To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Review this product
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
1.0 out of 5 stars1/2 Book!
Reviewed in the United States on April 8, 2017
I am so tired of buying a kindle book and finding it to be only half a book! Shadow on the Crown is a well written book but it ends in the middle of the story and you have to buy book 2 to finish it. This ploy to make more money is wearing thin.
3.0 out of 5 starsNot accurate history, but good story.
Reviewed in the United States on August 8, 2019
I have studied early Anglo-Saxon England in depth – history and society - since about 1979. Currently, I am deep in research into the late 10th and early 11th centuries as part of a large project. In conjunction with that, I have been reading various novels set in the period. And so it was with enthusiasm that I began this one. I have written and rewritten this review because I really want to be fair to the writer. As a professional editor and writer, I know I can read with an overly-critical eye. But I want to be fair to perspective readers too. Overall, the writing is fine. There are none of the grammar errors that are endemic in books from the best publishing houses, nowadays. This is competent writing, and that's why some of the bigger issues with it were so frustrating. The pacing with the writing was an issue for me as a reader. The author has a bad habit of suddenly breaking the tension of an action passage by going to another character in a sedate setting. It's jarring and frustrating for the reader, who is tempted to just skip ahead. As an editor, I would have strongly recommended that the author clean that up. In addition, there is a lot of cumbersome awkward sentence structure – an attempt to mimic medieval language, which of course can't be done accurately; it results in bad structure and misused words – and each time that happens (nearly every dialog page) the reader stops to reread and decipher the meaning, breaking the flow. It becomes frustrating. It is very difficult to do well, and something many writers struggle with. Another issue is with the setting. While any author can't possibly research – or include - every detail of an era, this author fails to draw a visual picture of the Anglo-Saxon world. This wasn't a medieval one, where stone castles dot the landscape. This was one in which the keeps and ramparts were part of timbered forts; the few stone buildings were larger churches and the chapels at monasteries. In this book, not a single "mean hall" is described, although they would have been an important place of communion. The reader is led to believe there are large stone cathedrals such as there were in later eras, and "palaces" are stone castles. But this is all quite erroneous. I was stopped by the naming of the large church in Winchester as "Old Minster". Not only was the Old Minster replaced by the new one by this time, but the designations "Old" and "New" are modern scholarship. In 1003 A.D., there was one large cathedral, and it was the one that replaced or was incorporated into the old one. (One of the best descriptions of Anglo-Saxon life and setting I've read was in the Circle of Ceridwen novels by Octavia Randolph; another that comes to mind is Carol McGrath's "The Handfasted Wife".) Here is one other example of problems with historical inaccuracies. The text states that Aethelred the Unready, king of England in the early 11th century, did not have a fleet of ships – which any serious historian would say is utter nonsense (the Sutton Hoo ship, of the 8th century, is some 90 feet long and seaworthy – as large as any Viking ship of the era). The Anglo-Saxons defended their own shores with battle-worthy ships, and sailed to the continent as merchants. We have multiple examples of ships being mentioned in documents (wills and letters, etc.), and depicted on coins and in manuscripts. There is no logical reason why the Anglo-Saxons of the period – who traveled along with large retinues to the continent and Ireland – would not have had a single fleet of ships. The Anglo-Saxons had been sea warriors since the 5th century! For more on this see the Anglo-Saxon Encyclopedia, by Michael Lapidge, ed. She says that in Northumbria, they spoke a mixture of Danish, Norse, and English. In fact, "Danish" didn't exist yet. All Scandinavians spoke a variant of Old Norse. Period. I'm not sure if she is confusing the word "Norse" – which forms the basis of modern Scandinavian languages, with "Norman" (which by 1000 A.D. was a form of Langue d'Oil/Old French), or with the modern "Norwegian". I suspect this is true, because she keeps referring to the French spoken by Normans, as "Frankish" – a much older Germanic language that would not be spoken by nobles, by 1000 A.D. It's particularly funny because the book makes a big deal of the main character being able to "speak Danish" and thus understand the Viking raiders. In reality, every one of the Anglo-Saxons would have understood them too: linguist historians confirm that Old English and Old Norse were so close that even trading and treaties would have been conducted with speakers of each understanding one