When I first heard about The Usurper's Throne, I figured it was going to be a little similar to The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, since they both deal with British history in a novelized way. I read The White Queen a few years ago and liked it okay, but I ended up getting bored by the court intrigue and how hard it was to tell the characters apart, since so many of them have similar names. So I was a little worried that I might get lost in all the names in The Usurper's Throne, since British history is not one of my strong points.
I am overjoyed to say that my worry was completely unfounded. While I wished The White Queen would have been about a hundred pages shorter, I wished The Usurper's Throne was a hundred pages longer. It's that engrossing!
Happily, since I wanted more and more, this is book one in a projected series about the Tudor monarchs. I eagerly await the next book! Ms. Bishop had better write fast, because I want to dive into the next adventure right away.
The story here revolves around the marriage of Prince Arthur of England to Princess Katherine of Spain. Prince Arthur's father, King Henry, is desperate to secure his children's position as rightful heirs to the English throne, but he's beset by traitors. He hopes the alliance with mighty Spain will help dissuade potential usurpers. Together with his chief enforcer, Sir Thomas Lovell, he seeks to keep order in England at any cost. But a determined Duke of Suffolk wants to take the throne for himself, and various devious schemes twine through this book as Suffolk and the king try to thwart each other.
If all that sounds kind of confusing, don't worry! I had very little trouble telling various characters apart even though I am not well-versed in English history. Bishop's characterizations are sharp and vivid, and she's also included a list of characters at the beginning of the book, with their names, ages, what side they're on, and other useful facts.
I had two favorite characters in this book: Meg Pole and Sir Thomas Lovell. One is a heartsick, worried woman whose brother dies a traitor's death in the opening chapter, and the other is a wily, cunning, devious, but ultimately sympathetic cynic. Because I'm not very knowledgeable about English history, I had no idea if either of them were going to survive to the end of the book, which was very suspenseful!
Particularly Good Bits:
"Books are friends that never change even when abandoned."
"Never let an opportunity for benevolence pass unnoticed."
"There are many prisons in life, Margaret... I cast people into them as often as I pluck them from their depths."
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a soft R for a lot of sensuality and some language. It never quite crosses over to where I felt uncomfortable reading it myself, but I would not let a teen read it. There's a lot of suggestive dialog and sexual situations that are not described in detail, but are still more involved than I would recommend to anyone under 18. A lot of the plot revolves around whether or not Arthur and Katherine's marriage was ever consummated.
Full disclosure: I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given here.
You can pre-order the Kindle edition here, and the paperback should be available to pre-order soon. The official release date is November 24! Meanwhile, you can also check out the Goodreads page here.
This is my 11th book read and reviewed for the Adventure of Reading Challenge 2017 hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine.