A Game of Scepters & Swords

When the King of England's consort dies in childbirth the hunt for a new bride begins. Before the grave is even dug both king and court start to weigh the fortunes and potential dangers of candidates for the royal bedchamber, leading to instant rivalries and the spark of what would prove to be a volatile and deadly resentment. Finally, however, a maiden is chosen and the contract signed and sealed ... but the lady will come at a price King Æthelred will only grudgingly pay: a crown.

Emma of Normandy was the darling of her father's court and enjoys favor only slightly dimmed by the chilliness of her sister-in-law. But when her elder sister is passed over and she is affianced to the King of England her mother warns her that while the honor of being an anointed queen will bring her power and influence beyond measure, the position will demand a strength of will that few would find within themselves. Emma will hold the title of Queen, true, but the power that comes with it will only be hers if she bears the king a son.

Political scheming, forbidden love, the threat of invasion, and a foreign queen's fight for acceptance within a hostile court weave a fascinating tale. Emma is a character we can instantly fall in love with, and those around her build a diverse and ever-changing challenge which she ultimately rises to in a bid to master the treacherous game of scepters and swords.

This was an extremely enjoyable read about a lesser-known figure from the darker nooks of England's history. The development of Emma's character in these few years of her first marriage was also very satisfying and not cloyingly cliche (at the end she made decisions that proved her maturation through the trials she had suffered, and set up an expectation that she will be a potent player on the political stage in the coming sequels). I can't wait to see how Bracewell interprets the rest of Emma's career as a queen twice over. Bravo!


No news yet on the coming sequel to Shadow on the Crown, but I'm keeping my ear to the ground. Some authors tend to keep a regular release schedule of a book a year, while others can take years to bring out a new offering. Which way will Patricia Bracewell go?