another. (A great discussion of this is in the book "The Story of English" by McCrum/Cran/MacNeil.) I do appreciate that her Norman protagonist uses "Breton" with a fellow Norman at one point. Breton (related to Welsh and spoken in Brittany, France) would have been well-developed by then. (Ironically, I speak fluent French, Danish, and have studied Old English as part of a degree. So this stuff drove me nuts. Perhaps someone without that background would not have noticed any problem – but they would have acquired some erroneous knowledge.) Discussion of the languages of a given era requires that the author research the languages within the context of that time period. I have heard it said that badly-researched historical writing depicts modern people with costumes on. I agree; an author must come to understand the way the people of an era thought and their society. The chapters of this book that deal with Emma are very well-done; Emma thinks like a woman of her rank in the 11th century. She behaves in accordance with her rank and upbringing. But the character of Elgiva of Northumbria is really just a modern teen – complete with the immaturity and self-obsession and lewd behavior of the 21st century. In reality, such a child – one from a noble family and whose father would be interested in her marriagability - would have been schooled in a local convent, and if she had displayed overtly sexual behavior, as this girl does, she would have been beaten by her father, ostracized by polite society, and likely sent back to the convent. It just would never happen with an upper-class girl if she was to be of any value to herself or to her family. The scene where she is described as riding a horse with her dress hiked up her thighs had my jaw on the floor. The king would never have allowed a harlot – which she was at that point, by their standards – near his queen or entourage. She would have been shunned, and her family as well. In addition, this character is one-dimensional – no real depth. Just a really shallow femme fatale. It's a disappointment and feels like a real detour amongst better-written chapters and passages. There is a scene in a "manor" hall that plays like a daytime soap, the teens wandering about flirting and insulting each other. No one with any real role or job – while in actuality they would not have had time for this nonsense, in a society where good reputation was all and young people had real roles and big concerns in life. The character would have been much more interesting if written with shades of gray – good and bad – in her make-up. The "good" characters seem more multidimensional, but the "bad" characters (Elgiva, her father, her brother, Aethelred himself) degenerate into caricatures. I'd also caution readers that this book has several passages that are over-the-top sexual. I say this as an editor and someone whose own books contain graphic sexuality – I’m no prude. The difference is that here it is tinged with a forced lewdness (did the author think this made it more "medieval"?) that isn't necessary and is cringe-worthy. These scenes as written don't advance the plot. They seem to be there to titillate. I don't see Viking warriors raping an old woman in a field in the middle of a raid – with no one else around to impress – just for the heck of it. A young woman, definitely. An old woman? They'd just kill her. They are in the middle of a battle, for gosh sakes! Rape during raid was a political act. There was no reason for this. The relationship between Elgiva and her brother is pseudo-incestuous – their banter made me wince, and he puts his hands on her, with her invitation. (Because they are THAT evil, readers!) And of course we get detail. I don't see people who are nearly strangers – both of noble families - having sex behind a pillar in a crowded cathedral. Especially a noblewoman that wants to keep her reputation and her position as a lady-in-waiting to a queen. And if they do, I really don't need every graphic detail of it. I thought it odd, in another instance, that the author works up for a few pages to a young woman's first sexual experience, but when time comes, skips to the next day. The reader hardly knows how she experienced it, at all, in the end. But when she is raped by the same man later, we must have it blow by blow. I don't want this review to negatively influence the purchases of this book. It is certainly entertaining enough for readers of romances, if not more serious historical fiction. As I stated, I do read critically because it's my profession. If you like history though, and appreciate accuracy in a time period, it will bother you some. The author does have a good grasp of the chronology of historical events. This book is part of a series. I may read the next one, just because of the story – I'm curious how the author will handle the actual history as compared to other authors (and I've read a few very good books around the same subject matter!), as part of my own research. I won't expect much in the way of accurate social history, though. I won't expect much depth of characterization, particularly in villains. And I'll skim through or skip the sex scenes, thanks.
