- Paperback: 376 pages
- Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; 1 edition (22 Jun. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061673579
- ISBN-13: 978-0061673573
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,815,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Rebel Princess Paperback – 22 Jun 2010
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"Healey uses sumptuous detail to explore the courtly lives of spiritually frustrated medieval women."--Publishers Weekly
"A fast-paced historical mystery with plenty of suspense and intrigue....Healey does a fantastic job."--Historical Novels Review
"A seamless blend of history and fiction, and a gripping read."--Minneapolis Star Tribune on The Rebel Princess
Healey uses sumptuous detail to explore the courtly lives of spiritually frustrated medieval women. --Publishers Weekly"
A fast-paced historical mystery with plenty of suspense and intrigue....Healey does a fantastic job. --Historical Novels Review"
A seamless blend of history and fiction, and a gripping read. --Minneapolis Star Tribune on The Rebel Princess"
From the Back Cover
Alais, the spirited and indomitable princess of France, returns for another thrilling adventure in this historically rich, mesmerizing sequel to The Canterbury Papers.
Paris, October 1207. There is nothing that Princess Alais of France wants more than to settle down with her lover, William of Caen, and to reveal to his ward, Francis, that she is his mother. but intrigue is afoot in the palace, and tensions are pushed to the brink when a much prized relic is stolen and young Francis goes missing. frantic for his safety, Alais will risk life and limb to find the boy donning a disguise to outwit cunning enemies as she makes her way into unfamiliar territory to save her son, and perhaps prevent a bloody holy war that threatens her beloved France.
From the opulent halls of Paris to austere monasteries in the south of France, The Rebel Princess combines history and suspense in an unforgettable tale involving one of the most enigmatic and intriguing female figures in medieval history." See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this novel, set in 1207, several years after the events of the first book, Princess Alais of France is at her brother's court in Paris when he receives a mysterious warning not to interfere -- as the Pope has requested -- in the affairs of the quasi-independent domains in the south overseen by Count Raymond of Toulouse. Throw in a vanishing chalice and the apparent kidnapping of Alais's son by Henry Plantagenet, the late king of England (his parentage still unknown to anyone but Alais and her lover, the Templar leader William of Caen) after a tragic tournament, and before long, Alais has hotfotted it down to the southern provinces. Once there, she becomes entangled with the efforts of religious leaders, led by an evil abbot, to stamp out the emerging Cathar 'heresy'.
The events around which the author has built what she calls a 'romance' (in the classic, medieval troubador sense of the word -- "tales of mystery, adventure and love" in the author's words) were real, and dramatic. Thousands were killed in what became known as the Albigensian crusade when at the Pope's behest, monks and northern barons took the lead in combatting the Cathars and their theological challenge to Rome as well as their de facto challenge to the lavish and corrupt lives lived by many bishops and other religious leaders of the 12th and 13th centuries. But this book, which doesn't really pick up the pace enough to engage the reader until nearly halfway through, doesn't do justice to those events. Major plot elements, like the missing chalice, seem to be there as mere decoration rather than as a way to move the story forward or show how the characters are developing or changing. There are contradictions within pages of each other (Constance of Toulouse is said to have claimed she knows where the chalice is in exchange for a ransom, only a page after saying she tried to claim it but that it was stolen) that mount up as the book proceeds and become irritating. And the throwaway usage of French phrases to remind the reader that the events are taking place in France is downright absurd in the level of artificiality it creates; every so often the author throws in a 'palais' or "toilettage", "carte" (instead of map), or sûreté (in place of safety) in a way that sounds extremely unnatural and stilted and may even send some readers scurrying for a dictionary to make sure they haven't missed something. (When the French words are only for effect, they disrupt the narrative and make it harder for a reader to immerse himself or herself in the story.) Sometimes, both what is said and how it's said is equally unconvincing, as when Alais's chidlhood friend, Joanna, comments, "Cathar? Moi? Don't be amusing, Alais. I cannot abide religion in any form."
In any novel, something that pulls the reader away from the story and forces him or her to puzzle out a piece of bad or confusing writing, reconcile the events the author is describing with what the reader knows of a subject or in any other way interrupts the sheer joy of following a story from start to finish is disruptive and disappointing. When it happens repeatedly in the same book, it makes that book harder to read and less enjoyable. Here, the awkward writing (Philippe, the king of France, has a "questing expression") is just part of the problem. A bigger issue for some historical fiction fans to swallow will be the anachronisms and inaccuracies, from large to small. I don't have a problem with an author interpreting known facts in creative ways to make a great work of fiction, or filling in the giant gaps that often exist in those known facts in ways that are plausible and convincing. (After all, that's what made possible some really great historical novels set in medieval Europe, such as Sharon Kay Penman's sagas or Anya Seton's classic, Katherine.) In this case, the author commits nearly all the mistakes that a historical fiction novelist can, when she didn't need to do so in order to convey either a sense of period or to move her plot forward. Her characters, across the board, display beliefs that that are out of line with the culture of the time, and the book is full of anachronisms. (Velvet wasn't known in the European courts until specialized looms were developed around 1300; so velvet bedhangings would have been impossible.) I'm not even referring to major issues, such as the fact that the historical Alais was married, a middle-aged mother to a few daughters and countess of the Vexin by this time, or that Joanna of Toulouse had been dead for nearly a decade by the time of the events in the story. It's the cumulative effect of the sometimes ponderous and often awkward writing, the historical errors and anachronisms, etc. that has led me to award this only 2.5 stars, rounded up out of nostalgia for her first book, which I did find to be a gripping read that transcended the flaws that in the sequel have become all-too apparent. And even if I could ignore those, the abrupt end (I actually wondered if a chapter hadn't been included in my Kindle copy of the book!) to the story -- which presumably marks the fact that the author is preparing a sequel -- was far too jarring to be respectful to readers.
