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Previous books in this series: The Boleyn King and The Boleyn Deceit
Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, The Boleyn Reckoning heralds the triumphant conclusion of Laura Andersen’s enthralling trilogy about the Tudor king who never was: the son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn—Henry IX—who, along with his sisters and those he holds most dear, approaches a dangerous crossroads.
The Tudor royal family has barely survived a disastrous winter. Now English ships and soldiers prepare for the threat of invasion. But William Tudor—known as Henry IX—has his own personal battles to attend to. He still burns for Minuette, his longtime friend, but she has married William’s trusted advisor, Dominic, in secret—an act of betrayal that puts both their lives in danger. Princess Elizabeth, concerned over her brother’s erratic, vengeful behavior, imperils her own life by assembling a shadow court in an effort to protect England. With war on the horizon, Elizabeth must decide where her duty lies: with her brother or her country. Her choice could forever change the course of history.
We knew from the outset that the endgame would be to see Elizabeth on the throne, but exactly how the author would get her there remained to be seen. This novel opens only a few months after the close of The Boleyn Deceit, amid the aftermath and fallout of the events of that book. Personalities and dispositions have changed, major upheavals have occurred, and secrets are being kept on nearly all sides. Intrigue and tensions are running extremely high, and the characters are feeling the effects.
“Minuette had felt a great pressure that spoke of unavoidable disaster. She didn’t know what form it would take or when it would strike, but every choice she made each day seemed designed only to plug a leak in the flood that threatened to overwhelm them all.”
Deception, betrayal, and retribution abound as political maneuverings ensue and the love triangle among the main characters explodes. The title of the book is well chosen, because over the course of the tale every member of the “Holy Quartet” (William, Elizabeth, Dominic and Minuette) experiences their own personal reckoning of sorts. None of the four emerges unscathed, with each suffering both regrets and consequences, in varying degrees, as a result of their choices and actions.
The contrast between the siblings as events play out is fascinating. As William loses himself and becomes increasingly like his father, descending into a mire of selfishness, brutality and instability, Elizabeth rises to the occasion, maintaining a wider view for the good of her country, and begins to come into her own and take on the mantle of leadership. Her growth over the course of the trilogy is both remarkable and compelling. Minuette and Dominic are changed as well, but remain true to each other and the love they share. Minuette is frustrating at times with the choices she makes, but remains sympathetic because she makes those choices out of love. And Dominic, well, let’s just say we love us some Dominic! He remains loyal and steadfast and utterly swoonworthy, as always.
“It’s a jump, Minuette, that’s all it is.
A jump out of this world, straight into my arms.”
“You will catch me?”
The writing here is beautifully done, and the character depth is excellent even throughout the minor characters. The pacing of the first portion of the book is a bit slower as the author maneuvers all of her pieces to fall into place at the end. One major event that was eliminated in this rewrite of history did give us a bit of pause. However, the alternative event serves to reinforce developments in the altered timeline very effectively, and the rest of the changes are so cleverly done, that we were more than impressed overall. In reading this series, we found it so thought provoking to consider not only how history might have been changed by a Boleyn King, but also the ways in which it ultimately may NOT have been altered much at all. Andersen does a brilliant job of illustrating this point as she deftly incorporates fact with fiction and puts her own spin on various historical events, some of which lead to the same eventual outcome just via a very different route.
The more measured pace at the beginning of the book is completely offset by the latter portion, because once the action starts, you'd best buckle up! It’s a non-stop roller coaster ride and things get VERY intense. You won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough as the twists and turns unfold, and your emotions may never be the same after the battering they receive! We don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but suffice it to say that we found the ending to be both hauntingly bittersweet and extremely satisfying, though we admit we are more than a little sad to say goodbye to this wonderful series.
“I did not know until today that joy could be nearly as terrifying as grief.
But I survived the grief...we shall survive the joy.”
The Boleyn Reckoning easily rates as one of our best reads this year, and we highly recommend the entire trilogy. It is well crafted, thought provoking, and terrifically entertaining. We were thrilled to learn that Andersen already has a new book in the works, and we eagerly await it and all future releases from this very talented author. She has definitely earned a spot on our 'must read' list.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.