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.

Judith Tarr

User avatar
Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 921
Joined: September 2008
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Queen of Swords

Post by Kveto from Prague » Sat March 12th, 2011, 6:44 pm

I like to read just about anything set in the crusader kingdom of oultremer, especially if it gives insight to the life and lifestyle of the Franks living there. so this book was right up my alley. In my opinion it was a good book, not a great book but it could have been.

Its set during the reign of Melisandre and her husband Fulk. She was a really interesting character, a queen in a constant warring kingdom. (the frankish kingdoms had a lot of female rulers, mostly because the men got killed off at such a high rate. it was pretty common for women to go through 3 or 4 husbands due to death and disease) Melisandre was queen by inheritance and her husband became king through her. as far as i know this is the only fiction to centre on her and a rare book set in the hight of the kingdom of jerusalem (most crusader kingdom books are focused on the begining or the end of the kingdom)

The novel follows two main characters, the real Queen melisandre and her fictional maid, Richildis.

Overall, the author really captures the feel of the time and the fantastic dichotomy between Melisandre and her husband. they had a true love/hate relationship with the older Fulk truely falling in love with his arrainged bride.

trying to avoid too many spoilers, the author really shows both Melisandres strengths and weaknesses and ultimately, while she was a good leader, she was also corrupted with her power. ultimately, a very human character. While i didnt completely agree with the interpretation of her character (I feel her armenian background was much more influential in real life while not mentioned in the novel), overall the feel of the royal characters was quite right with no one acting out of character (according to what ive read on the subject)

The part of the novel that was less enthralling wasa the account of the fictional characters, Richlidis and her family. A lady from France who came to collect her brother from oltremer and return him to his lordship in france. I found these fictional characters much less believable or interesting than the historical personages. They unfortunately fit into the catergory of anti-stereotypes. for me, an anti-sterotype is when a character is created to be the exact opposite of a stereotype. it has the effect of the author saying, "Look, the stereotypes are not true"

Richildis was a noble lady who suddenly become an expert with a bow and arrow when attacked (anyone who has used a bow knows that it is not like a gun. you don't just pick it up and use it effectively) her brother is the Frankish lord who refuses to take his inheritance. His mistess is the liberated Islamic woman (because thats the opposite of the stereotype) who is very upfront about her sexuality. The Byzantine greek character is loyal and honest (because the byzantine stereotype from the frankish view is the opposite). It just makes the characters feel as unreal as actual stereotypes. I found myself only interested in the historical personages.

I did enjoy the book a lot. I just wish the author had concentrated on the actual historical personages and their interesting story and left the fictional characters out (or balanced them a bit more). its just my opinion of course. I would read a sequel about Melisandres son, Baldwin III, if Ms. Tarr wrote it.

Post Reply

Return to “By Author”