What an incredibly different and refreshing take on the grand Queen Eleanor! This was the first time that I read anything in such detail about Eleanor that revolved around her life and that of Alais, the French Princess (daughter of King Louis- Eleanor’s first husband). Written in interchanging points of views, Eleanor’s and Alais’ personalities came through as though I were hearing their actual voice.
Not only do the style and language flow beautifully, the writing morphs reflective of Eleanor’s courts of love– this in itself is truly creative on English’s part. There’s almost a poetic flow to the thoughts and words making the dialogs truly reflective of the times. Sensuous and descriptive, the language helped set the mood for this exquisite read.
As for the ladies themselves...this is one book that gets you right into their psyche. I was amazed to read about Eleanor in this new light. Don’t get me wrong, Eleanor’s strength and scheming mind is present throughout and never diminished-what was different for me was to read about her genuine love for Alais; a daughter she loved as her own. Alais reciprocated this love in her own hungry way-Eleanor was her life- the mother she never had.
This was definitely Eleanor in a new role for that major historical period. Christy English focused mostly on what was happening ‘behind the scenes’- the reasons as to why the major historical figures might have reacted the way they did if circumstances had presented themselves in this way. By slightly altering the dates and consequently the meetings and relationship occurrences, English re-created an intense story of love, loyalty, and innocence versus revenge, to finally meet truce for an everlasting bond.
There's also something to say abut the liaisons between the ladies and the main gents in this story; King Henry and Richard (Eleanor's favorite son). I loved reading about innocent love transformed into an about-face passion that caught me completely off guard. To what extent would Alais give of herself to love? To what extent would Eleanor go to insure the love remains hers (with all angles covered)? Intricate indeed and sublimely well plotted- Bravo Christy English!
Ultimately, The Queen’s Pawn succeeded in reinforcing my admiration for Eleanor and elevating her to an even higher status (something I thought had reached its peak awhile ago). As for Alais, here was a young woman that could stand her own; having learned the ropes from the very best- Eleanor. But although I learned so much more about Alais, and recognized her hardship and almost sacrificial youth with something more to offer, her strengths could never come close to Aquitaine’s Queen. Eleanor is regal throughout this book. She is unforgettable, unattainable and unmistakably supreme.