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A Dangerous Inheritance Paperback – 2 September 2013
Two women separated by time are linked by the most famous murder mystery in history, the Princes in the Tower.
Lady Katherine Grey has already suffered more than her fair share of tragedy. Newly pregnant, she has incurred the wrath of her formidable cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who sees her as a rival to her insecure throne.
Alone in her chamber in the Tower, she finds old papers belonging to a kinswoman of hers, Kate Plantagenet, who forty years previously had embarked on a dangerous quest to find what really happened to her cousins, the two young Princes who had last been seen as captives in the Tower.
But time is not on Kate's side - nor on Katherine's either ...
- Publisher : ARROW LTD - MASS MARKET; 1st edition (2 September 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 528 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0099534592
- ISBN-13 : 978-0099534594
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 344,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The author does say that she wanted to write the novel to allow her more latitude than is possible as a serious historian
and this she does. It's just that others do it better. The basis of the mystery is surely so well known as to remove surprise. The time shifting element is used to much better effect by other authors such as Tracy Chevalier. As someone with a good knowledge of the period I ended up finding the book a little bit boring. However it is well-written and provides a balanced view of the debate about the fate if the princes, before suggesting a conclusion that probably fits best given the absence of hard evidence (and I write that as a lifelong Ricardian).
The book demonstrates that as is often the case, real life is more exciting than fiction. The period is so exciting and there are so nany great histories of the period that do much better than this novel. I do recomnend the author's history books, especially her biography of Katherine Swynford, mistress and subsequent wife, of John of Gaunt.
Alison Weir presents an intriguing tale which weaves together the stories of two Katherine's, one the illegitimate daughter of Richard III and the other the sister of Lady Jane Grey who was queen for just 9 day's.I liked the extra historical information Alison Weir added after the final chapter. For me, this was the best part of the book. It was well written and made me think that factual history was where the author found her comfort zone.
She certainly did not create this feeling when creating dialogue. 'Methinks' walked side by side with phrases such as 'he's a nutter'. This did improve as the book progressed, but it was often laboured.
The Cousins War series by Philippa Gregory, however, kept my interest all the way through. The language used and dialogue she created flowed naturally. In fact, I hadn't realised how good it was until I read Alison Weir's novel and was quite distracted by it.
I don't think I will be reading another of Ms Weir's novels, but I will be dipping into her histories. The final pages made me see that she is a much better historian with a great ability to communicate her passion for the subject than she is a novelist.
Alongside this though I felt the book was flawed. The idea of following two connected characters was nice, but the only way their real life stories were livened up were with drippy romances. I enjoyed the 16th century story more, no doubt because I knew nothing about Katherine Grey and was truly gripped. However the 15th century tale of Katherine Plantagenet was oddly lacking tension and seemed to plod along, but again this might be because I'd recently heard it all before. It was interesting to see the tale unfolding from her perspective as again I had no knowledge of her, but as this section was not written in the first person (which the later setting is) it lost its potency. In Weir's previous novels the main characters have always come alive through the narrative, so personally I think she should stick to this technique.
Sadly Katherine Grey came across as a bit unlikeable and, I hate to say it, selfish and a bit stupid! The other Katherine was portrayed as a drip. So neither of the heroines lived up to the hype of the story. And as for the story - the plot was enjoyable but ventured into very silly territory (you're imprisoned in the Tower of London where your sister was killed, you're in fear for your life so you decide to research a murder that had previously taken place there because you believe a locket you'd found is cursed. Not the best distraction I'd have thought). I'd expect this sort of thing from a first time keen amateur rather than a well established, highly thought of historian. The writing style is good however, with some very emotive passages. 2.5/5
To combine the mystery surrounding the death of King Edward V and his younger brother, and heir presumptive, the Duke of York (aka the `Princes in the Tower') with the nearly equally fascinating, `Queen that never was' Katherine Grey is just too tantalising for words. And to throw in a princess we didn't know about, Kate, the illegitimate daughter of the notorious Richard III - and to link all three together - is just clever and fascinating beyond words. Could the book live up to it? It certainly did.
Alison Weir has written separately about Lady Jane Grey and about the Princes in the Tower so her research is extensive and painstaking and she admits to any fictional interpretations she uses although they do not in any way distract from the sadness of these very unfortunate women's lives. These women were quite literally imprisoned for being too close to the throne in exactly the same way Edward V and his younger brother had been.
Weir presents all the evidence of what is known about the disappearance of the boys and neatly gives two theories - one the far more accepted and acceptable theory that their uncle killed them in order to be able to usurp the throne and keep himself safe from what would happen when the boys inevitably grew and wanted their birth-right. And she includes another tenuous theory presumably to please the conspiracy theorists who are unable to accept that Richard III was a child-killer and usurper.
However, I digress - the evidence is compelling and although nothing `new' is presented - even the greatly hyped up `evidence` of Elizabeth Savage but it is fascinating that even in the reign of Elizabeth I, talking about the Princes still brings fear to those involved and it is particularly fascinating that talking about them even close to the time of their deaths was considered treasonous.
I felt deeply sorry for Katherine Grey and Kate Plantagenet - as their lives were so painfully similar and so well told by Alison Weir - and found myself liking Henry VII and Elizabeth I a lot less than I had before. (Elizabeth is a very lucky woman to have been judged so well by history as she comes across frequently as foolish and cruel). Henry VII of course comes out of this as very clever but also cruel and I loved Weir's description of him as being like an 'accountant' - surely no greater put down for a man who hoped to shape destiny.