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Sadly, most people even Anglophiles are less versed with the Anglo Saxon and Norman periods of English rule Some may have heard of Emma of Normandy but only because she is the mother of Edward the Confessor Patricia Bracewell attempts to remedy Emma s silence in Shadow on the Crown Shadow on the Crown begins in a slightly overwhelming manner, as a surplus of characters are introduced within alternating chapters viewpoints making it somewhat difficult to immediately feel a connection or grasp to the story However, this settles with novel progression and becomes welcoming Bracewell also shows some inconsistency only initially with an almost forced attempt to be overly literary and descriptive but she finds a happy medium and supplements this with an added intrigue and raw storytelling The reader feels the story come alive with an ominous foreboding in a positive way which keeps pages turning Although Shadow on the Crown portrays many characters, each has his her own personality and voice with ample development and without excessively predictable personalities Bracewell allows the reader to peel layers and facets concerning each character With each chapter s progression, Shadow on the Crown becomes compelling and harder to put down This may be due to Emma s the main character likeability and attraction which grows with the story and also due to Shadow on the Crown not being cheesy or predictable like many other historical fiction novels In fact, some moments are too believable and raw, even causing disgust for its brutality but that just demonstrates how convincing Bracewell is Shadow on the Crown has a fast pace and is a moving, easy to read, quick novel and yet is not shallow or limp For instance, the romance between Emma and Atheslstan is not explored deeply or mainly focused on which makes Shadow on the Crown stand out amongst other historical fiction novels which have too much romantic overture The conclusion of Shadow on the Crown is strong and memorable, solidly answering enough questions but still paving the way for Bracewell s next installment Overall, I would have preferred a intimate look at Emma which was slightly minimized due to the multiple character viewpoints Also missing was a genealogical chart which could have been helpful On the contrary, I generally don t like historical fiction novels which are fiction than history fluff , yet although Bracewell admits to this being the case with her novel again, due to the lack of sources I still found the novel satisfying as it felt so real and encourages further research Shadow on the Crown is a delicious and engaging HF novel and will leave the reader itching for the next book On a less important note I enjoyed the text font which is very medieval in style and adds to the realness of the story I enjoy small details I m going to have to start this review with the publisher s summary, simply because it s a really good one and does the job so much better than I would be able to England, A.D 1002In a world lit by fire and ruled by the sword, a fifteen year old girl kneels to receive an English crown an act that will echo down the ages.Within that circlet of gold the ambitions of four powerful men are about to collide, for this young queen is the key to all that they desire.To a calculating Norman duke she is a blood tie to the wealthiest monarchy in Europe To a haunted English king she is a guarantee of allies against a fierce and brutal enemy To Denmark s Viking ruler she is a prize worth ten times her weight in silver To a young theling of England she is a temptation to forbidden passion.Her name is Emma and she will change the course of history Doesn t that make you want to read it When King thelred II of England s wife dies giving birth to their eleventh child, which also dies, he has two options to consider for remarrying Lady Elgiva of Mercia, a voluptuous sixteen year old who hungers for power and is the wealthiest woman in England, but as the daughter of ealdorman lfhelm of Northumbria, marrying her who gives unprecedented power to the northern lord, and thelred is nothing if not extremely paranoid, suspicious, afraid and completely untrusting His other option is across the Narrow Sea.Emma of Normandy is the youngest sister of Duke Richard, who rules Normandy, a province of France By marrying her, thelred or his council of advisors hope that this would give Richard an incentive to close his harbours to the Danes, led by Swein Forkbeard, who continue to pillage, rape and murder along the coast of England ever summer What the English fail to realise is that if Richard refuses the Danes, Normandy will suffer the same fate.King thelred is haunted by the spectre of his older half brother, King Edward, who was murdered when thelred was just a small boy Rumour has it that it was thelred s mother who arranged it so that her son would rule England The shadow of Edward plagues thelred and makes him even unstable a ruler combined with his paranoia and lack of trust, and thelred will listen to no one and makes rash and dangerous decisions He has no love for his new young wife, Emma, and barely even tolerates her For Emma s part, she was sent to marry him over her older sister because of her gift of tongues she speaks several languages and her intelligence Her mother, a Dane, has hope that Emma will be able to forge alliances and subtly guide the king, but no one had counted on thelred s unpredictability, his rages, his deep suspicion of all around him, including his own sons.His eldest son, the theling Athelstan, is only a couple of years older than Emma Already he carries himself as a leader and offers sage advice to his father, advice thelred ignores because he feels threatened by Athelstan He is initially distrustful of his father