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on 21 March 2015
I have read both the Shadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood and would recommend them to anybody who enjoys Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick. This era is one that is not written about very often apart from Ms. Carol McGrath with her Daughters of Hastings trilogy. I had heard of Emma of Normandy but knew very little about her, so with every turn of the page, it was refreshing to learn a little bit more and to be able to fit her into her place in our history. The only problem is now I have to wait until the third book becomes available!! They are beautifully written and well researched and it was brilliant not knowing her story as I didn't know the outcome of the book - they just leave you wanting more. Highly recommended.
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on 13 November 2017
great read thankyou
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on 8 October 2017
loved the book.
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on 15 June 2015
This debut novel by the American lady author, Patricia Bracewell, has been not only a very surprising but also a real positive revelation to me.
The subject of the book is the history of Emma of Normandy, and because while it's so hard to find any real documentation about this period, the author has still managed a thorough background research of historical details by using especially the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
The story itself is written in a very elegant style, making the storytelling absolutely splendid and keeping you spellbound.
This first part of this series contains the period AD 1001-1005 and it tells the story of Emma of Normandy, who was the sister of Richard II and Robert of Normandy as well as the great-aunt of William "The Conqueror" of Normandy, who as a very young girl will become Queen of England.
Her first husband will be the very much older King AEthelred of England, and securing her status as Queen of England is by bearing him a son and by building alliances with influential men at court as well as receiving the affection of the English common people.
This historical life story of Emma of Normandy is brought to us in a convincing way, for it tells us in an engaging style of life at court with all its dangers, treachery and deaths.
This lady author has delivered us a most wonderful book and one I would like to call a "Very Impressive Debut"!
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on 23 April 2015
I was very dissappointed with this book: although i have read widely with regards to the Tudor era, i had little knowledge of this period of English history. The contents, title and book cover were appealing and i thought would be an interesting insight to the 'pre conquerer' era.the author has obviously made an effort to research the period and to link findings to the various characters. However i found her style of writing to lack depth and detail and was simplistic in form. Maybe this is me being overly critical, but i have read many books by Sharon Penman and i guess have been spoiled- she is an amazing and enthralling writer of historical fiction. In summary 'shadow on the crown' is an ok book if you are looking for a summarised easy read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 March 2013
Emma of Normandy, sister of Richard II the Good, Duke of Normandy, was married to Aethelred, King of England in 1002. This book covers the period only from 1001 to early 1005, where we read of Emma's marriage to Aethelred, and of Aethelred's sons from his first wife.

This is a well-envisaged story; although there is much that is known of these times from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and from other sources, there is obviously much that is conjecture; the relationships between Aethelred's sons and his new wife, the political machinations of the nobles of England, and even the character of Aethelred himself. So to weave together what is known, and to create what is not known and make it seem reasonable and believable, and to build an engaging story around all those elements, would not be an easy thing to do.

This is a very accomplished debut book. The writing is mature, the characters well-crafted, and the story well-paced. Hopefully this is the first in a series of books which will take us further through Emma's life - she lived until 1052, so there are many more years of which to tell, and as Emma live a life full of important events and connections, there is a lot more of interest yet to learn. Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 September 2013
One of the key events of the decades leading up to William of Normandy's transformation from Bastard to Conqueror was the slaughter of Danish settlers by the citizens of English towns, incited by King Aethelred, on St Brice's Day in 1002. This massacre, or rather the crisis that provoked it, lies at the heart of Shadow on the Crown. But, refreshingly and completely effectively, the tale is told not from the point of view of soldiers or kings, although we watch their actions, but from that of Aethelred's second wife and only queen, Emma of Normandy.

England at the turn of the 11th century was no easy to place to be, what with the constant threat of invading armies from the north and south, the drain of paying off Danes to stay away, and rivalry closer to home, especially between Wessex and Mercia, but also even within families, between brothers. If you were a woman then it would have been especially hard. A discarded wife or an unwanted daughter or niece could simply disappear from the historical record, consigned to a convent at best but quite possibly to a far worse fate. Emma, a child, is sent far from home, married to Aethelred, an aggressive, harried man, a king, many years her senior, and becomes stepmother to a host of strong sons, all of whom would be displaced if she were to bear a son. Unusually for a queen, Emma prays for a daughter.

The hostility between Wessex and Mercia is manifested in the novel by the rivalry between Emma and the young beauty Elgiva, daughter of the house of Mercia, whose sole mission is to enchant Aethelred or one of his sons into her bed. Her father might label her a whore for it but he has no hesitation in pushing her on. Emma, and any son she might bear, stands in the way of Elgiva's ambitions.

Through it all, with head held high, stands Emma - she is a remarkable woman, brave and kind, clever and loyal. She has to endure a great deal, from her brute of a husband and from herself - it doesn't pay to love where she shouldn't. Patricia Bracewell doesn't romanticise Emma at all. This is a believable, real young woman, living a thousand years away.

Shadow on the Crown is a wonderful novel - luxurious, evocative yet dark. Its descriptions of buildings and places, mostly now lost over the last thousand years, brings this time to life. The novel is packed with historical details. We see glimpses of Roman remains, the founding of new towns and the establishment of abbeys, some of which survive. There are battles, raids and skirmishes in towns with familiar names. The massacre itself is described as it happened, probably most famously, in Oxford. When the Danes attack the southern towns, even threatening Winchester, Patricia Bracewell conjures up images of an England that is mysterious and dangerous. There is plenty of action, with Emma and Elgiva sometimes at the heart of it. The brutality of the Danes and those who opposed them is presented full on. In a raid, women were treated worse than beasts. Both Emma and Elgiva are on the frontline.

