Title: The Kingmaker’s Daughter
Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Anne Neville is the daughter of the Kingmaker, the Earl of Warwick, who put Edward IV on the throne of England. But after Edward marries a common woman, Elizabeth Woodville, without the Kingmaker’s permission and her family begins to rule his court, the Kingmaker turns to others in order to fulfill his ambitions. He uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns to achieve whatever ends he wants.
Anne Neville lived a fascinating life, to be sure. She’s not one of the mainstream players you often hear about in historical fiction, so the fact that Gregory gave her a voice and brought her story into the mainstream is great. She played a very important role in the Wars of the Roses, or The Cousins’ War (as Gregory chooses to call it). The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the fourth book in her series, though these books don’t need to be read in order.
Anne’s life was a sad one. She found little happiness over the course of her life because of how her father used her. She provokes the reader’s pity, to be sure, but whether she has their sympathy is a harder question. She’s a difficult character to like, not because she’s difficult, but because she’s a bit bland. She allows those around her to control her life, without much of a personality or spirit of her own. Even when she feels as though she’s taking her destiny into her own hands, she’s still being manipulated by those around her. While she’s to be pitied, for sure, it’s hard to really care for or be inspired by her.
It’s also interesting to compare Anne in The Kingmaker’s Daughter to the other women that Gregory has written about in her Cousin’s War series - Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort. These women weren’t all necessary likeable, but they were feisty and fiery. They had an innate intelligence and a ruthlessness about them. Anne Neville pales in comparison. Though her life was interesting, she was a victim to the times she lived in and the men around her.
As with all of Gregory’s books, The Kingmaker’s Daughter is rich with historical details. Gregory does her best to bring the time period to life and teach the reader about history. The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the first book in this series, however, that I feel a reader would not be able to approach as a standalone. Much of the history behind this book is covered in The Lady of the Rivers, and Gregory doesn’t review the events behind the book very much. Indeed, Anne refers to Henry IV and Margaret of Anjou as “the sleeping king and the bad queen” which not only is incredibly unhelpful in understanding the history, but also is indicative of Anne’s immaturity into adulthood.
Despite my issues with Anne Neville, The Kingmaker’s Daughter is still worth reading. As I’ve said, Anne led a fascinating life, and though she will never be one of my favorite Gregory protagonists, it’s definitely worth reading her story to understand her role in the events of her time. One thing that Gregory excels at is to take the same events and write them from opposing viewpoints; it’s amazing to see her interpretations of motives and it makes for a gripping read. Gregory will be writing about Elizabeth of York in her next novel, and you can be sure I’ll be clamoring to read that book, to understand the story from this important woman’s point of view.
Other books by Philippa Gregory: