10 August 2013

A Dangerous Inheritance

Author: Alison Weir
Year published: 2012
Pages: 528
Time It Took To Read: A day
Alison Weir is a historian who has been publishing rather dry books about the Tudors and Plantagenets for over twenty years. A few years ago, she started publishing fictional accounts from this era and they are FAR better than her nonfiction works. She is much better than Philippa Gregory, in my opinion, though they both write Tudor/Plantagenet era work focusing on royal women.
Anyway, it is my (potentially libelous) belief that Weir wrote this book in reaction to Gregory's Cousins' War saga (see here and here). It sems obvious that Gregory is going to attempt to pin the death of the Princes in the Tower on Henry VII, so Weir is attempting to get her version (both historical and fictional) across before Gregory gets the chance. Weir wrote a historical account, firmly pinning the blame on Richard III way back in 1992. 
This book concerns Katherine Plantagenet, the bastard daughter of Richard III, and Katherine Grey, sister of Lady Jane Grey.  Lady Jane Grey is the subject of an earlier Weir book - Innocent Traitor. She briefly seized the throne after the death of Edward VI, to try and prevent Catholic Queen Mary taking over. It all went awry, she reigned for nine days and then Mary cut her head off. Katherine Grey then switched allegiance to Queen Mary, as her cousin, and later secretly married Edward Seymour after her first marriage was annulled. Queen Elizabeth I didn't take the news well and locked them up.Katherine gave birth to two children in the Tower of London and her marriage and children weren't legitimised until the reign of James I, by which time Katherine had been dead for years.
The story Weir chooses to tell switches between the two Katherines. Katherine P is a very shadowy historical figure. Literally nothing is known of her, except that she was raised in her father's household, so the majority of the story is conjecture. It is based around her quest to stop her father being accused of regicide. Katherine G finds Katherine P's papers in the future, complete with haunting, and follows the story herself. The conclusion is basically "Yes, Richard III did it." 
The whole book feels a bit pointless. There isn't enough historical information about Katherine Plantagenet or her stepmother Anne (The Kingmaker's Daughter) to give them real resonance. There is AMPLE information about Katherine Grey, to the point where the whole book could have been written about her alone. The constant switching of viewpoint is a device Weir uses often in her books, but it is aggravating and confusing that the dual heroines have the same name. The 'dangerous inheritance' seems to refer to the knowledge about the Princes, but that sort of gets ignored til the very end. I think, in short, that the focus for the book is all wrong.
But there's plenty of intrigue, sex and romance for those that like that sort of thing. I'm interested to see how Gregory finishes off her Cousins' War series, and I hope Weir's next book is a bit less cobbled together.

Book count: 38/50

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