|Conquest: Daughter of the Last King by Tracey Warr|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A Welsh princess and an 11th century English throne, both in turmoil, feature in this wonderfully told story about the Welsh struggle that's unfortunately not a common feature in English history books.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 309||Date: October 2016|
|Publisher: Impress Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Princess Nest ferch Rhys is the only legitimate child of Rhys ap Tewdr (there's a surname to make hist-fict addicts smile!), the last king of Deheubarth, Wales. Playing on the beach with her brother one day she's captured by Norman soldiers. From there she's held hostage by the noble Montgomery family, loyal to King William Rufus. The standard of captivity in which Nesta is kept isn't bad. Lady Sybil is particularly kind to her, realising that Nest is still mourning the deaths of her father and most of her siblings at the hands of men from that same household. There is an ulterior motive though. The object of Sybil's attentions is to make Nest a suitable wife for English nobility but she's already promised to a Welsh prince. Who will Nest actually marry and, more importantly, will Nest have any say in it?
Author and academic historian Tracey Warr has moved from the Vikings of her last novel to the cusp of the 11th and 12th centuries in this her second historical fiction. The common link between them is the lives of women who don't make it into the school history books which doesn't seem to be for the want of an adventure or two.
Yes, Nest is a real person but I'd advise you to stay away from online search engines and encyclopaedic sites before you've read the book. Tracey's book is exciting with some interesting twists that would be lessened by spoilers, including that wonderfully solved will she/won't she regarding her matrimonial prospects. This isn't a love story though; there's much more to it than that.
This is a politically charged era in history. William the Conqueror has died leaving three warring sons behind. (There were four until a rather prophetic hunting accident.) William Rufus (Rufus comes from his ruddy complexion) rules England, watched jealously by sibling Duke Robert Curthose (short legs!) who has been given lands in France as a poor second. Meanwhile youngest brother Henry spends his time oscillating between his two elders, until another little hunting accident…
This is the precipice of dangerous loyalty that Nest's hosts Lady Sybil and Duke Robert Fitzhamon find themselves teetering on. Robert is committed to Rufus in many ways, including being his lover. (Panic not – this isn't a graphic romp.) Therefore can they save themselves and those around them if things go awry? Those around them include the hunky Gerald Fitzwalter whom… well… just keep a close eye on him!
Tracey gets the balance of historical fact and story spot on this time out, ingeniously garnering various viewpoints through letters when we can't be there ourselves as well taking us to key moments in the main story. I loved the letters between the Flemish knight Haitha explaining Henry's side of things to his sister Benedicta, a nun.
I loved her. Benedicta is far from a stuffy sort of nun, even getting a giggle or two when Benedicta learns to write ampersands and takes full advantage of her talent.
Nest comes across as someone with the ingenuity and wit that's sadly confined within time and gender. She's also someone that should step out of historical obscurity and Tracey has definitely started the ball rolling.
(A huge thank you to Impress Books for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you've enjoyed this, why not also try Tracey's Almodis the Peaceweaver and The Viking Hostage. If you'd like to read more fiction centering on the sons of William the Conqueror, King of the Wood by Valerie Anand looks at it from the disagreeable Rufus' view point.
You can read more book reviews or buy Conquest: Daughter of the Last King by Tracey Warr at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Conquest: Daughter of the Last King by Tracey Warr at Amazon.com.
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