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43. 'The Constant Queen' by Joanna Courtney

Friday, 28 October 2016



‘You need not take England without me, Hari, because I will be your constant queen – there with you; there for you.’

Elizaveta is a princess of Kiev but that doesn’t stop her chasing adventure. Defying conventions she rides the rapids of the

Dnieper alongside her royal brothers and longs to rule in her own right as a queen.
Elizaveta meets her match when the fearsome Viking warrior Harald Hardrada arrives at her father’s court seeking fame and fortune. He entrusts Elizaveta to be his treasure keeper, holding the keys to his ever-growing wealth – and eventually to his heart.

Theirs is a fierce romance and the strength of their love binds them together as they travel across the vast seas to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. In 1066, their ambition carries them to the Orkneys as they plan to invade England and claim the crown…


Following hot on the heels of The Chosen Queen, The Constant Queen is the second instalment of the Queens of Conquest book series, and it does not disappoint. Again, I found myself drinking in every page, and did have to force myself not to rush through it to savour the enjoyment.  

I was absorbed into the story Joanna has weaved straight away, much as I was with TCQ. This time the spotlight is cast on the other eventual rivals for the throne of England, Elizaveta and Harald Hardrada of Norway. Kiev seemed very atmospheric, and her family and the ways of the court were extremely vivid, enabling me to picture the world the characters were encapsulated in. 

I really liked Elizaveta from the beginning, and elements of her character certainly felt familiar to me. I felt like a duck out of water as a child, wishing I had blonde hair much like Elizaveta envied her sister Anastasia for being everything she was not. I think most young girls go through this phase, especially comparing themselves to their mothers, siblings and later in life, against their rivals. She was also stubborn, blunt and completely fearless, which made her very endearing to me early on in the book. That's not to say she doesn't have annoying traits, and there were times towards the end where I would groan in despair at her restless, rebellious nature and her need to push for more, which would ultimately push her and Harald to a point of no return, with no happy ending. 

I enjoyed Joanna's portrayal of Harald, especially as we meet him when is is still young, aged 15 fleeing from the disastrous battle that led him to his mercenary path, and equipped him with the skills that he would become famous for, even to this day. It was interesting to follow his journey from rootless mercenary, to King of all Norway, and how he operated as a King. Viking blood ran strong through his veins, and his constant raiding in Denmark could only hold it at bay for so long. 

Also thrown into the mix, is Haralds hand-fast wife, Tora who is Elizaveta's opposite in every way. and a constant source of jealously and anxiety for Elisvita. Calm, cool and collected, Tora embodies qualities that do not come naturally to Elizaveta, not to mention the crucial part of bearing Harald sons. You sense how much of a failure Elizaveta felt, especially as during this period this was the sole responsibility of the Queen, to provide heirs for the kingdom. I came to care for Tora very much which is surprising given my feelings towards her at the beginning of the book - namely, 'get away from Harald, you hussy!'

I like how Joanna presented Elizaveta and Harald's courtship, and the passion leaps from the pages like flames licking across your skin. It's no bodice ripper ala Mills & Boons, but this is very tasteful and leaves you wanting more. She was his support and his drive when he needed it, and as a Viking King - what a better match than a Queen with the soul of a Viking? 

She weaves the different stories of the queens together well, and it is interesting to see a different side to the saga in the second book compared the the first. It puts a great spin on things, especially when you think you've cast your allegiance to one Queen, like I had at the end of TCQ, and it has really left me thirsty for more tales of the epic women of these unruly times. There are hints on mentions of the focus of the next instalment, Matilda of Flanders. For some reason I picture her to be even more formidable than her delightful husband, best known as William the Conqueror (or as I prefer, William the Bastard).

I highly recommend The Constant Queen, if historical fiction is your particular cup of tea. There is obviously a certain element of poetic license within the story as women were not typically documented as much as the men of the time, however Joanna has done this very well, and it really is not flowery at all, thankfully! She presents strong, fleshed out characters who challenge each other and provides a good overview of this period of history. As with her first instalment, it led me to start researching all of the characters within the pages of her books, which I enjoyed immensely as it added another layer to my understanding of medieval history which, lets face it, as a history lover is always a good thing! 
Rating: 5/5

Thank you to Jess from Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of The Constant Queen in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase a copy of The Constant Queen here. Be sure to check our Joanna's website for further information regarding her work, and she's very interactive on twitter too, tweet her at @joannacourtney1.

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