Shadow on the Crown: A Novel

( 24 )

Overview

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies ...

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Shadow on the Crown: A Novel

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Overview

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the perfect antidote to Tudor fatigue, Shadow on the Crown is packed with nonstop action, romance, and plenty of deliciously creepy Gothic flavor.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Striking a quivering bull’s eye with the first book of a planned trilogy, Bracewell’s enthralling debut begins with Emma of Normandy crossing the “Narrow Sea” in 1002 C.E. to marry the much older King Aethelred. Emma is ill-prepared for the trials that come with her new position; not yet knowing the heart of the old king she makes the mistake of demanding the title of queen. The king, regretting the hasty decision of “taking a Norman slut to wife,” quickly tires of his demanding new bride; jealous rivals vie for Emma’s crown; and the threat of a Viking invasion constantly looms. But Emma’s role in the English court and her only chance of survival come down to heeding her mother’s words: “our first and most important task,” she instructed Emma before her departure, “is to bear a son.” Only then will her crown be secure. In time, Emma wins the hearts of her subjects as well as the affection of a young man in her husband’s court. Determined and savvy, Emma is a strong character that refuses to be cowed by her circumstances. With a light touch, Bracewell delivers a highly entertaining addition to the historical fiction genre. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, the Gernert Company. (Feb. 11)
Kirkus Reviews
Middling debut novel of the Middle Ages. A sort of wrinkle on Tristan and Iseulte and based on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bracewell's yarn centers on a 15-year-old noblewoman named Emma of Normandy who is married off to King Æthelred of England to cement various bonds across the Narrow Sea. (The year is 1001, so we still have a couple of generations to go before the Normans come a-calling in number.) England is a Beowulf-y place full of Angles and Saxons and Jutes and Vikings, the last of whom are causing an awful fuss, what with their looting and pillaging; to complicate matters, Emma finds herself instantly at odds with tough-nut Lady Elgiva, who considers the crown her destiny and has no end to her schemes. Isolated in court, paid no mind by her putative husband, Emma does what any self-respecting Norman would do--suffice it to say, this involves disrupting the line of succession. There are some nice moments in the narrative, and Bracewell does a good job of capturing the tenor of a medieval court and its endless intrigues. But the overall feel is musty, the writing ranging from stately to stale, as with this too-typical passage: "Now, though, Athelstan found it worrisome that Ealdorman Ælfhelm and the other great lords of the land remained with the king in Winchester while the eldest æthelings had not been summoned." A serviceable bit of historical fiction, but for all its twists and ligatures, it's no Once and Future King.
Library Journal
Korobi Roy is a sheltered young Hindu woman from Kolkata. Soon after she becomes engaged to Rajat Bose, the scion of a wealthy family, Korobi learns that the father she believed dead is actually alive in the United States. When she flies to the States to find her father, a complicated series of events unravels the smug assurance of her fiancé's family, exposing the flaws and the strengths of the people around her. Divakaruni, who has examined the lives of Indian women living in the United States in works like The Arranged Marriage and Mistress of Spices, introduces a cast of characters who defy their stereotypes. Korobi's ideal sacrificing grandmother has secrets of her own. Asif Ali, the Boses' Muslim chauffeur, is much more than a humble servant. Bhattacharya, an ambitious politician, has a heart; and Rajat's little sister, Pia, has amazing courage. VERDICT Exploring the United States and India in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Divakaruni has crafted a beautiful, complex story in which caste, class, religion, and race are significant factors informing people's world views.—Andrea Kempf, formerly with Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670026395
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 2/7/2013
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 396,187
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. She holds an M.A. in English Literature and her historical research has taken her to Britain, France and Denmark. She has two grown sons, and she lives with her husband in Oakland, California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2013

    Great Surprise! I admittedly love historical fiction about Brit

    Great Surprise!

    I admittedly love historical fiction about British royalty, but I also admit I want it well researched and well-written. This novel delivers on every level. Taking on the largely mysterious lives of the Pre-Norman Aethelred and Queen Emma, Bracewell does a superb job of keeping your attention. The action moves at a swift, attention-grabbing pace. This is a rare book where I lost track of time, only to be disappointed I was almost finished. Be warned, however, that keeping track of the very similiar names and complex relationships can take time; however, once you have it... I realize this is a planned trilogy, but the wait for Book Two will be difficult. I hope Bracewell has made much progress with that second novel.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In this stunning debut of a planned trilogy, Bracewell tackles t

    In this stunning debut of a planned trilogy, Bracewell tackles the life of Emma of Normandy who was sent to marry King Aethelred of England in the place of her ailing sister in 1002 A.D. One condition that was requested by Emma’s father, Richard of Normandy, was that Aethelred would anoint her as queen which leads to Aethelred instantly regretting his decision after their marriage. Aethelred already paranoid and mistrusting of everyone around him turns his anger towards his young wife. Emma learns fast that she must tread lightly and that having a son would be the only way to secure her position but even she can predict what Aethelred might do next. Aethelred’s oldest son Athelstan is instantly attracted to his father’s new wife even though he knows it is forbidden. He also knows he should fear that Emma bears a son to replace him in line for the throne because his father has no love for his eldest son and is constantly berating and humiliating him in public.

