Thursday, June 23, 2011
Pages: 368 (paperback)
Published: February 2011 by New American Library
Born into a first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald- known as Gera- finds her world overturned when Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family. Torn from the home she loves, her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, The Irish Princess follows the journey of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland.
The Tudor era-- and in particular the reigns of Queen "Bloody" Mary and her father King Henry VIII-- is as fascinating as it is gory. It never fails to astound me, how less than 500 years ago England was a place ruled by the iron and absolute will of a single monarch, the Tudor Court a place where you could lose your head or be sent to the Tower of London to waste away on the slightest whim of your King. Even though we often know the fates of the characters we read about in historical fiction (at least the true historical ones), personally I always develop stronger attachments to characters in historical books than in any others. Perhaps because they did live, and truly had to persevere through the horrors and circumstances of their times, which were almost unfailingly far darker than our modern world today.
The Irish Princess stars Gera Fitzgerald, a proud daughter of sixteenth century Ireland's most noble family and uncrowned kings. When her father loses favor with the brutal king Henry VIII, he is locked away in the Tower of London and the young Gera's five uncles and half-brother, Thomas the Silken, recklessly lead a rebellion and soon meet the siege of their beloved Maynooth Castle as King Henry tries to take back Ireland from the Geraldine-- Fitzgerald-- family who he entrusted it to years ago. Maynooth falls after a terrible treachery, and with it the Geraldine rule of Ireland and the happiness of Gera's childhood there. Her brother Gerald flees faraway in order to escape the wrath of the King, who orders her five uncles and half-brother drawn and quartered in England. Even as a young girl, Gera's bravery and devotion to her family and Ireland is powerful-- the scene where her uncles were taken away to die through the streets of England gave me chills, especially when the teenage Gera, hiding among the jeering crowds, took up the battle cry of her family: "A Geraldine! A Geraldine!"
Gera vows that she will someday kill the King who stole her family's lives and legacy, the man who took everything from her. She and her sisters and young brother, spared the horrible deaths met by the men of her family, are wretched from Kildare, Ireland, and taken to the Tudor Court. Gera meets the young princesses Elizabeth and Mary-- each of whom she grows to sympathize with despite her hatred for their father the King. Gera meets the handsome and enigmatic sea captain Edward Clinton at a young age-- and cannot deny her attraction to him, once again despite his loyalty to the hated King Henry. As she grows older and still cleverer, Gera becomes torn between two worlds-- the painful memory of her family's demise and the longing she feels for Ireland and her brother do battle with her love for the English Edward and her newfound friends at Court. Most of all, she struggles to defer politely to King Henry when at last she meets him in person, when she longs to fulfill her childhood vow that she will be the one to kill him.
This is the sprawling, yet single-minded story of a resourceful, snarky, and incredibly courageous young woman who by all rights should have been a princess but, due to tragic circumstances of Fortune, instead had to struggle to keep her very life and pretend loyalty to a King and a country whom she loathed with all her being. The Irish Princess was an emotional read for me as well as a thrilling one, and one which happily does not end with the tragedy with which it began. I cannot wait to seek out more of Karen Harper's books.
Overall Rating: 5/5 all around