new Norman bride as well, but his plan to get to know her to learn about her brother s plans results in mutual admiration and respect, and then love But it is a deeply forbidden love, one they must hide and never act upon, because it would take little for thelred to set Emma aside since she has yet to bear a child.When the Danes begin their assault on England s southern coast once , the king s uselessness in the face of this dire threat compounds Athelstan s impatience, but the words of a seer continue to echo in his head that he will never be king of England To sit back, though, and let his father practically give England the wealthiest country in Europe at the time to the Danish king, Forkbeard, is intolerable And walking the fine line between father and son, between Forkbeard and England, is Emma, who realises that she must take the power that is hers by right, or everything will be for naught.The first book in Patricia Bracewell s new trilogy about the life of Emma of Normandy is engrossing and fascinating It s not a time period I know a lot about 1066, the Battle of Hastings, which marks the beginning of Norman French rule in England and the subjugation of the Saxons followed by the Welsh , is better known and, in a way, also marks the beginning of my historical knowledge This novel is set between the years 1002 and 1005 actually it begins in December 1001 and combines the early, fraught years of Emma s unpleasant marriage to thelred, with the truly scary dangers posed by the Danish marauders who pillaged the coast, sacking towns and making off with great wealth with which they can build dragon ships, raise larger armies and return for.I learnt a lot from reading this book While Bracewell s note at the end separates fiction from fact, even were it entirely fictional there s still much to learn The details are rich from the clothing they wore, the jewellery, the daily routine and customs, the meanings behind things, the politics and economics of the kingdom The England of the 11th century is just as divisive as ever, with England divided into Wessex in the south the king s territory , East Anglia to the east, and Mercier in the centre the map comes in handy To the west is Wales, and to the north is Northumbria, or Scotland, where the population is descended from Vikings There are no scenes in Northumbria, Wales or East Anglia, though their presence is always felt well, not so much Wales, which I understand kept to itself until the Normans came The atmosphere, too, is vibrant and completely took me away from the comfort of my home The unstable king created a tense, uncertain and even dangerous world for his people, but especially for Emma who was completely at his mercy and often reminded of that fact This thread of danger, of threat, weaves in and out of the narrative and, coupled with the turbulent times, the powerful Danish host that wrecked such destruction on the English towns, and the overall lack of unity within the king s borders, it all serves to keep you on high alert, unsure what s coming but always with a feeling that the worst could happen This tension is balanced by scenes between friends and lovers, of loyalty and the beauty of the land itself though a lot of the time it s raining.Emma grows and matures a great deal over the course of the novel and the few years it deals with in her young life She was always possessed of a calm and a rational, compassionate intelligence, but she develops some steel from having to deal with the mercurial thelred, driven almost to madness by his guilt over his brother s murder Emma is in a tough, unenviable place, and the fact that she s often viewed as the enemy only makes her position even precarious There s also Elgiva s jealousy, resentment, and animosity Emma is the competition, and Elgiva, who is headstrong, ambitious, and clever enough to be dangerous, is her antithesis in all ways, right down to knowing how to use her body as a tool.Athelstan, too, grows much over these years, and in him we see the beginnings of a true ruler The only trouble is that he is beaten down and humiliated again and again by his suspicious father, and in turn does not know how to mollify or appease the king He is too blunt, too honest and forthright, and worst of all is that he resembles thelred s dead brother Edward thelred seems to have no love for any of his children, and has never taken any interest in any of their lives His first wife was never crowned as queen, she was merely a consort, so his children by her have no titles or expectations beyond what thelred gives them He pronounces Athelstan his heir but later retracts that The growing tension between the king s older children and his new wife escalates when she finally has a baby, making them threats to each other for the same reason.The plot is not complicated but it feels intricate because it deals with politics, economics, superstition and faith This is a well fleshed out world populated by living, breathing characters who make you ache, make you care, make you smile and make you despair Yet it is never heavy or despondent, and is, I felt, free of any presentism I was transported, and there was no judgement cast, no alteration of the customs to suit contemporary sensibilities or expectations This is a finely crafted novel that tells a heartfelt story about a woman thrown to the lions who must learn, and learn quickly, how to protect herself and the people of England to whom she is now sworn.My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book Reading Sharon Kay Penman s Here Be Dragons taught me a lot about the kingdom after the Norman conquest and the taking of Wales I may not have enjoyed it for the story s sake, but I did enjoy learning about the period and I recommend it for that reason.Click here to read my interview with author