Set in medieval England, Normandy and Anjou, the novel tells the story of Empress Maltida, daughter of King Henry 1, who married at the age of 12 Henry V, Emperor of Germany. She left the German court after his death and at age 23 returned home only to be forced to marry young Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. Her father had hoped the couple would produce a male heir to continue his dynasty. When her father died Matilda claimed the throne but his barons elected her male cousin Stephen to take the crown instead. Their rivalry led to years of unrest and civil war.
A good part of the story is dedicated to Maltilda’s stepmother, Adeliza of Louvain, who was the same age, a good friend and ally. She was an important asset in the struggle Matilda had to attain her goals.
The author’s imaginative and colourful writing brings to life the medieval period and it is evident she has meticulously researched and done her best to accurately portray the major events. The interpretation of the characters and their relationships is not only both captivating and fascinating but also refreshing. She includes sufficient details of the daily life and the hardships of war to give the story texture and complexity. The narration is modern and down to earth and I was from the start deeply immersed into the lives and politics of the times. At the end of the novel the author’s notes differentiate the facts from speculation.
This is another part of history made interesting by a talented author.