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VINE VOICEon 3 September 2009
Lady Elizabeth Grey's husband was killed at the Battle of St. Albans and she desperately wants his lands back for her two little boys. She is tired of living in her parents' home and would like her independence. So she stands out in the road as the new king, Edward IV, rides by, holding their hands and hoping he'll see her. He does see her and takes note not only of her problems, but of her beauty, and before she knows it, Elizabeth is the queen of England and in almost over her head with politics and intrigue. She is a Woodville, though, and she will perservere, going to the edge to push her family as high as it can possibly go before her tower of cards topples around her.

This is going to be a good long review, as I have a lot to say on this book. For those who skim, here's my verdict: much better than I was expecting!

If you know me and have been reading my blog, you'll know that I've been working on a dissertation about Anthony Woodville (and fifteenth century chivalric culture in England overall) for what feels like forever. As such, this book was bound to touch on a topic near and dear to my heart, and it was bound to get some of the facts wrong, if only for the sake of storytelling. So it does; the Woodville family was loyal to Edward IV after 1461 but before he married Elizabeth, and Anthony was sent to besiege Alnwick Castle on his behalf with the earl of Warwick in 1463, not to mention that Elizabeth's father Lord Rivers had already been appointed to office. The beginning was anachronistic in another way because Edward kept being referred to as a boy, and there is no way anyone in the medieval period would have considered a man who had commanded and won two battles a boy. I can see that she did this more for characterization purposes, especially given he was younger than Elizabeth, so I don't mind as much, but still worth noting. And Anthony was not at Tewkesbury, although he was definitely in London and fighting when Thomas Neville arrived. There is also the whole magic subplot, but I thought that was actually quite creative, and historical inaccuracy only bothers me if people believe it's true. I don't think anyone would ever believe Elizabeth and Jacquetta were witches. I could go on, but I'll spare you.

All that said, Philippa Gregory got more right than wrong in this instance and I was pleasantly surprised. No one is needlessly victimized here; in fact Elizabeth is quite a sympathetic character which is refreshing after all of the villainizing that typically surrounds her. Even Richard III is not a villain but a multi-faceted man whose ambition just kept on pushing a little too far. The rest of the history is in many ways what has been fictionalized before, and I found nothing that really bothered me. All things considered I enjoyed this book after the first fifty pages and I wasn't expecting to. Gregory even included Anthony's poem, which is authentic and the only one that survives; she inflates his reputation to some extent, but I didn't mind, it fit in.

Gregory writes well, and in general the book is absorbing even for someone who has heard it all before. It's romanticized, but in the way that makes us sigh and wish we had a big blond knight to save the day. It's exciting and tense because everything is dangerous, and because I kept wondering who was going to kill the princes in this version. Another interesting twist there, and I think we're meant to guess at what she means, but for someone who doesn't know the history, it's a nice question. And in the end, I like the way Gregory twisted things here. It's interesting and it's different when the story has been done over and over again. Given the fluidity of history itself, I found myself enjoying the way she pushes boundaries and suggests things that probably didn't happen but might have done. I didn't want to read another fictional recap of the Wars of the Roses, but Gregory made it a little bit new, and despite myself I think I'm looking forward to The Red Queen very much, even if I don't think anyone ever called these `the cousin's wars'.

In other words, I do recommend The White Queen. It is historical fiction, after all, and if you're going to read another book that fictionalizes the Wars of the Roses, I highly suggest this one.
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on 19 August 2010
I discovered Philippa Gregory a few years ago when I spotted the eye gripping and truly gorgeous cover of The Other Boleyn Girl at my local library, and which I had to read right away of course. Though I knew it wasn't historically accurate in many places, I found Philippa Gregory's storytelling enchanting: the way the Tudor court took shape before my eyes and how she wrote about every day details like what kind of food people ate, what dresses they wore, how they spent their daya all made that ancient period of history more human and easier to imagine. Once I discovered Philippa Gregory's writing I wanted to read more. However, unfortunately I found both The Boleyn Inheritence and The Constant Princess disappointing. So it was with trepidation that I started reading The White Queen, not knowing if it would be like the gripping historical tale that The Other Boleyn Girl was or repetitive, dull and not too interesting like the other two novels. I have to say The White Queen didn't disappoint, Philippa Gregory is definitely back with an even more excitiong story to tell!

