The Red Queen.

10:45 PM

The Red Queen (Cousins' War, #2)The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rating: 3.5 stars

I had no idea that this was part of the Cousins War series and that 'The White Queen' was the first book in the series. Somehow I was more attracted to the Red Queen, which turned out to be the second book. Now, I am really excited to read the White Queen but at the same time I am worried, 'cos there is a clear division between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. You are either on one side or the other. And the Red Queen, Margaret, is on the House of Lancaster, the true Royal bloodline of England. The book makes you choose sides and I am worried that I will be swayed to the York side, if I read the first novel (If that makes any sense).

Basically, it is about the Cousins War in the 1400s, England where the land is divided into two separate houses that are both fighting for the throne and the right to rule. The land is constantly plagued with war between the two sides and it never ceases as each side thinks of themselves worthy of being in the royal court. They are both cousins, however. Which I found really scary that they would kill each other so easily to satisfy their thirst for power. We follow the thoughts and adventures of Margaret Regina who is a direct line in the Lancaster house, the original Royal family when King Henry was in the throne seat. She's an EXTREMELY pious girl. She constantly sees God's will as her own will and spends most of her time praying. And we follow her as she changes as a person to fulfill her destiny. We can see, from the very first chapter when Margaret was still very young and about to be married off that she is no ordinary child. As she is extremely ambitious and she herself admits that she is destined for greatness. She thinks very highly of herself, thinking of herself as being favoured by God and similar to Joan of Arc (who is sort of like her role model). She claims that she has the "knees of saints". It's hard to feel sympathy for a child who is so proud. But her circumstances are unforgiving. She was forced into a rough marriage and almost died giving birth at the age of 13. Then when her husband died, her mother (who is the most evil, heartless woman I have EVER read about) married her off again to a man who is twice older than her. She is constantly used for the benefit of others. Whether it is gaining an heir or gaining wealth and name.

Things get rocky when the House of York led an uprising that successfully dethrones King Henry and Lancaster was beaten for the first time. This meant that the son that Margaret bore was no longer in line for the throne, with the Yorks ruling. She then begins her mission (which she claims as God's will and her destiny) to put her son on the throne.

It is interesting to see the wheel of fortune that binds the two queens (the red and white queen). When one rises the other has to fall. And Margaret is constantly jealous of the white queen's success and beauty, claiming her to be a witch and in cahoots with the devil. She is jealous that she cannot get her way so easily, unlike the White Queen. When in reality, she is the one with the royal blood in her veins. Then we see how Margaret realizes this and transformed from being "used" to the one "using others". It's amazing to see how she strategizes and manipulates people. But when playing with sharks, be prepared to get bitten. For everyone is double-crossing everyone else. There is no sense of loyalty at all, even though loyalty is mentioned a hundred times in this book. Every man has only his own interests in mind and the war slowly becomes not a righteous battle for the throne but a web of schemes and backstabbing, in which not the strongest or most righteous will survive, but the smartest and most determined. And while Margaret has many, many faults, and stops at nothing to get what she wants, one has to admire her unfailing faith and determination. Which ultimately caused her only and final success, to put her son on the throne as King of England.

The only thing that bugged me was her misinterpretation of religion and how God's will somehow ALWAYS would coincide with her own. And she often hides behind the name of God to excuse her for all the sinful things she had to do to achieve her ambitions. Also, I get kinda upset with her midway through the book when she was married to Sir Henry Stafford (who was the ONLY person in this whole book I totally respected and loved) and she kept looking down on her husband and kept demanding great things to happen for her, but she won't get off her ass and DO anything. All she did was pray and pray for what she wanted. It took her a while to realize that she would have to fulfill her own destiny, she can't just PRAY for it to happen.

What I do like was Sir Henry, Margaret's second husband, who was the dude who was twice her age and could've been her dad. At first, I was ready to hate him, 'cos I hated her mother for marrying her off so quickly to this old, wrinkly man. And I felt so bad for Margaret who would have the duty of bearing his child. But the writer made my feelings change for him slowly as I grew to respect him first as a caring and considerate husband. Also, I had tremendous respect for him for having his own mind and not just blindly fighting for his side. He does things cautiously and carefully, thinking of the good of his people and his family first, before anything else. I then loved him for tolerating Margaret's annoying ways and childish behaviour, thinking him a coward and loser, when he is the only sane person in the kingdom. Unlike the rest, he was not driven by his own greedy ambitions. He just wanted to live his life in peace. I really love this character alot and was so freakin' sad when he passed.

Overall, this is a fantastic book for those who appreciate historical fiction and is not too caught up in the nitty-gritty (like me). I am not expecting a historically accurate documentary. I wanted a book that will transport me to another era and get me caught up in the epicness of battles. This book does just that, with outstandingly detailed writing that conjures up the essence of that era, perfectly. My only pet-peeve was that I didn't like Margaret's cause and I could not feel for her much as she is such an aloof and self-righteous person. Even at the lowest point in her life, she was proud and indignant. Also, I wished that her relationship with Jasper could have been explored more. Other than that, I really loved the Epic nature of the story, the deviousness of the characters and the unpredictability of what would happen next in times of war.

Cannot wait to read the White Queen and the rest of Philippa Gregory's works. =)

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