Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell
First line: She made a circuit of the clearing among the oaks, three times round and three times back, whispering spells of protection.
Summary: When Emma of Normandy is sent as the bride to the king of England it is with the hope that she will create an alliance between the two nations against the Viking lord, Swein Forkbeard. Upon meeting her husband, Aethelred, there is mistrust and anger from the king, his elder sons and their nobles. With enemies all around, Emma knows that the only thing that will secure her future is a son. As Emma builds support around her, she allows her heart to be given to someone other than her husband putting her in danger of her life and her crown.
My Thoughts: The time of the Anglo-Saxons is a period I have heard or read little about. After starting this I want to know so much more but unfortunately it is during the era that used to be known as the Dark Ages. There is little written record or much archeology available to study from the 600 years of the Saxons in England. Historians have to rely on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the little information available to us and the few hoards found, including the one at Sutton Hoo.
Emma and the life in Anglo-Saxon England fascinated me from the very beginning. Life was much less glamorous and a lot more dangerous. Threats from invaders, disease and deprivation are very real possibilities for many of the people of the realm. And women particularly were not treated well. I felt that the author did a great job bringing the terror of a Viking invasion to the page. There is the ever present threat but little knowledge of when or where they will strike. The chaos that is reigned down upon the people is something that is impossible to imagine today. Fear of death, rape and slavery were everyday worries for the people of England at this time.
As I read I was constantly referencing Wikipedia for the relationships and line of succession at this time. I have learned much through the reading of Bracewell’s first novel in the trilogy. Shadow on the Crown only covers the first several years of Emma’s marriage with two more books to follow. Having looked into the history I have a vague idea of where the story is headed but I cannot wait to see how the author weaves the story together. I am excited to see how Emma becomes the strong queen she is destined to be!
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