Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review: The Autumn Throne

Elizabeth Chadwick
The Autumn Throne (Eleanor of Aquitaine Series, Book 3)
By Elizabeth Chadwick
Sourcebooks Landmark, October 2016

About the Book

The son she loved. The betrayal she faced. The legend she became. The stunning conclusion to the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy.

Imprisoned by her husband. Separated from her children. If King Henry II thought these things would push his queen into submission, he was wrong. Eleanor of Aquitaine refused to give into his tyranny. Freed by his death, she became dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry bred among his sons had grown into a dangerous rivalry that Eleanor must skillfully control.

Eleanor would need every ounce of courage and fortitude as she crossed the Alps in winter to bring her son Richard his bride, ransom him from imprisonment, and deal with his brother John’s treachery. Her indomitable spirit would be tested to its limits as she attempted to keep the peace between her warring sons, fend off enemies, and negotiate a magnificent future for a chosen granddaughter.

My Review

Ms. Chadwick presents her final novel in the Alienor (Eleanor) of Aquitaine series. Alienor, estranged from her husband Henry II after backing their sons in their rebellion against their father, is now a prisoner, kept against her will at the Palace of Sarem. Henry tries to force her to retire from public life and become a nun, but Alienor is not quite ready to give up on public life. As their sons continue to chafe under their father’s restrictions, Alienor plays mediator, soothing wounded pride and encouraging reconciliation, mostly to no avail. As their eldest son and heir Henry and second son Geoffrey die, Henry and Alienor face a future with only two sons out of their ten living children, a harsh reminder of how quickly life can change.

When Henry himself dies quite suddenly, Alienor’s life shifts again, now seemingly full of possibility with her favorite son Richard at the throne, until Richard’s crusading and John’s betrayals consume her remaining years. Even into her 80s, however, Alienor is not allowed to slip away to a quiet retirement. When one of her grandsons, Arthur, Count of Brittany, lays siege to the castle of Mirabeau and threatens to take her captive, the elderly woman proves she has plenty of fight still in her, outmaneuvering even the youngest and most ambitious of her adversaries.

Ms. Chadwick brings Alienor’s story full circle, and we see her in the autumn of her life. With her most bitter rivals now dead, she is poised to take on the coveted role of elder stateswoman until the upheaval of Richard and John’s struggles, as well as the death of most of her remaining children, cast a shadow over her last years. Bittersweet and lacking the fireworks of her clashes with Henry, Alienor must resign herself to the sadness of outliving most of her children and of seeing long-cherished hopes turn to dust. As the title suggests, this is Alienor at her most poignant, reflecting on her dreams and experiences, and what might have been, while giving it her all, even as she enters her eighth decade of life—a fitting tribute for one of history’s most heroic and well-loved queens.

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