Queen of Shadows – Book Review

Edith Felbar’s Queen of Shadows is the story of Queen Isabella of England, later called the “She-Wolf of France”, queen of King Edward II. Isabella’s story is told by the fictional Gwenith, a Welsh woman who comes to court to serve her. Although Gwenith’s original motive for coming to court is to exact revenge upon Edward for his father’s cruel treatment of her people, she grows to love the Queen she serves.

Edward was an alleged homosexual (although not so ‘alleged’ in Felbar’s novel) who was, like Queen Victoria in Plaidy’s book, frequently ruled by the men around him. In this way he is ruled by the Hugh the Despensers, Elder and Younger. Hugh the Younger (and by some accounts Hugh the Elder as well) was another of Edward’s alleged lovers and exacted a great deal of power of Edward in their relationship, alienating much of the country, including Isabella. The climax of the book, and of Isabella’s story comes in her attempt to take power for herself and her son, and to overthrow the rule of the Despensers.

Queen of Shadows seemed fairly clearly to be a well-researched book, and it was certainly good, but definitely not fantastic. At some points the book moved too quickly through seasons and years, which kept me from gaining much empathy for the characters (real people!) and their emotional states. Yes, you could understand Isabella’s fury at her treatment at the hand of the Despensers, but you could not truly feel it.

This book is another that I would recommend to those who read historical fiction for the specific purpose of having a quick, accessible introduction to historical events. If you are interested in the basic storyline of Edward II and Queen Isabella, by all means read this book. If you want a great novel, there are probably other things that you could choose.

Buy this book on Amazon: Queen of Shadows: A Novel of Isabella, Wife of King Edward II

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