Title: Queen Hereafter
Author: Susan Fraser King
Release Date: December 7, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
It is the eleventh century in Britain and William the Conqueror, a Norman, is wreaking havoc in Saxon England. In Scotland, Margaret and her family are shipwrecked and are at King Malcolm’s mercy. Because Margaret is Saxon royalty, she knows that she will likely be used as a pawn in marriage to Malcolm, and focuses on how she can change the dismal prospects of her people and the poor.
Queen Hereafter is the story of Margaret of Scotland, a queen famous for her good works and generous heart. At the beginning of the novel, Fraser portrays her as a young woman who wanted nothing more than to serve God. If Margaret had her way, she would have entered a convent, rather than marrying Malcolm, a man who was more warlord than king. But slowly, Margaret begins to understand her power as queen. She changes her husband and her court, ensuring that her priorities of helping the poor and downtrodden are fulfilled.
It’s really interesting to watch Margaret’s transformation from inward-looking, unsure young woman to a queen in every sense of the word. She becomes so regal by the end of the book that it’s difficult to remember who she was at the beginning. At the same time, though, the reader can’t point to one specific instance that changed Margaret; instead, King deftly weaves Margaret’s character transformation and growth into the story, such that it seems completely natural. It was incredibly well done, and rewarding for readers who like to see character growth in their books.
The novel is told from two different points of view: Margaret’s and Eva’s. Eva is the granddaughter of Lady Gruadh, or the famed Lady Macbeth, and is a thorn in Malcolm’s side. She is also a gifted bard. Malcolm orders Eva to his court as a hostage to ensure the good behavior of Lady Gruadh. Margaret and Eva quickly strike up a friendship, and Eva is surprised by how much she likes the new queen. The tension between Eva’s loyalty to her grandmother and love of the queen makes up much of the emotional conflict of the novel.
Susan Fraser King also portrays the events of the time very well. She brings Scotland to life, sketching out the rich history for the reader. It provided a wonderful and exciting backdrop for Margaret’s story.
The one issue I had with Queen Hereafter is that I never felt like I really got to know Margaret. While she was well developed and her story was interesting, I didn’t feel an emotional connection to her. That’s not always necessary in a book, and indeed, I still enjoyed Queen Hereafter despite that. I thought this was an excellently written story, and though it’s set during a tumultuous time in history, I appreciated that the book was about the quieter side of life during this time.