Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Legacy" by Susan Kay

If you're looking for a cursory glance into Elizabeth Tudor's life, this isn't it. This book has astonishing depth, to the point the characters are almost real people. It also is dense, with lots of peripheral characters' point-of-views dispersed throughout.

Although this is historical fiction, it's clear that Susan Kay took great pains for this to be accurate. For example, during the first part of the book, there was a mention of a relative of Elizabeth's getting handsy when she was fourteen. I thought that was maybe just a rumor, but apparently it's widely accepted as fact- the author even used the exact wording you can find online (and the internet wasn't publicly available when she wrote this).

The Plot:
A fictionalized account of Elizabeth Tudor's life, from her experiences as a daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to how she became the queen we all know, Elizabeth I of England.

You definitely get a feel for period clothing while reading this book- I even had to Google what a snood was (essentially it's a hood that covers the hair). Additionally, there were codpieces, ruffs, and multiple descriptions of Queen Elizabeth all blinged out. Because diamonds were a girl's best friend, even in the Elizabethan era.

This book has aged well for something written in the eighties, but there were some elements that turned me off. For a mildly spoilerish example (Highlight to view), the character of Robin (Robert Dudley, as he's more commonly known) Duke of Leicester has a scene with Elizabeth where he thinks "...for years he'd dreamed of raping her." That's so romantic (NOT). That is also why I refuse to label this a romance even though the 'love' story features strongly, because clearly there is nothing remotely romantic about the way he views his Queen. If I were Elizabeth, I'd have him hanged.

Speaking of Elizabeth, this book may be about her, but the sheer amount of side characters (and sections told from their point of view) give you a better feel for what she was like. Feared, revered, and sometimes mocked, she remains strong throughout the book despite her circumstances. I think the best part of the book is the descriptions of her early life, and how, in a way, she was essentially an orphan, almost always a ward to someone other than her parents.

Legacy may be one of the better portrayals of Elizabeth Tudor the human being. Although some of the characters irked me to no end, none of them were one-dimensional. If you want to be immersed into the life of royalty during the Elizabethan Era, this is your book.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a story of a Queen who was just as fallible as the rest of us.

Content: Ages 18+ for violence, irksome thoughts, and sex scenes.

Page Count: 570 pages in my hardcover edition.

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