Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry

Reviewed by Vanitha Sankaran

In her debut YA novel The Queen’s Daughter, Susan Coventry tells the fascinating tale of princess Joan, daughter of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and sister to Richard the Lionhearted. Though this time period has been well explored by other authors, Coventry gives us a new look through the voice of young Joan. A precocious but vulnerable child caught between warring parents and ambitious brothers, Joan struggles to maintain a certain peace with all of them and to express her love for each without hurting the others.

We first meet Joan when she is a young girl worried about whom to trust, what secrets to keep, and which ones to reveal. As she grows up alongside her increasingly ruthless family members, she realizes that her worth, in their eyes, is not measured as an individual but as a political asset. When Joan is married off to a foreign many years her senior, she must learn to navigate court intricacies, as well as personal intimacies, while still maintaining the interests of her family. It is only after her husband’s death that Joan begins to find her own self, along with the chance of a trusting, true love.

Coventry does an amazing job of bringing an old time and place to new life with her settings that range from mainstay European castles to the Sicily countryside and on to the Holy Land. The strength of the novel comes from Joan’s observations of the world around her, first as a na├»ve young girl and then as an increasingly mature woman. Joan’s words about her warring family shows us a side to the House of Plantagenet not often explored. The reader quickly comes to care for Joan and to root for her to find the trusting love that she so desperately craves.

A fine and unique voice to add to the world of historical fiction!

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