The Red Queen’s Daughter: Tasty brew of history, fantasy, romance

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Jacqueline Kolosov The Red Queen's DaughterThe Red Queen’s Daughter by Jacqueline Kolosov

I don’t buy hardbacks all that often, but as soon as I saw that The Red Queen’s Daughter was about Mary Seymour, and included magic to boot, I knew I had to have this book.

Mary Seymour is, historically, a question mark. The daughter of former queen Catherine Parr and her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour, Mary was orphaned and taken in by the Duchess of Suffolk. There are no records of Mary’s existence after the age of about two. Most historians believe she died in infancy, though rumors to the contrary have circulated.

Here, Jacqueline Kolosov envisions a happier fate for Mary. When the Duchess dies, Mary goes to live with the enigmatic Lady Strange, who gives her an education both in the ordinary disciplines and in the arts of magic. Mary, like her late mother, becomes unusually learned for a woman of her time. This preparation eventually leads her to a career in Elizabeth I’s court, ostensibly as a lady-in-waiting, secretly as a magician charged with protecting the queen. At court, Mary must navigate the complexities of intrigue. Most dangerously, she has her cousin Edmund Seymour to contend with: rogue, seducer, politician, and practitioner of the dark arts. Mary finds herself strangely attracted to Edmund even as she plots to thwart his political and amorous designs.

This novel deals a lot with an issue that was at the forefront of many people’s minds during the Virgin Queen’s reign, and which still has relevance today: is it possible for a woman to surrender to romantic love without losing her autonomy? Mary is determined to resist all romantic emotions in order to avoid falling into the mistakes made by her parents. Coming to terms with the legacy of Catherine Parr, and of Thomas Seymour, takes her on a difficult coming-of-age journey.

This story is engrossing, suspenseful, and touching. I also found it to be quite sensual, even without having so much as a single phrase that could be rated above PG-13.

I very much liked the magic in this story. Powerful spells can be constructed from simple, everyday objects, but only if the magician has the knowledge and intuition to see many layers of meaning at once and understand the symbolism of every ingredient.

Mary’s dogs are wonderful; it’s obvious that the author is a dog lover.

The novel gives the reader an ending that is satisfactory yet leaves room for a sequel, which I definitely hope Jacqueline Kolosov decides to write.

The Red Queen’s Daughter — (2007) Publisher: Orphaned as a baby because of her mother, Queen Katherine Parr’s, imprudent marriage, Mary Seymour believes that romantic love clouds even the strongest woman’s ability to reason. So she vows never to fall in love, and under no circumstances will she marry. Lady Strange, her mysterious new guardian, offers Mary an extraordinary alternative to marriage: Mary is to become a white magician who will join Queen Elizabeth’s court and ensure the success of the Virgin Queen’s reign. Soon after Mary’s sixteenth birthday, she is invited to join Elizabeth’s court as a lady-in-waiting. Upon her arrival, Mary is met with a welcome worthy of her highly regarded mother. Nevertheless, the more favor Mary is shown by the queen, the more she inspires the jealousy and ill will of the men and women who are vying for power. The most dangerous of all is Edmund Seymour, Mary’sdisturbingly handsome cousin. From the moment she meets Edmund, Mary has to fight her own growing attraction, especially once she discovers that he is a black magician, the dark mirror of her own self. But light cannot exist without darkness — and despite the threat Edmund poses to Mary, he seems to be the only one who truly understands her. When Edmund becomes involved in a plot against the queen, Mary finds her beliefs tested in ways she never could have imagined.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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