    Emma is thrown to wolves when she comes to England. Even with her vast knowledge in languages she is unfamiliar with court politics and her eyes are opened wide when her rival Elgiva of Northampton comes to court and insinuates herself in the King’s bed in hopes of him setting aside Emma. Emma knows she needs to win the hearts of the people of England and forge some alliances with some influential men because Swein Forkbeard and the Vikings are knocking at the front doors and ready to take over England in revenge for the St. Brice’s Day Massacre in which Aethelred ordered the extermination of all Danes that included Forkbeard’s sister.

    Bracewell does a remarkable job mixing the real events in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle with her own imagination without detracting from the heart of the story. She weaves a story of innocence lost, treachery, hope and love that ends with Emma realizing that she must do whatever needs to be done to make her son the next king. This was a refreshing storyline and I look forward to the next installment.

    (DRC was received via publisher in exchange for an honest review)

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    4.5 Stars 'Shadow on the Crown' is a beautifully written novel

    4.5 Stars

    'Shadow on the Crown' is a beautifully written novel set in the year 1002 that follows young Emma of Normandy as she is sent across the Narrow Sea from her home to wed the much older King Athelred of England. After being thrown into a new land and a new kingdom, she must deal with a husband who doesn't trust her, stepchildren who despise her, and another woman who will do anything to get her hands on the crown. Emma must learn to adapt to her new role as Queen and she makes alliances with men at court in order to win the love of her English people. Soon Emma finds herself falling in love with a man who is not her husband, the king, all while dealing with the dangerous threat of a Viking invasion that would threaten not only her role as Queen, but her life as well.

    I don't normally read much historical fiction, but this book's description had me intrigued as it was set in medieval England and the surrounding area. I thought that a book with a strong female lead during that time would prove to be fascinating. Well, I was definitely not disappointed with this book. Emma proves to be a strong young woman who must mature and adapt to her new life quickly. She is brave, courageous, loyal, and self-assured - all great qualities for a Queen and as the novel's leading lady. The other characters weren't as rounded as she was, but they all provided the required situations and relational ties - both good and bad - that Emma needed in order to grow as a character. The setting was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the time period as well as the varying locales found throughout the novel. The writing was what really got to me. The author has a magical way of writing that draws the reader into the scenario at hand - whatever it may be. I found myself easily imagining the story unfolding while I felt I was amongst the characters. I could shut my eyes and see what the author was describing, which is a marvelous trait that not all writers have. The writing itself was wonderful and had a solid plot and pace that felt natural. Overall, I loved this magnificent adventure back in time to witness the brave life of Emma and the opportunity to love her and root for her throughout the book. I very highly recommend this novel to fans of historical fiction as well as to readers who love a fantastic story told by a truly enchanting author.

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2013

    Emma of Normandy married King Athelred (aged approx 40) in 1002

    Emma of Normandy married King Athelred (aged approx 40) in 1002 as a sixteen year old bride. Her older sister had been the original choice, however, her mother felt that she was not strong enough to fill the position. Emma knows all that is as stake for her and for all the people involved an she approaches her marriage with open arms and a willing heart. The King was married before and has eleven children from what appears to be a rather cold and loveless marriage. Athelred's fist wife was his 'consort', however, Emma's brother negotiated the title of "Queen" for Emma.
    Emma is very wise and mature for her age as she 'navigates' her way through the political issues surrounding the King. She finds herself with a rather cold husband who seems to be fairly disinterested in his younger children.
    I was impressed with this book and once I began reading I had trouble putting it down. I was very surprised to see that this is the authors first book as it is so well presented and is an easy flowing read. I also discovered that it is the first of a trilogy and look forward to reading more of Emma Queen of England.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Emma of Normandy, the great-aunt of William the Conqueror, was w

    Emma of Normandy, the great-aunt of William the Conqueror, was wife to two English Kings, and mother to two others.




    King Aethelred the Unready sought her hand in marriage to secure Normandy as an ally to England. Despite the fact he dislikes her, she bears him two sons, Alfred and Edward the Confessor. Because Aethelred already had sons from a previous marriage, the succession to the crown for Emma’s two sons was far from certain.   




    When Aethelred died, Canute the Great showed came knocking at her door seeking marriage. This time, Emma insisted that any sons born to her from this marriage be given preference to succeed as king over Canute’s son from his previous marriage. Before he would agree, the cunning Canute demanded tit for tat – Emma must also repudiate the claims of her own sons to the crown of England in favor of their future sons. This she did, alienating her sons, shattering their trust in her, and rendering their relationship cold and distant from that day forward.




    Emma reigned happily as Canute's queen for eighteen years. Together they had one son, Hardicanute. When Canute died, however, all promises made seemed to hold no weight. Discord broke out between all their sons from both marriages as they battled young Hardicanute for the crown. When Canute’s eldest son claims the throne of England, Emma is sent into exile. After much bloodshed, both sons of Canute, as well as her son Alfred, were killed. Her son Edward the Confessor, who wisely stayed out of the conflict and never sought the throne, ended up with the crown of England.




    Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell tells the fascinating story of Emma of Normandy. With flowing narrative, Emma’s life is brought to light in great detail and foresight. From Viking attacks to deadly family conflicts, this novel is so brilliantly written that I could not put it down. I was engaged to the very end. Aethelred’s dislike and lack of respect for Emma is poignant, her unhappiness heart-wrenchingly depicted. Amid a hostile court, Emma perseveres and struggles to make her way and define her role. It is a story of love, hate, betrayal, and perseverance. Riveting from start to finish.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    I love this story! Will read the next books. Very well done,grea

    I love this story! Will read the next books. Very well done,great story teller.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    Great read!

    This story has a strong heroine who has to navigate a rather treacherous path. I know the author has embellished the history to make it interesting, but it feels authentic. Yes royal marriages may not have been the romantic love relationships we may think they should be, especially with biases due to lineage that may have been felt in some regions within England.
    I like the liberties that this author has taken and feel the story is believeable and interesting and makes Emma more realistic to readers. What a wonderful journey the reader goes on with multiple points of view given. It allows the reader perpective for motivations for various people who interact with the main characters. We see lots of envy, jealousy, and sadly the pain and suffering of royal family members. Life is no picnic for these royals. We see pains felt by rivals and are able to see the extremes to which they will go to better their situation.
    I look forward to all future installments of this trilogy. This is a book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction such as ones about King Arthur.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I confess to knowing next to nothing about this time period.

    I confess to knowing next to nothing about this time period. I'm familiar with William the Conquer who is descended from these people. But, that is about as far back as my English history knowledge really goes.

    This was a brutal time period. I know that in this time period women were little more than property. Men often took what they felt was rightfully theirs and sometimes did so by force. Keeping a mistress on the side was common place, and wives were expected to look the other way. But honestly, this took that idea to a whole new level. It was extremely graphic, but I was reminded that even in the historical fiction time period I tend to read, women were still progressing forward.
    I loved Emma. I think she knew from the start that her place as wife and Queen would not be easy. She was a bargaining tool and nothing more. At any moment, someone could go back on the agreement made when she was married and place her in danger. But, she also held power that women before her lacked. She was made Queen and gave birth to a son that contested the line of heirs. She never wavered in her beliefs to get what she felt she deserved.

    King Athelred was an interesting character. There were times that I thought if he gave Emma half a chance he might actually grow to love her. But, all he can see is his resentment and fear. His own paranoia and delusions are really what drive this story to his breaking point. He refuses to see reason from any of his advisers. He is convinced his sons are trying to take the thrown from him. His thought process and actions lead to so many horrible repercussions.

    This is suppose to be the first in a series. I would be interested to read the next one. Emma kind of comes off as calculating at the end. The little research I've done makes her seem less than that. Although I do find in fascinating that she was the wife of 2 kings, mother to 2 kings, and stepmother to 2 kings. What a lineage to pass on!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Shadow in the Crown is a convincing, well written work of histor

    Shadow in the Crown is a convincing, well written work of historical fiction. Medieval England is one of my favorite time periods and the plot moves along quickly here as Queen Emma faces the reality of the times for women. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, interspersed with the plot, anoints the book with an authenticity that helps the reader suspend disbelief. The usual themes of pride, jealously, betrayal and abandonment are explored in depth from Bracewell's rich imagination. I am eagerly anticipating book two of the trilogy.



    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book which is based on real events recorded in the Anglo Sa

    This book which is based on real events recorded in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle had me from the first page and kept me turning pages well into the night…
    Our story starts out on Dec. 24 of 1001 in Normandy, amidst one of the coldest winters in recent memories. 15 yr. old Emma is arguing with her sister about going out in the frigid weather just to Check on her horse. Making her way outside to the stables Emma hears men approaching and hides behind her horse as her brother and the frightening & powerful king Swein Forkbeard come to put up their horses, she hears the conversation turning towards her and her older sister. It Seems time to be marrying off The sisters… And so begins the incredible journey of Emma, soon to be married to the much older King Athelred of England, who hates her on site as well as his sons who mistrust her and a mistress who wishes she were dead.
    The only way for Emma to have any power or respect at all is to have a son for her king. Emma goes through many exciting and horrific times while trying to keep her King and her crown.
    This was an education for me as well as a very, very good read. I could not imagine growing up in such a time when women were basically just baby makers.
    I must say one of my favorite parts of this book were the humorous and tongue twisting names! This is the first book in a trilogy, which is good in that there will be more books and bad as now I have to wait for the next two books!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    one of my favs

    this book was outstanding!!!!! the characters come to life. ms bracewell does an excellant job of making you feel as if you were right there with emma. i can't wait until the next book comes out

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    Great fast paced book!

    This book was very easy to get into and very hard to put down. Cant wait for the next one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    Wow, what a read. I enjoyed this book very much. I stayed up so

    Wow, what a read. I enjoyed this book very much. I stayed up so late reading last night that my eyes hurt and I have a headache. I  love that it is part of a series, but I hate that I have to wait for most likely a long time before the next installment.  Though I loved the book, I just did not like any of the characters. Hopefully, book 2 will provide some much needed likable characters!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2014

    Great story - looking forward to the next however I always fear

    Great story - looking forward to the next however I always fear trilogies because the cadence and repetition become boring by book 3.  I hope that I am proved wrong as I could not put the first down.

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  • Posted December 31, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Emma of Normandy was to wait for her arranged marriage until her

    Emma of Normandy was to wait for her arranged marriage until her older sister, Mathilde, had been wed. Their father and mother, Duke Richard and Dowager Duchess Gunnora, had larger worries with the presence of the Danish King, Swein Forkbeard, docked at the Duke’s winter harbor. So far Forkbeard had been bought off by the Norman King and King Aethelred II of England. This will soon change. Spanning a three year period from 1001 to 1004, this is the story of Emma’s marriage to the English King Aethelred II, a man haunted and tortured by the ghost of his dead brother, Edward. Aethelred is a cruel, hard man who trusts neither man nor woman, believing all to be scavenging for his crown. His three eldest children have similar hearts of stone, except for Althestan who falls hopelessly in love with Emma but dare not advance beyond one point as he knows his father’s reaction would be ruthlessly fatal.
    Another woman of the English Court, Elgiva of Northampton, has her eye on the King of England, not out of lust for his body but for her insatiable craving of power. She and her maid Groa, a fearsome woman with magical and lethal powers, will betray and kill to gain the ultimate queenly prize. But the wyrd for Emma and Elgiva is tragic in very different ways that are absolutely mesmerizing.
    A seer in the beginning of the novel states that Althestan will win his father’s Offa’s Sword but that the future King of England will be one who has his “hand” in the Queen’s hand. Althestan has no idea what this means but like his brothers will pay careful watch to see what his own wyrd or fate is to be.
    Battles between family, earls, and the Vikings fill these pages with an excitement that provides for a quick, interesting read. Murder seems a regular method to put aside one’s opponents, the type of killings that cannot be proven.
    While the Christian faith is the main religion of England, pagan rites and beliefs lurk in the darkness. Sin abounds everywhere but it is interesting how the monks and priests of Catholicism have such respect (and fear) from even royalty. They alone perhaps are advisers who keep the English royalty family of Aethelred from killing each other in their jealous goal for power which they would rashly use if they had it.
    Emma, remarkably based on the actual book Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, evolves into a strong, compassionate, fiercely protective and just woman who knows her own strengths and weaknesses and is determined not to allow her new family to change, unless it be stronger.
    Characters interact in an ever-changing plot and customs in which the reader becomes totally engaged.
    Shadow on the Crown is wonderful historical fiction. Highly recommended!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Great read!

    I really liked this book and the insights it gave with regard to this period of time. But I was surprised to discover that it is intended to be the first part of a trilogy. Shadow of the Crown ends quite abruptly and leaves you waiting for the next book. I hope that there won't be a long time lapse between Books 2 and 3!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Waiting for more!

    I loved this book! It's a great story about a time in history you really don't think about too much. I am anxiously waiting for the next book to come out!!!!

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  • Posted March 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Couldn't get into it

    Beautiful cover captured my attention but I got to page 150 and I just didn't care about the characters so I gave up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    Great historical fiction

    I read a lot and really enjoyed this historical fiction. Looking forward to her sequel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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