A Secret Alchemy – Book Review

a secret alchemy A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

Una Pryor is an historian planning to write about Edward IV’s Queen Elizabeth and her brother Anthony Woodville and what their libraries said about them.  First, however, she has pressing personal business to attend to.  Dealing with the loss of her husband, Una returns to England where she finds her uncle and the family business both in a state of disarray.  Intertwined with Una’s story is that of the Woodvilles – think War of the Roses, Princes in the Tower – and told from their own perspectives.  Sharon Kay Penman has made me somewhat of a fan of Richard III, but I found myself feeling complete sympathy for Anthony and Elizabeth, both of whom seemed to be doing their best in the situations in whih they found themselves.

I enjoyed the part of Una’s storyline about trying to preserve her family business and her past, but my favorite part of the story was definitely that of the Woodvilles.  Seeing things from their perspective was definitely unique for me.  Typically Elizabeth is a villain in most stories of Edward IV and the War of the Roses, a controlling woman who forces her family into positions of power despite their not being qualified.  In “A Secret Alchemy,” though, she is a completely sympathetic character and Anthony is only trying to do what is best for the country and his nephews.

Throughout most of the book I really wasn’t sure how the two stories interconnected.  By midway through the book, it was actually starting to bother me a bit.  Una kept talking about how she was going to research what Elizabeth and Anthony read, but their storyline had nothing to do with that.  Nor did it directly relate to Una’s storyline in any other way.  By the end, however, Darwin tied the two storylines together in a satisfying way.  Really, though, even when I didn’t know how the stories were connected I was enjoying both of them.  The way Darwin tied them together just made the book more cohesive.

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