The White Queen is the first book in Philippa Gregory's new series about the Wars of the Roses. It tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward of York, mother of the Princes in the Tower and of Elizabeth of York, who later became the wife to Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII.

I have to admit that I was not familiar with the details of this time period and didn't know much about the details of the wars and tugs for power. And especially because of this it was very refreshing to read a novel and not knowing how it would end (not like with The Other Boleyn Girl, where one could never ignore the fact that Anne would be executed).

The White Queen is a love story at its core, the sweet and romantic love story between Elizabeth and Edward weaves through the historical events and wars, and we have to reckon that their love is not something Philippa Gregory created to suit her novel, since they had ten children together!

The novel is narrated by Elizabeth Woodville, a young widow and mother of two at the beginning of the novel, telling the reader how she met and fell in love with the king of England. Elizabeth Woodville is a sympathetic character (most of the time), she is charming, stunningly beautiful and had a very eventful and interesting life. Philippa Gregory used part of the legend about Elizabeth Woodville's heritage which claimed that her family was the descendants of Melusina the water goddess, and Ms. Gregory wove this part of historical legend together with mystical elements of witchcraft to make the story more interesting.

My only problem with the novel was the repetitive writing style of Philippa Gregory which appeared at certain times. I understand that this tool can be used to emphasize some aspects and may even make the novel sound more archaical and historical, but it irritated me to read the same few sentences for the seventh time (the locket scene for example). My other critique is that sometimes I felt Philippa Gregory made Elizabeth too similar to Anne Boleyn in certain aspects (using witchcraft to revenge her loved ones with the locket, and how the sweet natured woman would sometimes turn quite vicious and cruel), which I felt was quite out of character for the Elizabeth she created all along the novel.

Verdict: Philippa Gregory is back again with a very enjoyable and exciting story. Thankfully the heroine/narrator is an interesting and sympathetic character and the times and events Ms. Gregory chose to write about are definitely exciting. I'm sure that those who love historical fiction or period dramas will enjoy The White Queen very much!

Plot: 8/10
Characters: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Writing: 6/10
Cover: 9/10
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on 15 April 2010
I loved Gregory's `The Other Boleyn Girl' and have always been pretty interested in the Tudor period in English history, but I have no great knowledge of the preceding Plantagenet age in which this book is set. I know a little of The Wars of the Roses and of the Missing Princes in the Tower, but that's it. Before reading this book on Elizabeth Woodville, I knew nothing of her at all. However, Gregory really brought these characters to life for me. she has chosen a fascinating female protagonist, and the era in which this is set is just as exciting and interesting as the Tudor era.

My lack of knowledge on this period in history made this book a very exciting read for me. I usually find lengthy battle scenes in historical novels pretty boring, but here I found them to be tense and exciting since I didn`t know the outcome of most of them. If there was one main difference between Gregory's Tudor books and this one, then it was the suspense factor for me. The Tudor books didn't hold much surprise for me as through study, books and even TV, I have a good background in Tudor chronology. Here, I feared for the characters at every turn. I didn't know what hand fate would deal them next, and I loved it.

While my lack of background knowledge on the time period added to my enjoyment of the book, it brought it's problems too. With so many battles, so many changed allegiances and so much plotting going on, it is sometimes easy to get confused. That's before I even mention the names. There are so many Edwards and Richards in this book, that things can get a little muddled. I did a little background reading and looked up a chronology of English Kings and Queens online, and this helped.

Elizabeth herself is an interesting character to read about. As powerful and resourceful as she is ambitious and ruthless, I liked her for the most part, although her relentless ambition was a little grating in the end. I loved the added supernatural element to Elizabeth's story, in which Gregory weaves the tale of Melusina, the water goddess alongside the story of Elizabeth for she and the female members of her family are descended from this otherworldly being. I loved the additions of magic and witchcraft to the story - it was something I hadn't expected, but it really worked for me. Gregory also has an interesting viewpoint on the missing princes in the tower. It is a mystery that has never been solved, and I very much enjoyed reading her take on it.

Overall I think this is a great read for fans of historical fiction. It is a wonderful prequel to her Tudor series, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, The Red Queen, due for release in August 2010.
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on 27 July 2009
Before I begin I do want to say the book I read was an uncorrected proof so the story I read may be subject to change. Saying that though, if it is changed by anyone they must be mad!

