A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower
I just finished Alison Weir’s A Dangerous Inheritance, and I have to say it didn’t take my breath away. I had heard that Weir tended to be more historical than many other historical fiction writers. This certainly is true, but I guess sometimes reflecting the true historical events can leave a story a little flat.
The story follows two different girls in two different times, Katherine Plantagenet (Kate) and Katherine Grey, both navigating a dangerous court while dealing with the blessing/curse of having royal blood. The book also delves into the mystery of what exactly happened to the two young princes that disappeared into the Tower while England was under the rule of Richard the III, never to be seen again. I was interested in the book on several fronts.
First, while I find everybody can tell you everything about the Tudor line, I know very little about the Plantagenet family, which I believe ruled England for several centuries (I realize I need to look this up). And Richard the III is a fascinating character all around. Kate, as his bastard daughter, gives an interesting perspective into what kind of man he is (not a really great one, as it turns out in the end).
Then there’s the mystery of the princes, Edward and Richard, the heirs to the throne taken by Richard III for their “protection” and likely murder. Since I was a little girl, and read a ghost story book about their grisly fate and how they haunted the Tower to this day, I’ve wanted to know more about this, so it’s nice that the heroines in the book both strived to figure this mystery out as well.
I have a few beefs with the book, though. The first is that the storyline flips back and forth between Katherine and Kate almost at a page-to-page basis (Kate’s mother is Kat, for added confusion). This isn’t so bad, except that one character’s story is told from first-person perspective, the other from third-person. It’s a little jarring and I was constantly questioning the author’s reasoning behind it. Perhaps to add some clarity, since the two main characters have the same name? Anyway, it didn’t work for me.
My next issue is that maybe the story was a little too historical? There were some scenes where I questioned their relevance. I believe that the actual event or meeting in fact took place in real life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it needed to be included. And I feel there should be clear story arcs in fictional books, but I realize life doesn’t always work out that way. But when the end comes around and it looks an awful lot like: she learned nothing and then died, to me I feel it isn’t the greatest ending, even though it’s realistic. I’m not sure what could be done differently, but surely there are some liberties that can be taken for the sake of the story? I was disappointed with every character’s end.
And lastly, there was no end to my frustration that neither of the girls were very politically minded. You can’t tell me that, as a royal-blooded girl raised in the 15th or 16th century, you wouldn’t be taught from the very beginning how to play court games and why it’s necessary. Both characters threw everything away for love, while the men they loved used them and threw them away when it suited their politic gains. Why couldn’t the girls have been a little stronger? Katherine Grey does make some concessions, like changing her religion to increase her chances of being named successor under different regimes, but it’s something she does reluctantly and there a great deal of discussion about her tortured morality. Why can’t we have these girls playing the game and enjoying it? One endlessly-entertaining historical figure is Elizabeth I, who knew how to play the game and was awesome. She’s portrayed as jealous and angry through most of the book, as a foil to the pure-hearted Katherines, I suppose.
It was an interesting read, but I would have enjoyed more work done to develop the fictional plotline to work with the historical timeline. I give it 3 of 5 stars.
Word of the day:
Laconic: using few words, expressing much in few words, concise