I finally managed to pull myself away from the world of The Hunger Games long enough to read some other books. I admit, I'm struggling. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, but after Katniss I had a hard time finding another lead character who could measure up. I tried and tried and tried, sampling book after book and finally I found the voice of a character that did not annoy me, because really, after mentally living in Panem for three books it's hard listen to someone moan and groan about petty jealousies. Before I get into the really good book that I found I just have to comment on a book who's narrator made me ill with their simpering weakness.
The Favored Queen by Carolly Erikson is narrated by Jane Seymour, the third queen of Henry VIII. I can't stand Jane as a historical figure, her compliance in the downfall of Anne Boleyn disgusts me. If she had been actively trying to bring her down, as Anne was with Catherine of Aragon I could have at least respected her spunk, but Jane's quiet acceptance and supposed meekness makes me want to vomit. She's all I never wanted to be. I usually love Erikson's books and I was really excited when her latest novel hit the shelves. Imagine my disappointment when it was so annoying that I couldn't even finish it! It wasn't the writing, it was the character herself. I was hoping to garner some sympathy for Jane, to be able to find something to like about her. I didn't. If anything I dislike her more after reading this book. I know it's a novel and we as 21st century people have no idea who she really was as a person, but this book made her appear to be even more of a whimpy puppet whose strings were pulled by the men in her life than I already thought she was. I finally had to stop reading the book, I just couldn't take it anymore. I truly hope that Erikson's next novel is as enjoyable as her previous ones, because I like her books and I want more of them to read, but not if they are like The Favored Queen. Give me a woman with some guts to read about please!
So, moving on- the book that I am currently reading and loving is Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen. It is told from the point of view of Juana of Castile, sometimes known as Juana la loca (Juana the mad). Her legend tells of a woman driven mad by love and jealousy who dragged her husband's corpse ascross half of Europe and would allow no women near the body, lest they feel lustful towards it. One of the major themes of the book is not to believe legends and propaganda that claim to be truth, that they are told by those who benefit from making others see the truth through a distorted lens. Juana learns this the hard way when her husband Philippe begins to spread rumors that she is mad so that he can take power not only in his own lands but in Spain as well. Juana also realizes that the stories spread about her mother, and her own beliefs about her are fictional as well. Isabella of Castile may have been a formidable woman, almost a godess in the eyes of others, but she was as human as the rest of us with all of the weaknesses that come with it. Unfortunately for Juana she learns this too late; only realizing that her mother had feelings and was not perfect after her death. So, was Juana the mad woman of legend or was she merely a woman maligned and held captive by her scheming husband? I have to say, I would love to know...:-) I can't wait to read another of Cullen's books, The Creation of Eve, which also takes place in the Spanish court. I'll be reviewing that too!