There is no way I'm giving any of this books plot or story away! It is brilliant full stop. It's written by Philippa Gregory. Who wrote some others I've read in the past and wasn't too sure about like, The Favoured Child and The Other Boleyn girl. BUT this one was brilliant. The fact that it rained for a couple of days which forced me inside to read, did me no harm either,

This book follows the Princes in the tower and is a fantastic murder mystery and one that has genuinely gone unsolved for hundreds of years.

As I said I will not give even the slightest allusion as to the story line or what happens. All I will say is don't literally judge this book by the cover. I wouldn't have thought a murder mystery set the thick end of 600 years ago would have been my kinda thing, I couldn't have been more wrong.

I wouldn't recommend sitting down and reading it in 2 or 3 sittings as much as you may want to, make it last, think of it like a fine wine or 30 year old single malt treat yourself, some books I read are the literary equivalent of big dumb action movies, others are more like dramedy, drama/comedy. This is like the 3hr BBC costume drama that everyone watches only to be later surprised that they like it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 August 2009
That's about the only word I can come up with to describe my feelings. The White Queen is the first in a new series Gregory is writing based upon the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses - or The Cousins War as she calls it. The book begins as a widowed Elizabeth Woodville waits on the side of the road with her two young sons to plea for her dower lands from Edward IV. Several years younger, Edward is captivated and must have her - but Elizabeth holds out for a wedding ring and gets it. Elizabeth is crowned queen and immediately goes about getting the best positions and marriages for her relatives, which earns the enmity of just about everyone else. The story continues as Edward battles with Margaret of Anjou and the deposed Henry VI, as well as his treacherous brother Clarence and Warwick, The Kingmaker, and finally culminates at the death of Edward IV (that's known history, no spoilers here), and his brother Richard ascends the throne. That's really about all I want to tell you about the plot. If you're familiar with the period you know the basics and if you're not it's way too complicated to try and put it all into a review.

I found the writing overly repetitive to the point that I felt like I was being clubbed over the head. Whether it be the first chapters where she keeps referring to twenty-two year old battled hardened Edward as a "boy" (counted it at least six times on one page), to the locket with the names written in blood, as well as the ever present and over bearing references to her ancestor Melusine - I got the point the first time. Outside of the first few chapters at the beginning of their relationship I didn't pick up much chemistry between Edward and Elizabeth - they should have sizzled right off of the pages and instead they fizzled. But worst of all was the magic and spells cast by Elizabeth and her mother, whether you buy it or not I found the casual way everyone in the book treated it more than just a tad bit unbelievable. It's just another day in the park and I'll whistle up another storm to thwart my enemies. I think with all the people who hated her someone would have had her tried as a witch.

One last minor nitpick and thanks to some readers at another site who spotted this - one of Elizabeth's palaces is Nonesuch (or Nonsuch). Google that and you'll find that it was built by Henry VIII. Oops. I am recommending this one only for die-hard Gregory fans, you're better off reading Penman's fabulous Sunne in Splendour. If you're not sure get it from the library first. Glad I did.
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on 6 December 2016
The White Queen is the first book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series about the War of the Roses. The heroine is Elizabeth Woodville, a widow with two young boys, who has been left destitute after her husband's death while fighting for the Lancastrian cause. Her sons' inheritance has been seized back by her mother-in-law, so she waits upon the road hoping to meet the new king, Edward IV, and plead for her cause. Edward, however, takes one look at her and falls madly in love (or rather, lust) and is determined to have her for his own, even if that means going against the man who made him king, the Earl of Warwick. When Edward tries to force himself on Elizabeth she turns a knife on him, so he agrees to marry her. But as the marriage takes place in secret, with very few witnesses, is it even legal?

The beginning of the story took me a little by surprise, as it is similar to those historical romances I love to read, with not quite so much of the battles and beheadings I'm used to reading about in Philippa Gregory's books. But the characters were very likeable and realistically portrayed, and it was fascinating getting a glimpse of the real people behind the stories in the history books. The first half of the book shows the endless battles Edward went through to keep his throne (we experience them second-hand through Elizabeth, waiting patiently at home). The second half is about how Elizabeth is forced into various alliances to protect her children.

I did enjoy reading The White Queen, and would happily give it five stars, but out of the series I think I preferred the later stories. The Red Queen, about Elizabeth's frenemy Margaret Beaufort, was a far more interesting character, as was Elizabeth's mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg (The Lady of the Rivers) and sometime 'witch'.

