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Monday, October 25, 2010

The King's Mistress & Outlander double review

Title- The King’s Mistress
Author- Emma Campion

Rating: 4 Crowns

From the Back Cover:

When had I choice to be other than I was?

From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen, dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her - at the cost of losing the love of her mother forever and the family she holds dear. But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets, secrets he didn't want her to know - but which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter.

Her only chance to survive lies in the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa and she must dutifully embrace her fate once more - as a virtual prisoner at Court. And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage, she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt. Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king's favorites, she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.

There are a couple of things that make crafting a believable, romantic fictional account of Alice Perrer's story hard to do. First, the author has her work cut out for her in trying to persuade the reader that Alice is not as bad as her contemporaries made her out to be. History has accused Alice of taking advantage of a senile king for her own financial and political gain, and of usurping the position of a beloved dead queen, taking her place beside the king as the queen would have, even wearing the queen's jewels in public. After Edward's death she was tried by Parliament for "crimes against the king and kingdom", stripped of her holdings and banished from England.

Second, by the time Alice becomes Edward's mistress he's an old man, and the author has to try really hard to make an old man sexually attractive and to make the reader believe that a woman as young and vibrant and beautiful as Alice would enjoy bedding him. For the most part I think she succeeds here, but there were one or two descriptive phrases that made me cringe a little!

Campion excels at using Alice's story to depict the plight of medieval women--at the mercy of the men in their lives--and Alice's mantra: When had I choice to be other than I was?, pretty much sums it up. And though I think Campion's portrayal of Alice is probably much more accurate than that of Alice's contemporaries, I think Campion took Alice too far in the other direction. Alice is a little too perfectly good and selfless, especially in the face of such circumstances. But she's very likeable, and I was really rooting for her.

Be forewarned: some of the plot points in this story are completely fictional. I don't mind that as long as they are believable within the confines of the time period and the author is up front about it, and in this case she is. Overall I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written and easy to lose myself in, and I enjoyed reading about some of these historical figures from another viewpoint, since Katherine by Anya Seton is really the only novel I had previously read about this time period. I look forward to future novels from this author.


Title- Outlander (graphic novel)
Author- Diana Gabadon
Rating: 4 Crowns

I'm sharing a few of my thoughts upon finishing the new Outlander graphic novel: The Exile. The Exile is a re-telling in graphic-novel form of the first half of Diana Gabaldon's wildly popular novel Outlander, and while it is true to the original story, the reader gets to see it from a different point of view. If you haven't read Outlander, then you should certainly start there as this graphic novel is really just a fun little extra and does not have the depth and scope of the original.

I'd never read a graphic novel before and I found it took some getting used to. Sometimes I couldn't tell in which order the dialogue was spoken and I was disappointed that the characters' faces were not drawn with the same detail throughout the novel as they were in the beginning of the story, but I'm supposing that's how it goes: the artist gives you a couple of very detailed, complete pictures of the main characters, Jamie and Claire, so you'll know what they look like, but doesn't keep up that level of detail throughout the rest of the novel, focusing more on the action shots. Thus sometimes Jamie and Claire looked like cartoon characters. But, oh, those first few frames of Jamie are awesome!! (You can get a sneak peak by browsing through a few of the pages on Amazon.)

The story begins with MacKenzie clansman Murtaugh bringing Jamie Fraser home from an abby in France where he has been recuperating from an attempt on his life. They meet up with their fellow clansmen to make the trip back to Castle Leoch, the MacKenzie stronghold, and then along comes Claire Randall who stumbled through an ancient stone circle in 1945 and ended up in 1743, and if you've read Outlander you know what happens from there! There's a new element to the story, though, and it involves Murtaugh and a mysterious man who appears from out of nowhere, and Murtaugh, being highly superstitious, believes him to be a faery demon. But this fellow keeps popping up and soon it becomes evident to the reader that he is a fellow Traveler who's come through the standing stones. This new subplot has no real bearing on the Outlander story, so it doesn't change anything we already know, just adds another layer to it and helps give a little more insight into Murtaugh's mind. The story ends when Claire makes her choice between her old life in 1945 and her new life in 1743 at the circle of the standing stones. (In Outlander, this is actually only about two-thirds of the way through the book and much more story follows.)

I gobble up anything Outlander-related, so I pre-ordered this as soon as I was able to do so. Based on story and read-ability I'd rate it 3 stars, because I did find it rather confusing, the addition of the new subplot was nothing to get too excited about, and the bare bones storyline does not do justice to the original book. BUT the artwork is absolutely beautiful, I loved getting to see one of my favorite novels of all time get a treatment like this, and its "coolness" factor earns it 5 stars, so I'm splitting the difference and calling this one 4 stars. I don't think it's going to end up a beloved classic, but if you're a devoted Outlander fan you've got to add this to your collection.

Let Them Read Books


Blodeuedd said...

Some seem to like this one, and some don't, I am rather torn

Mystica said...

I would like The King's Mistress - I really dont mind if the author deviates from actual history for the story.