Reviewed in the United States on November 30, 2018
Emma of Normandy figured in various novels I have read this year always as a secondary character. I was therefore so pleased to find this story , with Emma as the principal personality. Unfortunately as very little is known about Emma during her early years we are at the mercy of the speculation of the author .Up to a point her interpretation is credible . In her observations at the end of the novel the author confesses she just could not resist dreaming up a trivial affair between Emma and the eldest son of Ethelred , Emma's grumpy husband. How I wish she had resisted the temptation . This unnecessary rather clumsy padding seemed out of place and out of character . Disappointing and insulting to the memory of a very noble lady.
This book is the first of the eventual trilogy about Emma, Queen of Great Britain, during the period just prior to the Danish kings. It's a good introduction to how young royal women (really girls) were used as political barter during the Middle Ages to secure kingdoms. I found it interesting historically, and Emma is a character whom I had come upon glancingly in another book that really focused on her more famous sisters--who were also traded by their powerful brother for land and security to various kings. It was a pleasure to see a minor character in another book more fully realized in this one. Let's just get this straight, people. This is not history. It's fiction. It's fun. Enjoy!!
Being the second of only two novels written about Emma of Normandy so far, it's difficult not to compare this to the first, Helen Hollick's The Forever Queen. Hollick's novel is one of my favorites and so it would be difficult to stand up against in my eyes.
It tells a tale of a strong young woman well groomed for queenship who finds herself a near prisoner of a husband who does not trust her. Her fate is in the hands of her brother, who will most likely put her in jeopardy by breaking his agreement with the English king - an agreement that was sealed with Emma's marriage. And her attempts to make friends at court are rejected by her eldest wary stepsons and sabotaged by a jealous rival. Her position will be secured and protected if she bears a son but this is also the very thing that threatens her stepson's positions as heirs. It's told in third person, from the four points of view of Emma, King Æthelred, his son Æthelstan, and Elgiva (Ælfgifu of Northampton), the daughter of an Ealdorman.
It's very well written but I don't think the characters were quite as well done as Hollick's. The antagonists were pretty one dimensional and I felt like the romance between Emma and Æthelstan was very sudden and unexpected. I don't fully understand what prompted Æthelstan to give Emma a chance and I felt like he did a very quick 180.
I felt like Bracewell took a lot more liberties with the unknown than Hollick did. It worked well for the story but it did make it feel less likely to have really happened. I don't mind authors taking a creative license though, as long as it works and makes sense, which it did, and there is a lot unknown about Emma which the author had to work with.
There's no denying this was a well written and well crafted story that was very enjoyable. Though it's the first in a trilogy whereas Hollick's novel on Emma is stand alone (there is a sequel but it does not strongly feature Emma), I'd say being split into shorter novels makes it easier to read and maybe more appealing to the mainstream. I'd still rank Forever Queen higher but I am looking forward to the next in this trilogy from Bracewell.
A visit to the former capital of Anglo Saxon Wessex, Winchester, over Easter prompted me to read this novel, the first in a trilogy about Emma of Normandy, a pivotal figure in the politics of England and indeed north west Europe in the first half of the 11th century, and queen to two Kings of England, Ethelred II the Unready, and the Danish invader Canute. The novel covers the first few years of Emma's time in England, from when she is shocked to be told she is being sent to Winchester on the other side of the Narrow Sea to wed the King of England, following the death of his first wife; through the horrors of the St Brice's Day massacre in 1002 when Ethelred ordered the indiscriminate slaughter of all Danes living in England; of Danish invasions, including the brutal sacking of Exeter; and through to Emma's eventually fulfilling the destiny of any queen before the modern era, that is of giving birth to a son, the future King Edward the Confessor, a potential rival to the many sons Ethelred already had by his first wife, particularly to his eldest son and heir, Athelstan. The novel is very well written, if perhaps a little long at 500 pages, full of colourful incident and characters. I have already downloaded the next book in the series.
