December 18, 2003

The Shadow King, Jane Stevenson

The previous novel, The Winter Queen, had an unlikely romance between Elizabeth of Bohemia and a theologian (and exiled African prince). They were secretly married and as secretly had a son, the protagonist of this novel.

It's entirely a grown-up historical novel - the situations could be setups for swashbuckling and intrigue and Man-in-the-Iron-Mask secrets. Instead the sober and cautious characters act within reasonable limitations, and it's gripping anyway. Seventeenth-century daily life was bloodsoaked enough, especially as the son is a doctor, and lives for a while in Barbados. He also has a completely unromantic, but very affectionate and moving, arranged marriage, to a woman who probably isn't going to turn out to be a princess in disguise.

Aphra Behn occurs as a character, and the one who most nearly buckles a swash, because she has so little common sense or self-control. (Or money.) Oh, she's a wonderful half-villainess.

ISBN: 0-618-14913-9

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