Dawnlands – by Philippa Gregory – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

Note: I received early access to this book in exchange for writing an honest review. Thank you netgalley and Atria Books. Publication: November 8, 2022. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

This is the third book in Philippa Gregory’s multi-novel Fairmile series. This one is centered on the years (1685 – 89), leading up to the deposing of Catholic King James II of England and the crowning of his successors, Protestant King William III of Orange and his wife, Queen Mary II (who happened to also be the daughter of James II by his first wife). King James and his second wife, Mary of Modena, however, are secondary characters in this novel.

For those who have read the first two books of this series, the central characters in this story are, once again. the extended Reekie family:
• Alinor – now an elderly woman, but still able to work magic with her knowledge of herbs.
• Ned Ferryman – Alinor’s brother whose devotion to the cause of freedom remains unwavering.
• Alys – Alinor’s now middle aged daughter, running the family warehouse in London with her husband, Captain Abel Shore, her son, Johnny and foster son, Matthew. (Alys’s daughter Sarah remains living with her husband in Venice, though her two daughters make an appearance.)
• Rob Reekie – Alinor’s son, now a physician, living with his wife Julia and 16 year old daughter, Hester.

In addition, Gregory has also brought back Sir James Avery and his beautiful Italian wife/villainess Lady Livia Avery, who has become chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary of Modena. If you are like me, you’ll be pleased to know that Livia is as treacherous as ever. There are also a few new characters to discover — some to love, some to hate.

Aside from the challenges to the reign of James II, the British version of the battle between Protestants and Catholics, and the growing movement against the Stuart brand of monarchy, there are also storylines that touch on slavery and sugar cane production in the Caribbean Islands, the mass murder of America’s indigenous people, and the growing economic power and influence of worldwide trade.

It’s a good story and well-written, with a slow build. At times it felt a bit long (512 pages) but overall it’s a worthy sequel to TIDELANDS and DARK TIDES. One criticism I have is how frequently and at times abruptly Gregory jumps between storylines, sometimes inserting very short chapters (143 chapters TOTAL!). For me, this made it harder to remain involved with the characters and limited my emotional connection with some of them.

Philippa Gregory

Overall, especially for historical fiction fans and fans of this historical novelist in particular, highly recommended.

More about the author, Philippa Gregory.

You may be interested in my reviews of the previous books in the Fairmile series, TIDELANDS

Dark Tides

Or, my reviews of other books by Philippa Gregory:

The King’s Curse

The Taming of the Queen

The Last Tudor

Three Sisters, Three Queens


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