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Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin…
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Isabella: Braveheart of France

by Colin Falconer

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Isabella of France, Queen consort of English King Edward II, is best known for her affair with English baron Roger Mortimer and, with Mortimer's help, for ousting Edward II from the throne. Although early to mid-14th century England is not a period in which I'm overly familiar, I've read enough works featuring Edward II to have an understanding of the basic facts, and to know that Isabella, sometimes referred to as the She-Wolf of France, is not well regarded by history. As such, I gladly accepted the opportunity to review Colin Falconer's latest work of historical fiction, Isabella: Braveheart of France, which chronicles Isabella's life from her final days as a young girl in France to the overthrow and imprisonment of her husband.

Falconer's novel, at least in the early pages, presents Isabella as a sympathetic figure. Married to Edward II at the age of 12, Isabella wants nothing more than to love her husband and be loved by him in return. But Edward already has a favourite, Piers Gaveston, a man detested by England's barons. Despite not having Edward's heart, Isabella keeps faith with her husband and, using the training in the art of politics provided by her father - French King Philip IV - continues to offer her support in his rule of England. When Gaveston is killed Edward is devastated, but Isabella sees it as an opportunity to win her husband back to her side. Her hopes are short-lived, however, when a new favourite - Hugh le Despenser - takes Gaveston's place. While Isabella had come to accept Gaveston being a part Edward's life, she despises Hugh le Despenser as much as Edward's barons do. Ultimately it is Despenser's hold over Edward and the King's failure to take heed of the advice of both Isabella and his barons that compels Isabella, who has begun her affair with Roger Mortimer, to rebel. It is also at this point of the novel where my sympathies for Isabella began to wane, as I felt she allowed Mortimer far too much influence over her decisions.

Overall, Isabella: Braveheart of France is good book. I think Falconer does a nice job of showcasing Isabella's struggles to make her marriage work and to fulfill her duties as Queen consort. While I didn't always agree with Isabella's decisions, especially those made later in Edward II's reign, Falconer was able to make me understand her reasons for taking them. I also liked Falconer's portrayal of Edward II who, although clearly not cut out for kingship, was steadfastly loyal to the few people he trusted. While Isabella is the novel's principal protagonist, the reader is exposed to enough of Edward to garner an appreciation for why his barons took such issue with his rule. Even though I liked the book overall, I nevertheless did have a few issues minor issues with the story. The quick pace of the book makes it an easy read, but I found some events were covered a little too quickly. This ties into my next issue, which is that novel introduces a number of different barons without providing an adequate explanation of who they are or how they fit into the story. Given that it is Isabella and the barons who ultimately bring Edward II down, additional explanation as to who's who and the source of their grievances against Edward would have been helpful. In the end, however, the novel's strengths outweighed the few issues I had with it and for this reason I found it a satisfying read. While Colin Falconer has written a number of works of historical fiction, Isabella: Braveheart of France is the first of his works I've read and it won't be the last.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
I hate to give negative ratings, but this is a book I came to hate. I 'read' it as an audiobook, so maybe it wasn't as bad as the written or kindle edition. First, it's written in third person with short sentences that proceed staccoto like - making it hard to follow or get involved in the characters and story. It's an interesting story, but really terribly told [and I've read another of Falconer's books and enjoyed that, so am disappointed in this work] ( )
  VictoriaJZ | Aug 4, 2015 |
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher as part of the blog tour.

Isabella: Braveheart of France is the story of Queen Isabella and her husband Richard II. I had thought I knew everything I needed to know about there ugh of Richard II after reading Shakespeare's play and studying it in college. Turns out there's quite a bit that isn't covered in the scope of Shakespeare's historical play, and much of it is very interesting.

Isabella is the daughter of France and very obedient to her father and then her husband, Edward. Thing is, Edward is...gay? Although he's married to her he's in love with another man. It tears their marriage apart and muddles the politics of England like nothing else. It's so interesting to think about this sort of thing and how it was dealt with back then. I wonder though, how many people actually think Richard II had male lovers that made him lose his throne? Or that he never really was killed and instead made a daring escape? I admit I'm curious enough to google it after reading this book.

I found this book had achieved the delicate balance between historical accuracy and interesting plot. I know this is a. Difficult balance to achieve in historical fiction; and oftentimes I become bored or overwhelmed with facts when reading and it's hard to remain engaged. That wasn't so with this novel. I found it'd as I hating and really wanted to know what happened. I admire Queen Isabella a lot; what a strong woman she was!

I recommend this book to those who like historical fiction and strong female leaders. It's a great story that fans of Philippa Gregory will certainly adore. ( )
  Diamond.Dee. | Jul 3, 2015 |
Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and I am familiar with the story of Isabella. It is hard to imagine Isabella was only 12 yrs when she married. What turbulent times she had to endure during her life! This is the first time that I have read any of Colin Falconer books and shall now be on the lookout at my local library for more. I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  JeanetteS | Jun 6, 2015 |
I didn’t know very much in regards to Isabella's story so I was really looking forward to reading Isabella: Braveheart of France. The story begins on the night before twelve-year-old Isabella is to wed Edward II, this marriage has been arranged to mend relationships between England and France. Isabella has been raised to be a queen and considers herself a “true daughter of France”, she wants nothing more than to please her father and fall madly in love with her husband. She soon learns that although her husband seems nice, he doesn’t exactly share her sentiment in feelings. This is because Edward is in love with another man, a revelation that tortures Isabella because she absolutely adores him.

This could have been a fascinating novel, instead I found myself confused, often scratching my head & wondering if I was missing something. I understood that I was reading an ARC and therefore it hadn’t undergone its final editing but the sheer amount of errors just blew me away. Also, the sentence structure was so short and choppy, with a new chapter every few pages, that it left me completely unconnected to the characters and their story. The outline for the story was fantastic and so much could have been done with it. I would honestly love to talk to the author and ask him why he chose to write in such a style. At one point early on, I actually thought this book was intended for middle school aged children, that’s how simplistic the writing is. If that was the case, I was determined to look at and read this book in a new light and would have probably rated it slightly higher. I checked on Amazon to see if my suspicion was right, but no, this is not a children’s or a YA novel.

In order to give an accurate review I felt compelled to finish this book, I was also hoping at some point the storyline and writing style would pick up, but it did not. Unfortunately, this is not a book that I would recommend.

**I received a complimentary advanced copy of this book from the publisher, Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review**
( )
  jenladuca | May 22, 2015 |
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