Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Shadow on the Crown"

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon a writing career.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Shadow on the Crown, her first novel, which is the start of a trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Shadow on the Crown looks in on Æthelred II of England and his young Norman bride, Emma, at their wedding feast.
“Perhaps, then,” said the king, “I should have insisted on your sister as my consort, so that I would not be saddled, as I am now, with a wife who demanded the title of queen.”

Stung by his discourtesy and his apparent dissatisfaction with the marriage bargain he had struck, Emma could only stare at him for a moment while she caught her breath. Then she felt the weight of the circlet upon her head as well as the weight of her brother’s final words to her. You must demand the king’s respect. She roused herself to respond.

“I expect my brother would have made the same demand, whichever sister he sent you. And as you did not insist upon my sister,” she said, hiding her displeasure with a smile, “instead of a wife who might have been a burden to you, you have a queen who can share any burdens that fate may send you. Such is my wyrd, I think.”
In this brief dialogue the reader is introduced to one of the central conflicts of the novel. Shadow on the Crown explores, among other things, the demands made upon a peaceweaving bride who must wed a powerful enemy in order to seal a shaky alliance. The title of queen implies that Emma has been granted some power, but she discovers that in England’s hostile court she is little more than a royal hostage.

Although this is primarily Emma’s story, the wider conflicts in the novel are perceived through three additional viewpoint characters: the suspicious, haunted king; his headstrong son from a previous marriage; and the devious daughter of the highest ranking noble in the realm. It is a tale of treachery, loyalty, political ambition, passion, and the demands of duty in an 11th century kingdom that is slowly crumbling under pressures both from within its borders and from across the sea. The uneasy exchange between Æthelred and his bride at their wedding feast only hints at the trouble to come.
Learn more about the book and author at Patricia Bracewell's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue