on 12 May 2015
As a fan of historical fiction and of Alison Weir as a writer, I expected to enjoy this book more than I did. I consider Ms Weir and Philippa Gregory to be the queens of the historical novel field, and usually they don't disappoint. But this book did. I'd just finished Ms Weir's "The Lady Elizabeth", which was really excellent - believable, great characters, well-researched background - so this book was a real letdown.
The problem was that the novel employs the device of switching back and forth between different historical periods, with consequently different characters and plots, but the two periods, the main characters and the situations were so similar I found it quite hard to sort out who was who, and which period we were now in. And that's a real problem.
The two main characters are both called Katherine (though one's also known as Kate); the two periods are only about 70 years apart, so not really all that different; their situations are very similar - frustrated marriage plans, royal disputes, claims to the throne - and so are their reactions. So trying to place each character in her correct setting was very difficult, and I was tempted to give up. I persevered only because I kept expecting things to get clearer, but they didn't.
Of all Ms Weir's books - and I've read most of them - this is the least reader-friendly. If you're new to her writing, I'd choose something else to start with. Otherwise - good luck!
on 11 November 2014
I am a great fan of AW's non-fiction which I find absolutely gripping. I've enjoyed her fiction to varying degrees. I was disappointed by this. The language seemed to very between contrived middle-ages-speak and contemporary English. The constant flip between times was confusing and failed to draw out the parallels it intended, especially as there were Catherines and Queen Elizabeths in both periods. The cover hinted at some exciting and hidden connection - which never came. Finally, the great and terrifying secret was revealed; that while all the evidence and rumours suggested that Richard III had murdered the princes in the tower, in truth...he HAD murdered the princes in the tower after all! No twist, novel theory or surprise. I suspect that AW wanted to air her theories about the Princes' disappearance given recent events and decided to do it like this. It felt overly long, and the part written in the first person present tense again felt rather contrived. As a romantic history, it's OK. As a novel from one of the leading popular historians of our time, it's a disappointment. (I did harbour a suspicion it was actually written by an assistant-writer and overseen by AW).
If you know nothing of the events and period and like an easy read, it's probably quite good. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.
Alison Weir's 'A Dangerous Inheritance' is written in two alternating narratives and tells the story of Lady Katherine Grey, sister to the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter to Mary Rose Tudor, and cousin to Edward VI; and alongside Katherine Grey's story, we are told the story of Katherine Plantagenet, daughter of Richard III, who lived almost a century earlier.
Katherine Grey, a very young and attractive girl, is married at the age of thirteen to Lord Henry Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke, in a double wedding ceremony with her sister, Jane, to Lord Guilford Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland. Northumberland, desperate to prevent the throne passing to the catholic Mary Tudor, tries to persuade the dying Edward VI to alter the line of succession so that Edward's cousin, Lady Jane, will succeed him after his death. When Northumberland's plan goes awry and Lady Jane is imprisoned and then beheaded, Katherine's marriage to Henry, which has not been consummated, is annulled and she is sent home in disgrace. With one marriage behind her, and her sister and father having been executed, Katherine must tread very carefully and when Elizabeth Tudor becomes Queen, Katherine has to be even more careful for Elizabeth sees her as a rival for the throne. When Katherine becomes romantically involved with Edward Seymour (nephew of King Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour) against the wishes of Elizabeth, the Queen's wrath descends upon Katherine with dramatic consequences.
Interlaced with Katherine's story is that of Katherine (Kate) Plantagenet, the illegitimate daughter of Richard III. The reader learns of Katherine's early life and of how her father, the Duke of Gloucester, after the death of his brother Edward IV, takes the crown, imprisoning his nephews in the Tower of London. Kate, who loves and respects her father, slowly comes to the realisation that he is not the kind man she believed him to be and when she hears dreadful rumours about his role in the disappearance and possible murder of her cousins, the Princes in the Tower, she decides to embark on a dangerous mission to discover the truth about fate of her young relations.
This was an entertaining read of two young women whose lives are connected by conspiracy, intrigue and by their twin fates of being too close to the throne; of the two Katherines, I found Katherine Grey to be the more interesting and believable character and I became quite involved with her story. Kate Plantagenet's story, with her quest into the disappearance of the princes was a little less convincing, but it did add another dimension to the story and allowed the author to exercise more dramatic licence than might have been possible with Katherine Grey's story, whose life is the more historically documented of the two. That said, this is a richly layered story, which blends fact with fiction and is full of plotting, scheming, treachery and treason; and as Alison Weir is an historian with several works of non-fiction to her credit, this novel is written within an authentic historical framework which both educates and entertains, making this an ideal read for when you want to lose yourself in the past.
on 8 March 2013
I enjoy reading Alison Weir's historical novels both from the point of view of entertainment and of education. This is a cleverly constructed novel which investigates all sorts of issues of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries including (topically) the character of Richard III and whether or not he was guilty of causing the deaths of the princes in the tower. Just as importantly, she deals with the issue of arranged marriages and the heartbreak caused, particularly to women, of being forced to give up the men they love for the political gain of others. As the title also indicates, in those times the nearer people were to the crown the more constrained and dangerous their lives could be
on 31 May 2013
I'm a fan of Alison Weir and have read most of her books, both fiction and non-fiction. This one I found a good read but somewhat contrived as it is really two unconnected lifestories with some rather blatant 'stitching' to bring them together.
Having enjoyed Innocent Traitor, picking up the aftermath through the eyes of Katherine Gray was interesting in itself; I had not really appreciated that she had as good a claim to the throne as her sister. Her wilfulness as an unsupported teenager in a suspicious court does read true.
The account of Richard III takeover of the throne was not new, but seeing it through the eyes of his daughter, a child of 14ish, gave it a new perspective.
So this book shows us two eras as seen by immature girls who are treated as pawns in the game of ruling, and very well it does this, though prior knowledge of the events and key characters will help.
The fate of the two princes is the background thread that links the two girls. Nothing startling comes out, though the arguments are well-rehearsed; no mention of alternative murderers such as Buckingham though. An interesting insight is that it suggests that the sort of questions asked and evidence available at the time and in the next century were the same as now; being closer in time did not help.
My only gripes:- the 'ghosty' bits were unnecessary and added nothing to the story; and some of the split story sections were too short to absorb the change in 'casting'.
A Dangerous Inheritance is the story of two women who lived more than a century apart: Lady Catherine Grey in the 16th century and Lady Catherine Plantaganet in the 15th century; both known as "Kate". The two women are connected in the story by their fascination with the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, both obsessed with learning the truth about what happened to them.
Beautifully written, I found the story of these two women highly compelling. Each woman's story had plenty to keep readers enthralled with executions, court intrigues, dark secrets, and true love. They each suffered in their own way. It is evident that author Alison Weir did an incredible amount of research into the history behind the two young princes locked away and who ultimately disappeared from the Tower of London - a mystery that continues to this day. Even though it took a while to understand the link between these to women, all is revealed in a highly satisfying ending.
The novel is rather long, but this is understandable considering this novel covers the lives of two women. The historical details are also well portrayed in this vividly told story. Part drama, part mystery, part suspense, this story has something for everyone. I enjoyed every page of this excellently written novel and I'm sure you will too.