Patricia Bracewell. On Christmas morning, 1001AD King Aethelred of England s wife dies giving birth to their twelfth child As king, he must find a second wife Seeing an opportunity to strengthen his borders and make an alliance with Normandy, he agrees to a marriage with Emma, the sixteen year old sister to the Duke of Normandy.Thirty five year old Aethelred is cruel, unpredictable and haunted He treats Emma as little than his broodmare, and fails to see the intelligent and clever woman she is, and the asset she could be to his throne.Though based on historical facts, Patricia Bracewell has taken liberties with some of the story There are a lot of names, characters, relationships to contend with in the beginning But stick with it, this historical fiction is well worth reading This era in English history is under utilised in historical fiction A deft combination of court intrigue, historical fact, entertaining fiction, a sexual rival for the king s bed, and a touch of romance Shadow on the Crown is a terrific debut focusing on a strong and fascinating woman in one of England s many turbulent and gripping times ARC courtesy of Viking Adult via Edelweiss Where I got the book purchased at a conference Signed I know Pat Bracewell from the conference circuit and Facebook.This was my one buy at the 2013 Historical Novel Society conference because I d read good things about it on Goodreads I wasn t disappointed I don t generally like kings and queens historical fiction, but I enjoyed this account of Emma of Normandy s marriage to the king known in modern times as Ethelred the Unready Possibly because OH THANK HEAVEN it was written in third person past tense, so instead of limiting itself to Emma s immediate viewpoint it brought in events that happened outside the limited women s domain of home and hearth Also, when Bracewell had Emma or her nemesis, Elgiva, do something adventurous or dangerous, there was a REASON for it, and she built up both characters well enough that their actions were believable I m so tired of HF heroines being given flimsy excuses to jump on a horse and ride around the countryside whenever the author realizes there s not enough action.Elgiva s a nicely three dimensional counterpart to Emma, although I did find myself wishing they didn t both have names beginning with an E because I tended to mix them up a bit I wasn t too crazy about Athelstan the Gorgeous no that s me, not Bracewell and the doomed love affair Bracewell s clearly of a historical writer than a romance writer, and the story was strong enough to hold up without the romantic interruptions.I loved learning about the period around 1000 AD when the Danish Vikings were raiding English coasts and the English kings had to decide between placating them with money or land or fighting against them I did feel that this novel brought the age to life for me, and I found myself grabbing my copy of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles to read the contemporary account for myself I also found myself wanting to know what happened next and picking up the book far frequently than usual There will be Emma books, apparently, and I ll read them. ( DOWNLOAD BOOK ) ♔ Shadow on the Crown ♠ A Rich Tale Of Power And Forbidden Love Revolving Around A Young Medieval Queen In , Fifteen Year Old Emma Of Normandy Crosses The Narrow Sea To Wed The Much Older King Athelred Of England, Whom She Meets For The First Time At The Church Door Thrust Into An Unfamiliar And Treacherous Court, With A Husband Who Mistrusts Her, Stepsons Who Resent Her And A Bewitching Rival Who Covets Her Crown, Emma Must Defend Herself Against Her Enemies And Secure Her Status As Queen By Bearing A Son Determined To Outmaneuver Her Adversaries, Emma Forges Alliances With Influential Men At Court And Wins The Affection Of The English People But Her Growing Love For A Man Who Is Not Her Husband And The Imminent Threat Of A Viking Invasion Jeopardize Both Her Crown And Her Life Based On Real Events Recorded In The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Shadow On The Crown Introduces Readers To A Fascinating, Overlooked Period Of History And An Unforgettable Heroine Whose Quest To Find Her Place In The World Will Resonate With Modern Readers As I sit down to write this review, I find myself conflicted Part of this book was very interesting to me and I enjoyed it But there were things that I just didn t like and couldn t look past which affected my overall enjoyment of the book I can t call myself an expert on historical fiction but I have read my fair share and enjoyed quite a good number of them I am not entirely sure this is one of them.Let me begin with Emma Emma starts this story at the age of 15 She is sent by her brother Richard, Duke of Normandy to marry the much older King of England, Athelred he s 35 by the way Now, I recognize that this was normal behavior for the time period Girls were commonly married around 13 15 years old and were considered old maids by the time they reached 20 Historically, there was a good reason for this The average life expectancy for that time was around 23 25 So by 20 you really were approaching the end of your days But this is why it threw me off to have a 35 year old king who keeps being described as so young and having a lot of years left in front of him Really By normal standards for the time period he s positively mummified But let s call that creative license and move on, alright On her own, Emma started off as a great main character She recognizes that typically women in her position are little about the station of cattle But she is determined to go into the role of queen and be shown respect for her title at the very least I appreciated that spunk and determination to make the best of her lot in life, no matter what that might be But I soon wearied