I am very impressed with Alison Weir’s storytelling ability. I have not yet read any of her non-fiction work but as she is an historian first, I appreciated the level of detail and historical account in this novel. The conversations between characters and descriptions of England and life in the 1500s were compelling and thorough. I’m sure there are some who would be put off by the more controversial aspects of the story, especially between the Admiral and Elizabeth, but I thought it gave the plot an enthralling twist that had not yet been put forth in other Tudor fiction, setting The Lady Elizabeth apart.
Another way that this story is set apart from the other Tudor fiction is that a good portion of the story follows Lady Elizabeth when she is a young girl. I was fascinated that young children were treated more as adults in that era, their life expectancy being much lower than today (as described by Weir). In the storyline we get to live with Lady Elizabeth as she grows into adulthood, making mistakes, taking chances, and becoming more intelligent, perceptive and cunning. There is a very distinct feeling and voice between dowdy, spiteful Mary and daring, vivacious, precocious Elizabeth.
I am rating The Lady Elizabeth 4.5 because the story lagged for me a bit three quarters of the way through the book. I thought the omnipresence of doom throughout the last section was a bit too much. In “A Conversation With Alison Weir” at the back of the book Weir states that The Lady Elizabeth is the first part of series, with The Phoenix and The Bear being the sequel. Very much looking forward to reading this. In other reading I would recommend The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory (religion – Queen Mary) and although I have not yet read The Virgin’s Lover by the same author I imagine it would be a good basis of comparison. I am adding Weir to my list of favourite authors.
My Rating: 4.5