The Redheaded Princess
For all her royal blood, Elizabeth's life is fraught with danger and uncertainty. Sometimes she is welcome in the royal court; other times she is cast out into the countryside. With her position constantly changing, the Princess must navigate a sea of shifting loyalties and dangerous affections. At stake is her life--for beheading is not uncommon among the factions that war for the Crown.
With the vivid human touch that has made her one of the foremost writers of historical fiction, Ann Rinaldi brings to life the heart and soul of the young Elizabeth I. It's a portrait of a great leader as she may have been as she found her way to the glorious destiny that lay before her.
As a student with a passion for European history, in particular the Tudor era, I was looking forward to reading Ann Rinaldi's perspective on the growth of Elizabeth Tudor. The book spans her childhood and ends on the day she becomes Queen of England. Although I haven't read any of Rinaldi's other books, I've heard that they are rich in historical detail. That was true with THE REDHEADED PRINCESS, but, for the majority of the book, I was hard put to find any other positive points.
Many passages were written so passively that they could hardly hold a young adult's attention, let alone a middle grader's. Situations that should have been tense and aggravating were summed up as: "One minute she [Mary] was like a pussy cat, the next a tiger". Waiting for Edward to die and hearing of the rebellion Mary was raising against Jane Grey felt like watching paint dry.
To Rinaldi's credit, the friendship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley was well-drawn; her younger brother, Edward, had more than a cameo role (his role is usually miniscule in historical fiction set in this era); and the final chapter is what the rest of the book should have been. Indeed, that final chapter was almost enough to make up for what the book lacked. The way Elizabeth sat by the fireplace with everyone who cared about her, "bantering and making light talk", knowing that tomorrow things would change irrevocably ... it warmed my heart. The scene about the following morning, too, was powerful, and yet the novel ended on a breezy note of levity. Somehow, this seemed fitting.
Reading more like a prosaic textbook than a novel, THE REDHEADED PRINCESS was not the book I thought it would be. However, there is something to be said for the pluses I have already mentioned, and a book that is a somewhat happy medium between straight facts and fictionalized encounters. The ending was truly a gem.
(Reprinted here with author's permission.)