This book, while set in an earlier age, may appeal to those readers who enjoyed Posie Graeme-Evans' trilogy set in the 15th century (The Innocent: A Novel), due to the same kind of mixture of adventure and history, the presence of alternatives to orthodox religion, and the cheerful disregard for historical fact in the pursuit of fiction. But I'd advise anyone who likes historical accuracy and eloquent writing to look elsewhere. If you crave well-written historical mysteries set in a similar period, take a look at the four books written by Sharon Penman, such as The Queen's Man: A Medieval Mystery (Medieval Mysteries), which are truly suspenseful, historically true to life and engagingly written. Or you could seek out the lively, colorful (and accurate and well-crafted) historical novels by Elizabeth Chadwick, some of which are now being released in the US.
I enjoyed re-visiting Alais because I really loved her character in the first book. She didn't disappoint me in this one; Alais was just as strong as ever. I love how Healey made Alais such a put-together woman who is involved in the politics of her brother's kingdom. She is a role model for women of the time; however, she's also vulnerable. She's such a complicated, well-written character - I enjoyed spending time with her in order solving the mystery in the novel! I have to say, though, I enjoyed the mystery portion of The Canterbury Papers more than that of The Rebel Princess, though both are well done.
The history in The Rebel Princess was very well done. Healey provides rich details about Southern France. I didn't know much about the Cathars prior to reading this novel, but Healey has piqued my curiosity. She really involves the reader in the history of the time period. Additionally, there is a very useful note in the back of the book which details the history of the time, and what the author took liberties with. She includes some further reading, in case the reader wants to learn more about the Cathars.
The Rebel Princess was a great novel that was easy to read and enjoyable. I'm so glad that Healey left the end of this novel wide open - I would love a sequel in order to see what happens to Alais next!
William and Francis come to see Alais and her brother to consult with the king re the Cathars breakaway region in the south centered in Toulouse. Phillip rejects the pope's envoys plea to mount a counter offensive; this angers Armand Amary, a church VIP who wants all the Cathars executed as heretics. When Francis is kidnapped, Alais heads to Toulouse risking her life searching for her offspring while William goes on a Pope Innocent III directed mission.
Fans of Sharon Kay Penman and Rebecca Gellis will love this fantastique medieval historical fiction novel with a romantic subplot that enhances the prime court-papal intrigue story line. Readers learn about the Catharism movement focusing on the principles of a Good God and an evil adversary; their tenet of no priests or buildings ultimately led to the Albigensian Crusade. Although Alais does nothing wrong on her quest to save her son, the sequel to THE CANTERBURY PAPERS remains overall an insightful thirteenth century thriller.
But Ala's also kept a very deep, dark secret and one that would drive her to take risks and allow any manner of danger to be set upon her. William would also carry this secret as well and made her not reveal of it regardless of how she felt. These two were the closest lovers possible but were kept apart for too many years as William carried out the Pope's agenda. Ala's knew why she must not tell her secret but even the warmth of William's love was going to keep her telling much longer. When a horrid event changes everything for the Kingdom Ala's moves to not only reveal this secret but to free the one person she must tell it to before it is too late. She may be a princess of the house of Capet and the daughter of the Kings of France but, she was at the core a woman who knew when her time had come to be counted and fight for what is right regardless of what may happen to you.
This book is about so much more than one princess living in a time of turmoil - this book is about the spirit of a woman who fights for what is right alongside royalty and commoners. Most important of all it is about a mother who will do anything to protect the child she loves so much. There is history, strife and religious conflict but at the core there is the relationship between a man and a woman who know that time and circumstance may separate them but nothing in the end can destroy their love.
Mary Gramlich is The Reading Reviewer located at [...]
The essence of the novel is Alais' personal struggle to support her brother and put to rest a long held secret. When a large delegation arrives in Paris, including the man she will soon marry, Grand Master of the Knights Templar in England, William of Caen, there is another party sent from Rome, headed by Abbe Arnaud Amaury, a fanatical cleric who harbors the furor of the coming scourge, the Inquisition. A former soldier turned man of God, Amaury is on a mission to purge the south of France of the Good Christians sewing the seeds of heresy. Before Alais can marry William of Caen and put to rest her burdensome secret, events intervene: a religious icon belonging to the Cathars is stolen, a man is murdered and a young knight from William's entourage kidnapped.
Alais fees to the south on a personal mission, aware of the dangers ahead but unable to stay in Paris as war threatens and the fate of those she loves remains uncertain. Healy has created a serious, authentic character that is drawn into the chaos around her, her fate entwined with her country and her brother's efforts to avoid war. I did have trouble in the first few chapters, many of which describe the historical perspective that drives the plot: there seemed to be little passion in the author's prose, even with Alais' confessed love for William of Caen and distress over the actions of Rome's fanatic priest. Her drama is but a small fragment of history that illustrates the dangers of 13th century France, where religious fervor instigates war and the hounds of hell are unleashed in the name of God. Luan Gaines/2009.