of her She couldn t decide if she wanted to be strong and demand respect or just do as she s told It seemed to depend on the company If she was around other women then her backbone appeared, in the presence of men other than her husband a backbone appeared, with her husband and his sons the backbone turned to jelly Well, most of the time at least, she spoke up for herself against her husband on than one occasion too So there was not much consistency with her character She also had a tendency to do a lot of really stupid things in her quest to be respected Like deciding that she is going to go on a boat trip, in the middle of winter, in terrible weather, when she is seconds away from giving birth Nice job on that one Emma The only other main female character we meet is Elgiva I kept getting the feeling that I was supposed to feel compassion for her, but I didn t She was a selfish, spoiled, evil, stupid little girl and one who brought nothing of any value to the plot She was supposed to be this grand rival of Emma s and her biggest foe I found her to be like a gnat buzzing around Emma s ear annoying for sure, but rarely threatening She only has one truly evil action in this book and no one ever even knew it was her or that it was anything other than an accident actually so it was rather pointless.The plot has a lot going on but not much of it actually amounted to anything You have a King who is being confronted with an invasion by the Danes and has no idea what to do about it, and so he decides to do nothing or do something rash Really This guy got to become king He was an idiot through and through Athelstan started to serve a purpose in the book by being Athelred s eldest son and the supposed heir to the throne even if he hadn t been officially named heir yet He tries to solve the invading Danes issue and gets nowhere Emma s plot was to find herself a place of power and title in the King s court Yet she also does a lot of things that directly contradict that supposed goal Then we get prophecies about several characters that keep being mentioned but are not followed up on There are lots and lots of interesting pieces of plot but it never comes together into a cohesive story.But what really made this a two star book was what the author chose to imaginatively overlook with historical accuracy and what she did not Anyone who reads historical fiction must accept that women are largely treated like objects for the sole use and purpose of men They are bought and sold like pawns Abuse and rape were common, this is all true But I thought there was women beating and women getting raped than there was plot It was constant It was hard to go a handful of pages without a woman being backhanded or sexually assaulted Yes, it s historically accurate, but after a copious amount of things that were conveniently made historically inaccurate for the sake of the story this is the one you decide to follow to the letter Really I found it to be a convenient plot device to engender dislike in characters we weren t supposed to like without developing their character enough to show us why they re bad Just have them rape someone, then it s all clear No, just no If there s going to be that much blatant and horrendous abuse of women it needs to serve a purpose to the plot other than saying see, he s bad There are a lot of things that I really liked about this book and a lot of things I didn t Ultimately it was the rampant degradation of women and the disjointed plot that just me not care much about any of it any I didn t care if we had a satisfying ending we didn t by the way , I just wanted to be finished And that disappoints me, I had high hopes for this.Special thanks to Viking Adult for providing me an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review This and other reviews at Stefani s World of Words My rating 4.5 of 5 starsA copy of Shadow on the Crown was provided to me by Viking Adult Netgalley for review purposesYou must ever be prepared within yourself to face what trials may lay in store for you let this be your first lesson No one else must see you like this, Emma Do you hear me However great the provocation you must never allow anyone to see your fear I m a huge fan of historical fiction novels but to be honest, I don t branch out enough outside of my comfortable safe zone known as the Tudor time period This one caught my eye primarily because it is still set in England, however, it s in a very, very early England After this one, I do believe I have learned my lesson and I need to take chances with my historical fiction picks Shadow on the Crown was superbly doneTheir destinies were like two rivers that flowed ever in the same direction, within sight of each other but never meant to meet, to touch, to join as one What worked incredibly well was the evidence of research that was done in preparation for this novel The author has stated that Shadow on the Crown is based on real events recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, but it s evident the author has the ability to take pieces of history and create a truly stirring story Also, I really appreciated her interpretation of the romances In most historical fiction novels the romances are portrayed similarly to a historical romance bodice ripper and just comes off as corny rather than genuine.Each character was given their own unique voice and even though they were not a main character their bits in the story still shown Emma was an amazingly strong character and it was a joy to read the majority of this story through her eyes The POV does occasionally switch up but is not overdone and provides additional and necessary facets of this story.What truly blows me away about this novel is that it s a debut novel The few historical fiction debut novels I ve read in the past have all read