Mixed with the military action are scenes of an uneasy domesticity as Emma copes with her lot. There are also glimpses of the superstitions of the day - the actions of several key players are influenced by prophecy. Apart from the women of the novel, much time is spent with Aethelred and his sons, especially Athelstan, and their influence over everything that Emma does or thinks is immense. Despite being queen, she is mostly powerless but it is fascinating to watch her slow infiltration into the consciousness (I would hesitate to go as far as say affections) of the men about her. I found it difficult, though, to feel anything but dislike for Elgiva and her family.

As an Oxfordian, it was very enjoyable to learn more about some familiar areas of the city and its outskirts - for instance, Emma gave birth to her son just a handful of miles away from me in the village of Islip.

Emma's known to history largely as the mother of Edward the Confessor, she was also the wife of more than one king. She's the perfect subject for a novel, as is the time it's set in. By the end of the book, I was enamoured by our heroine and delighted to discover there will be two more novels. I would most certainly recommend Shadow on the Crown to all readers of medieval historical fiction, male or female. It is brilliantly done and written with great feeling for the time and people.

I must also mention how beautiful the (UK) hardback is, with its blue and gold. The font, likewise, is gorgeous. I'm grateful for the review copy.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2013
Emma of Normandy never suspects that she'll be married before her sister - or that she'll be sent north to England to wed King Ethelred, an aging monarch who disdains her immediately on her arrival. Emma's life on arrival in England is far from what she thinks a marriage should be like. Her husband doesn't respect her and she misses her family and all that is familiar from home. Worse, her husband's seven children stand between her offspring and the throne of England. But Emma soon realizes that the only power she or her children will ever have is that she can seize herself, and the sooner the better.

Queen Emma is a fascinating historical figure. I've spent a small amount of time studying her life, though not in any great detail, enough to know what generally happened to her. It wasn't long before I realized that Shadow on the Crown was covering only a tiny fraction of her life, because it went into much greater detail and imagined things I'd never considered before about the start of her life. While this part is often skimmed over in favor of her later life, I was riveted by Bracewell's narrative and re-imagining of Emma's young married life. I want to emphasize that a lot of this is imagining, and Bracewell includes the very useful author's note so we can see where she's changed history to better suit her narrative.

As I would have imagined, really, life in a foreign land as depicted here isn't easy, especially when Emma is descended from England's enemies, the Vikings. The Vikings were a scourge on England's coast throughout Ethelred's reign, so it's no surprise that her relations to them cause distrust and unhappiness - even more so when a young, foreign queen marries an older king and ruins the chances for English women. Not only that, but while she doesn't expect her husband to like her, he doesn't even respect her, and he mistreats her frequently. It was easy to get attached to and feel for Emma, and I liked how the author put little hints in regarding where the story was going to go in the future.

I also felt that the author gave readers a great sense of what life might be like under a Viking siege. At one point, the characters' lives are at risk, with events taking a terrifying turn. It was easy to understand how terrified they were and why some of them took the actions they did. Bracewell doesn't use this event just for the sake of gratuitous violence, but actually uses the events of the raid to further the plot along. Several characters experience key events that help us understand their characters better and which will make a lot of sense going down the line.

Though by no means an entirely positive tale of a young queen, Bracewell's ideas shed a lot of light on how Emma became the women she was later on, and I'm greatly looking forward to finding out how she fleshes out Emma's story and reveals the multiple facets of her life as we go along. Recommended!
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on 3 November 2015
I don't write many reviews but this book is worth the effort. I love my historical novels and read a lot of them but I'd never heard of Emma of Normandy. In school, I remember being taught about Edward the Confessor but nothing about his parents or family. I loved reading this book because it is well written, is believable, interesting and I don't know what is going to happen next (unlike books about the Tudors, Victorians, Stuarts etc. which I know too well). I don't like the reviews that paraphrase the story so I'm going to end this review by recommending you at least read the sample of the book to see if you like it. It did take me a few pages to get in to it, and happily it does say at the end of the novel which parts of complete imagination, but I thoroughly enjoy it. So much so I'm halfway through the second novel now.
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on 15 February 2013
Emma of Normandy, the great-aunt of William the Conqueror, was wife to two English Kings, and mother to two others.

King Aethelred the Unready sought her hand in marriage to secure Normandy as an ally to England. Despite the fact he dislikes her, she bears him two sons, Alfred and Edward the Confessor. Because Aethelred already had sons from a previous marriage, the succession to the crown for Emma's two sons was far from certain.

When Aethelred died, Canute the Great showed came knocking at her door seeking marriage. This time, Emma insisted that any sons born to her from this marriage be given preference to succeed as king over Canute's son from his previous marriage. Before he would agree, the cunning Canute demanded tit for tat - Emma must also repudiate the claims of her own sons to the crown of England in favor of their future sons. This she did, alienating her sons, shattering their trust in her, and rendering their relationship cold and distant from that day forward.

Emma reigned happily as Canute's queen for eighteen years. Together they had one son, Hardicanute. When Canute died, however, all promises made seemed to hold no weight. Discord broke out between all their sons from both marriages as they battled young Hardicanute for the crown. When Canute's eldest son claims the throne of England, Emma is sent into exile. After much bloodshed, both sons of Canute, as well as her son Alfred, were killed. Her son Edward the Confessor, who wisely stayed out of the conflict and never sought the throne, ended up with the crown of England.

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell tells the fascinating story of Emma of Normandy. With flowing narrative, Emma's life is brought to light in great detail and foresight. From Viking attacks to deadly family conflicts, this novel is so brilliantly written that I could not put it down. I was engaged to the very end. Aethelred's dislike and lack of respect for Emma is poignant, her unhappiness heart-wrenchingly depicted. Amid a hostile court, Emma perseveres and struggles to make her way and define her role. It is a story of love, hate, betrayal, and perseverance. Riveting from start to finish.
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