crown but there is still something magical about it which encourages page turning Bracewell s descriptions are vivid and sometimes borderline literary and raw which adds depth to the pages The Price of Blood is standout on the front that it eschews fluff for a historical political focus Yes, there are some magick spiritual meanderings along with the slight mention of sex and romance but overall the text will satisfy history lovers One of the highlights of The Price of Blood is Bracewell s ability to make each character thrive in his her own personality Each figure is alive, believable, and unique with individualistic merits This makes the varied story viewpoints easy to read and adds a macro view to the plot versus causing confusion Although, Emma is once again not as mainstream as preferred but Elgiva certainly expands intrigue in The Price of Blood As Bracewell s novel progresses slightly past the halfway point the plot thickens and becomes eventful Moreover, Bracewell s interpretations of the possible emotional impacts of events is standout and adds a sort of psychological baring to The Price of Blood making the novel layered and multifaceted than many other HF novels The final chapters of The Price of Blood are fast paced and move at a steady pace leading to a solid conclusion that is both a cliffhanger and stirs emotions Without a doubt, Bracewell leaves readers anxious for the third novel and aching for Bracewell leaves The Price of Blood with a sufficient Author s Note explaining her liberties, conjectures, and inspirations It should be noted that much of The Price of Blood is fictional aside from the actual political stirrings which have been chronicled Yet, the novel is not fluffy and is strongly informative and rooted within the time period On an aside, a genealogical table would certainly be helpful to most readers Overall, The Price of Blood is not as strong as Shadow on the Crown and feels like a buildup to the third book from the first Despite this, Bracewell s prose is solid, the story is meaningful, and the novel is moving Although the text may confuse as a stand alone novel it is a must read for those whom read the first novel and it definitely builds anticipation for the third. Bracewell started her series about Queen Emma with her compelling debut Shadow on the Crown The Price of Blood picks up in 1006 with Emma s husband King Aethelred mired in suspicions of everyone around him and haunted by the ghost of his dead brother Aethelred s primary policy aims to keep all his strongest leaders fighting with each other so that they have no ability to rebel against him He listens to advice only from the man he knows is willing to commit murder for him clearly not the counselor of high moral standards Instead of stability, this crazed plan brings England to desperate straits, unable to defend herself from Viking raids Aethelred s eldest son shows signs of having the leadership qualities his country so desperately needs, but as we watch Aethelred s fear of his son mount we doubt he will be permitted to aid his father in any meaningful way Against this dark backdrop Bracewell builds a plot of intrigues, court politics, battlefields and daily life both among the Vikings and this early English royal family Her psychologically taut portrayal of Emma is utterly engaging Bound by violently conflicting vows and needs, Emma tries to act in the best interests of England, the King and her children although those three arenas of interest often conflict It does not help that she must deny any hope for the love she shares with the king s eldest son The young woman of Shadow on the Crown has sharpened into a sophisticated and savvy ruler who wages power struggles with her self destructive husband in her attempts to bring about wise policies That her hold on power is so fragile and her husband s personality so volatile fills the pages with suspense and powerful tension Ironically, Aethelred s real enemies stay hidden from him although they are vividly brought to life for us with their schemes and ambitions Instead of the people he most needs to defeat, Aethelred attacks those who could help him One of the great strengths of this novel lies in the portions told from Aethelred s point of view While we are inside his mind, we see his thinking in action and how it is that he gradually comes to suspect evil intent of everyone around him He is not a simple mad man It s way complicated and, frankly, all the worrisome for that It does not matter what Emma s motives are, for example, he will find a reason to distrust her actions This holds true for his sons, his bishops and other advisors Here s a passage showing Aethelred s reaction to Emma s request to return to the court and her place at his side To most people this would sound loving or at least positively concerned Indeed she means no harm toward her husband but wishes to help him rule well all in his best interests, if he could only see it This, however, is how he winds it up into contortions of distrust in his mind What maddened him, though, was not the thought of Emma at his court, but the knowledge that she had so damned many allies His first wife had lived in his shadow, where she belonged Emma, though, courted his churchmen and ealdormen, garnered information, and corresponded with men of power His mother had done the same, and her ambitions for him had led to the murder of a king When he considered that, his ill temper turned to misgiving What might Emma s ambitions for her son lead her to do This is skillful placement of the reader inside Aethelred s thought patterns We might not sympathize with this man but we want to know what he will do next We can t resist seeing how far his twisted mind will take us Just when we need to escape from the grimness of Aethelred, Bracewell shifts point of view and we are inside Emma s mind or that of Aethelred s eldest son, or Elgiva, who returns to this book as a formidable challenge to Emma and Aethelred These point of view shifts greatly deepen the book and place the reader in a variety of emotional states This is a book of rising psychological drama, an in depth portrayal of family dynamics at their most disastrous as they spill out onto a stage that encompasses a whole country There is a Shakespearean feel to these conflicts and their subtle working out inside the minds of these living, breathing characters This is not a happy book, but it s one you won t want to miss It s a profoundly insightful book that keeps drawing the reader along its intriguingly dark paths. I have waited impatiently for the arrival of the second installment of Patricia Bracewell s Emma of Normandy trilogy, and it did not disappoint A surprisingly brief period of time is covered 1006 1012 , leaving much to occur in the final book or maybe we ll get lucky and get than a trilogy, fingers crossed The Price of Blood is action packed, detailing the Viking raids that plagued Aethelred s England during this period.Using the sparse amount of historical documentation that exists regarding Queen Emma and those around her, Bracewell has developed a plausible and exciting story with multifaceted characters and beautifully described scenery It is easy for the reader to imagine themselves within a dark medieval hall, watching invaders from the ramparts, or hearing the news of the gory death of a loved one History is not whitewashed or romanticized, and unknown elements are creatively provided while staying true to what is known.Emma of Normandy is known for what happened to her than what she was truly like, but this author develops her into a character that is strong, yet dutiful Prideful, yet self controlled A despised wife, but loving mother Elements of Emma s life are explained in a way that makes her a woman that I can sympathize with, even if I don t always agree with her.Since the story is also told from the points of view of Aethelred, Athelstan, and Elgiva, we see events fall into place in a way that is often far from what was intended by those who put things in motion Aethelred pushes his sons away, much to his own detriment, out of pride and unearned distrust Athelstan is honorable, even when being otherwise might actually be better for the kingdom Elgiva is as beautiful and selfish as before, but her plans seem to fall apart around her, which made me feel that there was at least some justice in these war torn times.With much left to be resolved, I will anxiously await Bracewell s next installment to learn the fate of each of these captivating characters.Due to my fevered quest to be certain that I got my hands on a copy of this book, I actually ended up with it on Kindle from NetGalley and in hardcover from Viking Publishing I thank both of them for this excellent book Opinions expressed are my own.
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- 448 pages
- The Price of Blood
- Patricia Bracewell
- 13 December 2018 Patricia Bracewell