Finished March 3
The Northern Queen by Kelly Evans
This historical novel follows the life of Aelfgifu, a highborn woman of northern England. When Aethelred gained the throne, he took his revenge against Aelfgifu's family, creating in her a strong antipathy for her new ruler. The Danish king, Sweyn, is determined to dethrone Aethelred for his actions on St. Brice's Day in 1002 when Aethelred murdered thousands of Danish immigrants and their families with little warning. As Sweyn looks for allies within England, Aelfgifu is approached. Not only does she ally with Sweyn, but she soon marries his son Canute.
Thus begins the battle for England, that has Aethelred's wife Emma proving a strong force to maintain control of the land, and creating a personal rivalry between these two strong-willed women that will last throughout their lives.
Aelfgifu is a very interesting women, taught to read and write and do figures by her father who saw her potential, and an able ruler in her own right. She understands how to not only run a household, but an estate, a region, and possibly a kingdom. She doesn't abide fools however, and her disdain for those that don't see the logic of her actions can lead to the making of new enemies. She has a real love for Canute that is mutual, but their relationship also has political implications that sometimes forces them apart.
This novel brings Aelfgifu to life, letting the reader inside her experiences, her emotions, and her thoughts. The battle scenes are detailed, and the day-to-day activities drawn in a natural way that shows the real people. A great read.
This is a excellent first novel by a Canadian historian, and more is planned for this time period.
For another view on this time in history try Queen Emma and the Vikings by Harriet O'Brien.