I have read this book before but could not remember it too clearly apart from the fact I had been impressed by it so decided to give it another go. I'm very glad I did. This is a beautifully written book about Emma of Normandy, an intriguing historical figure who was married to King Aethelred of England a man much older than this very young girl (or as he was called in my school day history lessons - Ethelred the Unready) I had forgotten until I began to re-read the book that it only covers the very early years of Emma's personal and political life. It is the first of two books written by this talented author and they are her first books too. My first introduction to Emma of Normandy was when some years ago I bought and read the first and much longer magnificent novel by Helen Hollick about this striking and fascinating Queen - "The Hollow Crown" I was enchanted by it.
"Shadow on the Crown" is a shorter book but extremely gripping. She approaches Emma's life from a different angle and tells more of Emma's background. She cleverly weaves what we know historically with her own imaginative interpretation of how she sees Emma and the other main characters in the story - Aethelred himself, his grown sons and the king's very personal inner nightmares. All these main characters are eminently believable. The novel introduces us to how Emma's personality is shaped by her life as the King's bride as she is made to mature far more quickly than such a young girl would normally grow.
I still have to read the author's second book about Emma and hope it will be equally satisfying. Highly recommended
5.0 out of 5 starsWell written novel about a time I knew nothing about
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 3, 2015
I don't write many reviews but this book is worth the effort. I love my historical novels and read a lot of them but I'd never heard of Emma of Normandy. In school, I remember being taught about Edward the Confessor but nothing about his parents or family. I loved reading this book because it is well written, is believable, interesting and I don't know what is going to happen next (unlike books about the Tudors, Victorians, Stuarts etc. which I know too well). I don't like the reviews that paraphrase the story so I'm going to end this review by recommending you at least read the sample of the book to see if you like it. It did take me a few pages to get in to it, and happily it does say at the end of the novel which parts of complete imagination, but I thoroughly enjoy it. So much so I'm halfway through the second novel now.
5.0 out of 5 starsThe Greatest story of about England's greatest and sadly forgotten Queen
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 6, 2013
Patricia has brought a renewed Emma back to life and in a way that makes her characters and historic retelling uniquely different but equally as strong as Helen Hollicks version. It is a must read for women as well as fans of historical fiction in general. It has all the energy, drama and gripping storytelling of many leading male authors of viking age fiction. I believe it is a great stepping stone to introduce people to this much forgotten period of history and Englands first strong Queen a full five centuries before Elizabeth I. I am so glad that Patricia is dedicating a proposed trilogy to Emma as her story deserves it. She has masterfully shown how truly young Emma was when she became Queen of England and also rather interestingly how her newly adopted step sons were as well. She has shown how unsettling it must have been for the princes of Ethelreads first wife to have a new mum who is their age. Not to mention the new political dilemma they would find themselves in when Emma finally produces a son of her own, none other than Edward (yet to be known as the Confessor). I am pleased to say that there are many parts of this amazing era of history that Patricia has told in a much different view to fellow Emma author Helen Hollick. It doesnt make the two clash if anything it nicely compliments and yet remains independent at the same time. Another highly exciting and evocative piece of debut historical fiction that promises much much more to enjoy.
5.0 out of 5 starsSuperbly readable interpretation of the life of Emma of Normandy.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 20, 2019
I love this series of books so much that I bought this paperback as a gift for a friend. Very pleased that Emma of Normandy is now being acknowledged as the “Mother of England” since some of her bones have been identified from the Saxon Funerary Chests in Winchester Cathedral. A superbly readable interpretation of Emma’s life.