Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Fatal Majesty by Reay Tannahill

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 3066
Joined: August 2008
Location: North Carolina

Fatal Majesty by Reay Tannahill

Post by boswellbaxter » Wed August 27th, 2008, 4:44 pm

Reay Tannahill's Fatal Majesty is about Mary, Queen of Scots, and I liked it even better than The Seventh Son, her novel about Richard III. It's written in a similar style, with a very dry, sardonic tone to the narration.

Fatal Majesty switches back and forth between the English court and the Scottish court, and has a very wide cast of characters--wide enough, in fact, to be rather confusing for someone who isn't intimately familiar with the main players of the time. Most of the characters act entirely in their own self-interest, like so many spiders spinning their webs, and it is the convergence of these webs that eventually engulfs and destroys Mary.

Though Tannahill is sympathetic toward Mary, one gets a sense of distance, especially in the latter half of the novel. Indeed, Tannahill's favorite character seems to be Mary's Secretary of State, Lethington, which gives rise to what I thought was the novel's major flaw: once Lethington makes his final exit, Tannahill becomes far less engaged with her material, making the last fifty pages a bit of chore to get through. Tannahill covers thirty years in those fifty pages, and although there's a lot of intrigue packed in those years and pages, I found myself skimming. Worse, Mary herself appears only occasionally in them. That may have been to drive home the point that she was little more than the pawn of others during that time, but I would have liked to have seen more of Mary nonetheless. Still, this is a 450-plus-page novel, and the pleasure of reading the first 400 pages, packed full of excellent characterizations and dry wit, more than makes up for the relative weakness of the last fifty pages.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


User avatar
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 675
Joined: September 2008
Currently reading: Jonkvrouw - Jean-Claude Van Ryckeghem
Interest in HF: I love history
Favourite HF book: Can't pin that down to only 1 :-)
Preferred HF: Medieval, Tudor and Ancient Egyptian
Location: Ghent, Belgium

Post by Carine » Tue September 16th, 2008, 12:57 pm

I just bought this book in a second hand bookshop here and glad to find a review of it here on our forum ! :)

User avatar
Posts: 1641
Joined: August 2008
Location: London, UK

Post by sweetpotatoboy » Tue September 16th, 2008, 1:54 pm

Sitting pretty on my TBR!!

User avatar
Posts: 3661
Joined: August 2008
Location: Nottingham UK

Post by EC2 » Tue September 16th, 2008, 3:47 pm

Thanks for the review Boswell.
They have this one in the library, so I may well borrow it at some point. I've thoroughly enjoyed several of Reay Tannahill's novels, although I found The Seventh Son somewhat indifferent and meh, so it'll be interesting to see what she makes of MQOS.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal


Post Reply

Return to “By Author's Last Name R-Z”