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Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 16, 2021
I read this book after asking for recommendations for a character-driven male-penned fantasy, because it feels like my reading horizons have shrunk a little lately and I wanted to branch out a bit. I have mixed feelings about this one.

Stuff I Liked
For the first half of this book I was dubious because the characters didn't seem to have much hidden depth beyond who they were on the surface. But, around the halfway mark many of the characters started to reveal hidden depths and complexities, at which point I began to enjoy the book.

I was very appreciative of the fact that this is a court intrigue fantasy (my favourite!) set in an alternate version of the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, where the Richard III character wins the battle of Bosworth Field. Since I read my way through all Shakespeare's history plays a couple of years back, the history is fairly fresh in my mind, and I loved that Wheeler chose to centre his story around a pair of very obscure historical women.

The characters in this story were nuanced and lovable, and the plot, while slow, really allowed for the world and characters to develop.

Stuff That Impaired My Enjoyment
As mentioned above, it took me about half the book to start enjoying it, because many of the characters seemed to be operating on a rather shallow level. Then, there was a lot of exposition in this book, mostly having to do with characters telling the protagonist stories about the past. Being familiar with the Wars of the Roses, some of this backstory made sense to me, but I suspect that readers who aren't would glaze over.

One little niggle was that I didn't appreciate that a fat character is consistently treated by others within the story world as morally at fault for being fat. A larger story issue that left me scratching my head was the role of the Elizabeth Woodville character, and the titular character as her agent. They seem to have no particular agenda beyond saving the protagonist's life. We eventually do get a reason for why Ankarette, at any rate, is motivated to do this. However we don't get a sense that she, or her mistress, have any larger goal or motivation beyond this. It left these two pivotal female characters seeming rather vague and aimless.

In summary, this was a leisurely and enjoyable court intrigue fantasy that fell a little bit short for me but still came with some awesome historical easter eggs in a unique and enjoyable setting.
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