Title: The Virgin’s War
Author: Laura Andersen
Series: The Tudor Legacy
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Published: July 12th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5)The summary of The Virgin’s War from Goodreads:
For those who just can’t get enough of the scandalous Tudors, the Tudor Legacy series comes to its gripping conclusion. Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir.
It’s 1585, and the balance of European power is tilting dangerously toward war. It will take all of Elizabeth Tudor’s skill and wiles to defend England from the looming threat of the Spanish Armada.
Complicating matters is Elizabeth’s beloved daughter—the result of the Queen’s tempestuous marriage with her worst enemy: King Philip of Spain.
As Elizabeth commits her riches, her honor, and her people to the coming war, the Queen will risk everything—even her own life—to preserve England’s freedom.
I had a lot of emotions as I read this book. A lot of them. I’ve loved Andersen from the first few pages of The Boleyn King and haven’t stopped. I knew going into this book that I’d probably end up crying at some point. If the book itself didn’t make me, I’d cry once I finished because the book, and the series, was over. Turns out, I cried a few times.
I’ve tried to write this review about three times and each attempt just felt off. I wasn’t capturing everything about the book that I loved, or the emotions I felt as I read weren’t coming through. I’m still not even sure if I got it right. But I loved this book. I loved this series.
What I Liked:
I knew going into this book that Andersen would draw me right into her alternate history reality. There’s never really any doubt about that. What is so amazing is that she is creating her own history. She doesn’t have the record books and historical documents to draw from. She’s not retelling actual events. But she can’t just create any new situation.
She has to take into account what we do know about history, what we do know about the people she’s writing about. She can’t write a Queen Elizabeth that doesn’t fit our image of Queen Elizabeth. Because we know so much about her reign and can create a pretty full picture of her as a queen, Andersen can’t just ignore all of those details just because it’s alternate history. She has to weave in actual reality with her reality. She does this perfectly.
From what I know of Queen Elizabeth, she was a thoughtful, cunning, witty person. She knew she had power and wasn’t afraid to use it, but she also understood the importance of advisors. She might not agree with them, but she understood it was important to have those people around her. She’s the same way in this book, but because she has a daughter, she also has this added element of being a mother.
I’d also imagine that, if Elizabeth actually had a daughter, her daughter would be just as cunning and intelligent as her mother. Anne plays her role perfectly and it’s so easy to imagine her as a real person. I could easily believe in a Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth and granddaughter of King Henry VIII. With Anne, Andersen has more flexibility, but she remains true to the time and to the idea of a royal family.
Pippa is probably one of my favorite characters. She hurts my heart, but in the way I want my favorites to. She’s the princess’s best friend, her family’s guiding soul…she plays so many roles for so many people. She sees more in the world than most people. Yes, some of it comes from what others might see as a mystical view of the world, but she’s also very observant. She understands people and their motivation better than most. She’s simply amazing.
Every character I’ve loved from previous books comes back in this one. They’re all there and my heart skipped a beat whenever they popped up. They remind me constantly of why I fell in love with Andersen.
Beyond the characters, the plot was fantastic. It’s clearly well thought out, with the actions of multiple rulers creating a tension that only continued to grow. When it snapped, I lost my breath. I was so wrapped up in the book, I forgot to breathe for a bit. The balance between drawing outright war and just giving other countries a warning is delicate and could so easily go wrong.
This entire review feels less like a critical review and more like adoration piling up on a page. In a way, that’s what it is. I try to keep a critical mind as I read stories, making notes as I go along. But with Andersen’s books, I can’t seem to do that. She creates such an amazing story that I can’t help but get wrapped up in it entirely. I can’t remember to look for faults in the story or in the characters. I just can’t.
That’s why I think I enjoy her books so much. They do to me now what all books did to me as a child. They make the world around me disappear so completely that the only thing that exists is the book in front of me. The words surround me and carry me away, only letting me return to Earth once I’ve fully experienced every moment.
There’s nothing better than when an author can do that.
What I Didn’t Like:
Nada. Zip. Zero.
I loved it all, even the parts that made me choke on tears.
I’d Recommend To:
Now, as much as I loved this book, I know it’s not going to be for everyone. There are people who don’t enjoy regular historical fiction and I’m not sure alternate history is really going to work for them. But if you ever think about the “what if’s” of history, Andersen is the author you need to read.