THE PRICE OF BLOOD is the worthy second novel in Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy about Emma of Normandy (984-1052), covers six years of British history, between 1006-12. Quite a dark period. Nevertheless, I loved this book and can’t wait to move on to Bracewell’s final novel in this series, THE STEEL BENEATH THE SILK. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
King Aethelred the Unready (966-1016) of the House of Wessex (519-1125) is still king while Emma still struggles to remain a dutiful wife in the face of his brutality, lack of trust, and personal inner demons. (He may in fact be mentally ill. Certainly paranoid.) Emma remains the book’s chief protagonist (and hero) in a court where she is still largely treated as an outsider (she’s from Normandy, remember?), despite having already produced one son (later to become King Edward the Confessor (1003?-1066).
The novel straddles multiple, violent Viking incursions (Christianity vs. Paganism), increasing loss of faith in Aethelred’s leadership, and ongoing drama around the difficult relationships between Aethelred and his numerous grown sons. In short, plenty of action.
What I like best though about this series is Bracewell’s skill in creating rich and distinctive characters. Emma is admirable, steadfast, noble — but not perfect. Aethelred is aging and haunted by events from his past. Aethelred’s eldest son, Aethelstan (mid 980s – 1013?) hungers for more responsibility but his father mistrusts the younger one’s motives. And Aelfgifu (aka Elgiva – 990-1036), daughter of a murdered Northern noble, is continually scheming from a distance.
I’m learning a lot about the lives of women at this time, regardless of their station. Chiefly, their powerlessness — with men severely limiting their spheres of influence, treating them with little respect, and often becoming suspicious of their motives.
This is a new time period for me in my exploration of British history and I’m loving learning about an earlier period of British monarchy. If you’re interested, you can’t go wrong with this series!
More about author, Patricia Bracewell.
You may be interested in my review of the first book in this series, SHADOW OF THE CROWN.
Or my review of the third, THE STEEL BENEATH THE SILK.