Thursday, April 29, 2010

Review: Blood Royal by Vanora Bennett

Challenge 9: Same word, different book.

Challenge Description: Find two books that have the same word in the title. Read both books and write about them. (Worth 2 entries because you have to read two books).

My word is blood - the books I've read are Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier and Blood Royal by Vanora Bennett. Here is the review of the second .....

Title: Blood Royal
Author: Vanora Bennett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2009

578 p.

(US - The Queen's Lover)

This is the story of Catherine de Valois (1401 - 1437), daughter of King Charles VI of France, wife of Henry V and mother to Henry VI of England.........who after Henry's death would marry Owain Tudor - their grandson would become the first Tudor king, Henry VII.
Catherine's story has always appealed to me because she was a princess who in the end found happiness with the man she loved but the books I've read have always had a strong English background.

Which is why I loved this book so much. This is French history and gives whole new perspective  to the events of this time. No longer is Henry V the great leader of men, the valiant victor of Agincourt but a greedy usurper from a cold and dismal land , a warmonger intent on conquering French land and wearing the crown of France himself. For someone who's waved the red rose of Lancaster ever since I fell in love with John of Gaunt as a 16-year-old reading Anya Seton's Katherine it took some getting used to the less than flattering portrait of the English.

It is so much more than a love story..........this was a turbulent time for the French with the combination of foreign invasion and internal warring factions. Paris , its people and the royal court are brought vividly to life in rich and colourful detail. There are many wonderful characters both real and imagined. The sad figure of King Charles who suffered fits of madness, his fat sweetmeat munching wife Isabeau and their children.
Christine de Pisan - I didn't realise she was a real person until I did a little googling out of interest. A scholar, a writer and a medieval feminist, her role in Catherine's life ,and the story of her family is quite considerable. Her last work 'The Song of Joan of Arc" celebrating the victory over the English at Orleans is the only French language eulogy written in Joan's lifetime and is the title of Part 7 of the book where Joan makes her appearance.

The book isn't perfect and I do have a few niggles:

* I found Catherine's behaviour inconsistent at times which considering the mental instability of her family is explainable but her sudden changes seemed too much so. For example when she first meets Henry V she is disappointed....."an odd looking rat of a man with awkward eyes" . An hour later she is making love with him and glowing at the wonder of his skin, his eyes, his muscles...........very strange!

* I became extremely irritated with the way the author persisted in describing anyone with Lancastrian blood. Pop-eyed, google-eyed, frog-eyed, bulgy-eyed etc- over and over again the same focus on the eyes.

* There were signs of poor editing - the same word repeated in one sentence, the same descriptive phrase used only two paragraphs's noticeable and shouldn't really happen.

* And once again I'm complaining about the lack of genealogical trees or a list of characters. In a book with such a huge cast I find it hard to believe that no one saw the necessity for this.

However, don't let those niggles put you off. It's wonderful historical fiction and it kept me engrossed the whole way through.

Royal Reviews Historical Fiction Challenge
A Tournament of Reading Challenge
Chunkster Challenge
The Four Month Challenge 3
French Historicals Oh La!La! Challenge


  1. Need those family trees when ti comes to books like these.
    What, ok the eyes thing sound weird, would have annoyed me too

  2. Fascinating. I am going to read this one but I do need family trees/charts for reads like this...what am I to do? :/ I'll figure that part out but seriously, who ever makes these decisions really ought to think seriously about adding these type of charts into these type of books.

  3. I read something recently that pointed out that an obsession with describing the eyes is often a sign of a poor writer. I'm inclined to think that it might be a lack of overall skill or even confidence rather than a lack of talent. This does sound like an interesting book.

    I came by today to give you an award, Cat. You can pick it up here.

  4. I'm finding it harder and harder to find good Plantagenet/Tudor fiction without it becoming overly wordy and daunting. I'm interested in the French perspective that you mentioned. definitely something i'll want to check out.

    PS: I just gave you an award. It's the same one Becki just gave out but feel free to lump your people into one post.

  5. Thank you both very much! :-)

    Becki - what an interesting thought. I've never heard that theory before . It was a little strange and I don't think VB is a poor writer but it sure was obsessive!

    Deanna - I imagine some googling will get results but one shouldn't have to.

    Letter4 - its big but the writing style is easy to read so not daunting.