Published: May 18, 2004 (originally 1989)
Publisher: Broadway Books
Rating: 3.5/4 out of 5 stars
Oh Mary. This is not a happy story, though it is one sympathetic to Mary. Plaidy starts the book when Mary is a beloved child and all is more or less well between her parents Katherine and Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn comes on the scene early on though, and of course it's all downhill from there.
In typical Plaidy style, this is pretty much a rundown of events, complete with repetitive phrases, non-fiction-ish narrative, and thinly developed characters. All of which I'm ok with.
I already know this story and have read the events of Mary's life through multiple other books, so I'm not sure at this point how In the Shadow of the Crown would come across to readers unfamiliar with Mary's history. I didn't come across any cringe-worthy inaccuracies and the events seemed pretty balanced with good pacing though, as often seems to be the case, more focus on her pre-queen years.
The queen years were where I was truly gutted and Plaidy broke out of her play-by-play style and actually developed a character for Mary. This part was so hard to read because Mary is so hopeful and in love, and her husband and court are not at all nice to her. Watching her continually make a fool of herself, when all she wanted was someone to finally love her, was painful to read. My heart broke for her as she pinned her hopes on her husband, kingdom, and dreams for a child and then it broke further as she eventually came to terms with the realities of these situations. This part was well done.
Plaidy has proven to be a solid historical fiction choice, and this was one of her better books. Mostly it's typical Plaidy, but she slowly grows Mary as an individual with the final chapters solidifying Mary as one of Plaidy's more richly drawn historical figures.
Definitely recommended for Mary fans, but also for historical fiction fans in general who don't mind Plaidy's drier style.
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