As The Lady of the Rivers is effectively a prequel to The White Queen and ends at the exact point The White Queen starts, you may wish to start the series with that one. I wish I had read it first, as it would have helped me understand the characters motivation a bit more, and who they all were.
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on 13 June 2013
This book hooked me from the onset, giving the familiar story of the Wars of the Roses a new lease of life. Gregory tells the historical stories we all know from the women's eyes- The women right in the middle of the events.

'The White Queen' is the first of the 'Cousins War' series, with this book focusing on the beautiful queen Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV and the mother of the two princes in the tower. The novel begins with her meeting Edward under the oak tree, and follows right through to follow the mystery of the princes in the tower. My one criticism is that it shouldn't have ended before the battle of Bosworth, however I'm sure 'The White Princess' will address this.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in the Wars of the Roses and women in history. Yes aspects of this novel isn't factually correct, but it's a good read and will likely inspire you to find out more about the period.
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on 11 October 2014
My remarks here cover the other books about the Cousins' war as well as this one. I see many reviewers quibbling about the accuracy or otherwise of historical details in this series. Personally, I read the books as novels, fictional narratives set in a specific period. If you want 100% accuracy read biographies or histories!

I have enjoyed the books very much as exciting narratives and above all as attempts to see the world of that time through women's eyes - a nice complement to most other accounts. It is true that this works better with some characters than others. I especially loved the Red Queen's own story, I think Gregory succeeded very well in capturing the perspective of this woman, and showing how extreme religious devotion can turn into complacency, self-aggrandisement and bigotry (there are many contemporary examples of this, and I found this character curiously up-to-date!). The White Queen's tale, on the other hand, is often about the men around her, and this problem seems most noticeable in the White Princess, where the story really seems mainly about 'the Boy', though it is told only through a woman's eyes. But on the whole I really appreciate her attempts to show us a period as experienced by women.

I also really enjoyed reading the same incidents as seen by different characters, particularly when the White and Red Queens' stories are juxtaposed. I think the whole series is an interesting experiment in perspective. But above all these are highly readable, gripping stories, to be read not for edification but simply for entertainment.
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on 23 October 2009
This is the worst book I've read for a very long time, all the more so because I was so disappointed, having read all her other historical novels and enjoyed them. In fact, I think a lot of Philippa Gregory fans will end up throwing it across the room in disgust - I certainly did. And there's going to be a trilogy!
It's all been done before, and so much better. The characters are sketchy, as if she's cobbled them together after reading a short history of the period, or looked it all up on the internet. How did she manage to make such an exciting period of history, with so much opportunity to create fascinating characters, so unrealistic and boring? How lazy, and what an incredible lack of ambition. The witch plot is unecessary and pointless, the descriptions of battles and other events are poor. She could have gone somewhere quite new with all this, like she did with The Other Boleyn Girl.
Perhaps if you'd never read a historical novel set in this period (and there are loads of them) you would not be so critical of this poor effort. In my view, if you decide to set a novel in the distant past and describe real and important events, either you limit yourself to a short time span and write an intense psychological study in the first person (which worked so well in her Tudor novels); or you have to bite the bullet and go for the full monty - the historical novel proper, with a list of characters and a proper family tree at the beginning, involving years of research and with a brick-like result at the end of it. If you succeed, the reader falls into the book and swallows it up, to emerge reluctantly (sometimes days later) blinking at the strangeness of the 21st century.
Try Sharon Penman's brilliant The Sunne in Splendour instead - don't be put off by its length, and be prepared for a completely different view of these characters.
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on 12 September 2010
I've not read a Philippa Gregory book for some time, but starting to read this, reminded me why. My preference is for historical accuracy: Gregory's fixation with magic in everything is too fanciful to be taken seriously. Although they were placed in the time line of the Wars of the Roses, her cardboard characters could have been given any names in any era, and the story would still have sounded the same. Also I was extremely annoyed by references to Elizabeth constantly adjusting her (conical) head dress. If Gregory had bothered to do any real reseach, I'm sure she would have learned that this was not everyday country wear. Also a knight would not use his war horse to go trotting around the country but would have a supply of other mounts at his disposal. When I finished reading this book, with relief, I thought back to the standard of historical novels set by Sharon Penman and Rosemary Hawley Jarman which are so much more nourishing.
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