Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sharon Kay Penman's "A Queen in Exile"

Now this is an author I've read before - specifically, Sharon's debut novel The Sunne in Splendour. Once I had digested the three first volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, oh, way back when, I was itching to delve deeper into medieval stories. Martin got me excited about the Wars of the Roses, which in turn led to my interest in Agincourt, the Hundred Years War, and all the other dramatic events of the Middle Ages. Among the many books I bought on the subject was Penman's. I've read half of it before I stopped reading. It was just too slow, too real if you know what I mean for my tastes. The style was too detached, not intimate and direct as in Martin's work. This style is the same many years later in "A Queen in Exile", but being condensed into a short work, Penman moves along at a brisker pace, fortunately. The story feels partially detached with entire sections reading more like a history book, while other parts go directly into Queen Constance's point of view which make the story more exciting. It is certainly the better of the two medieval/historical stories in the anthology so far, and I read it with interest because I didn't know much about these particular events surrounding the Queen (who is really more of an Empress, and is addressed as such in the story itself).

The most interesting thing was that the story of Constance seems to have inspired Martin, as I recognized several elements from history that make an appearance in A Song of Ice and Fire. Primarily, Constance finds herself in a tense situation that mirrors a situation Queen Cersei finds herself in; the Kingsguard of Westeros could be inspired by the imperial guards (and Sir Baldwin reminds me of Ser Jorah Mormont or a Kingsguard), and I couldn't help but think of Viserys' crowning when I read about someone receiving a red-hot glowing crown on his head.

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