Book Tour Review: The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Title: The Agincourt Bride
Author: Joanna Hickson
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Catherine de Valois #1
Pages: 578
Published: January 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

The epic story of the queen who founded the Tudor dynasty, told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid. Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory.

When her own first child is tragically still-born, the young Mette is pressed into service as a wet-nurse at the court of the mad king, Charles VI of France. Her young charge is the princess, Catherine de Valois, caught up in the turbulence and chaos of life at court.

Mette and the child forge a bond, one that transcends Mette’s lowly position.
But as Catherine approaches womanhood, her unique position seals her fate as a pawn between two powerful dynasties. Her brother, The Dauphin and the dark and sinister, Duke of Burgundy will both use Catherine to further the cause of France.

Catherine is powerless to stop them, but with the French defeat at the Battle of Agincourt, the tables turn and suddenly her currency has never been higher. But can Mette protect Catherine from forces at court who seek to harm her or will her loyalty to Catherine place her in even greater danger?

Historical fiction author Joanna Hickson kicks off her Catherine de Valois series with the hefty The Agincourt Bride -- a story that revolves around Princess Catherine but is not narrated or written from her perspective. Instead a commoner/wetnurse named Guillaumette ("Mette") serves as the book's main protagonist and narrator for the nearly 600-page duration. Her devotion to her mistress is apparent early on and Mette ably guides the story through years of Catherine's tumultuous life in the 14th century court of France.

The unknown narrator allowed for a fresh approach to a royal story; though Catherine is not written about as much as her genre counterparts (like the Tudors/Plantagenets), her story is recognizable but still original. The author has all the facts and details covered, woven into the narration. One thing about The Agincourt Bride is that it is obvious how much time and research went into crafting and recreating the world and time Mette and Catherine would have lived in. That devotion to description can make certain sections and times covered feel bland in comparison or more dry.... and the book can feel very long.

While Mette herself comes across the page as a real, viable person, Catherine can seem remote, or too idealized by her nurse and our narrator. Even on the few occasions when Catherine acts out of sorts or rudely, it's either immediately dismissed or glossed over by Mette's narration. Her single-minded view makes Catherine more a caricature of a famous historical person rather than a fully-fledged and imagined version of her. I liked that Catherine was smart, capable, and determined, but the ability to see her from more than one viewpoint would have enhanced the overall story and impact.

The first in a series, The Agincourt Bride is an excellent place to launch the introduction of such a compelling story. There's more than enough foundation and detail to support the final two books, and Hickson ends her novel on a great hook. Catherine de Valois was a fascinating woman and I am curious to see how this author continues to interpret the rest of Catherine's complicated and fascinating life story.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a wonderful start to a fascinating series - I can't wait to read it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.


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