like the author is re wording their history books Patricia Bracewell managed to re tell a piece of history and imbue something vibrant into it It s quite obvious that the author is passionate about history and this time period in general but her passion is addicting and made it a true joy to read Shadow on the Crown does not tell all of Emma s story so I m very much looking forward to future books. Spectacular book Review to come Enjoyed this book immensely I had previously read the second book in this trilogy But I would not advise reading any series backwards, especially history or historical fiction In this, the first of three books about Emma of Normandy, Emma marries Aethelred, the king of England in order to solidify a relationship between England and Normandy Emma s brother, Richard, Duke of Normandy gains an alliance with a king who controls a vast area of England Aethelred gets a promise that Richard will keep the Vikings somewhat under control Richard already has a pact with the Danes and is related to them through his Danish mother Wow, there is a lot of background to understand, names to learn, places to get accustomed to, but it s all well worth it And, Bracewell is great at NOT info dumping Events, people, places, backstories, when needed, are all included within the storyline itself No long tedious passages of who did what to whom fifty years ago, unless it s relevant to what is going on Emma is surprised when her mother arranges this marriage as she has an older sister who should be the next to marry, but Emma has been chosen as she is the stronger sister, both physically and emotionally She goes to marry the king knowing full well what is expected of her, which the author goes into in detail, nothing is held back Emma does not enjoy her marriage, her husband, her new life, but she prays and struggles to accept it with her head held high Aethelred, expecting a submissive wife like his first, who recently died in childbirth , is surprised to be married to an outspoken and and forthright woman, but apparently the historical Emma was no shrinking violet When she is tested, she proves herself She endures a gossipy and back stabbing royal court which wants little to do with her, enemies who would like nothing better than to see her fail and either be sent home to Normandy or to a convent, and yet slowly Emma wins over enough key and important people who become her eyes and ears when her husband, the king, forces her into the background.Despite her great dislike of her husband, Emma wants to have his child, to cement the alliance with the two countries And even though Aethelred already has seven sons by his first wife , he wants a child with Emma, too, if nothing else but to keep her busy and out of his way It is this continuing struggle between the two the king and Emma which is one of the main focal points of the novel And this is no romance, one in which Emma ultimately finds the tender man under the hard, coarse soul of the man she married Not at all King Aethelred is a beast, a man haunted by the ghost of his brother, as well as a ruthless ruler struggling to keep control of his lands, his nobles, and keep the Vikings Danes mostly from constantly pillaging, plundering, murdering, raping all the things they were known for in this time period.The time is from around the year 1000 to 1016 According to the author, Emma was between 12 and 20 when she became Aethelred s bride The main historical figures are real the main events are real What the author has imagined or filled in, are the relationships between these people, though there are many historical sources which give hints and clues as to what went on between Emma and her husband, Emma and her Norman court, and others At the end of the book the author describes where real events and those which are fictional meet There is a lot of action in this book depictions of life at the time attitudes toward women and children the common people and the nobility and even what day to day life looked like The conversations are realistic and natural This is an interesting novel of the Anglo Saxon period in England, Normandy, and of course, up north where those rascally Vikings dwell If only they d stay up there I look forward to the third and final book in Bracewell s trilogy. Shadow on the Crown is the first book in the Emma of Normandy trilogy by Patricia Bracewell Emma is a young woman who is forced to marry King Aethelred of England She is married off to him as so many medieval women were married because her family wanted to form an alliance The king isn t all too happy to being married to Emma and is very suspicious of her true motives This book is a great opening to a trilogy about a woman that I knew little about before I opened this book This book is a great kick off to the trilogy We are introduced to many different characters Our main character, Emma, is a really interesting character because as a medieval woman she really doesn t have much control over her own destiny However, that she is incredibly strong and incredibly good at doing well with what she has I really like getting to know her as a character We get to follow her as she is a new bride and as her relationship with the King begins to change We get to see her secret love and are privy to some of the things that she keeps hidden from most others The author writes her in such a vivid way One of the problems with trilogies is that at the end of this book I found myself wanting Luckily I waited enough time so I was able to read the second book, The Price of Blood, right after this first book However, the last book in the trilogy is not out yet This is great historical fiction because of the detail that the author uses in order to bring the character to life I like how vivid she was able to make Emma s life at court to me.