45. 'Conquest: Daughter of the Last King' by Tracey Warr

Sunday 4 December 2016

1093. The three sons of William the Conqueror Robert Duke of Normandy, William II King of England and Count Henry fight with each other for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom created by their father s conquest. Meanwhile, Nest ferch Rhys, the daughter of the last independent Welsh king, is captured during the Norman assault of her lands. Raised with her captors, the powerful Montgommery family, Nest is educated to be the wife of Arnulf of Montgommery, in spite of her pre-existing betrothal to a Welsh prince. Who will Nest marry and can the Welsh rebels oust the Normans? 'Daughter of the Last King' is the first in the Conquest Trilogy.

Although I have always known the basics of the Norman invasion of Britain, I did not know the extend of which the Normans tried to take over Wales. I vaguely knew the name Nest ferch Rhys, not from history lessons in school, but rather from my constant googling after reading more fiction during this time. I was very kindly sent a copy of Conquest by Impress Books in exchange for an honest review, which I will gladly provide!
Tracey Warr certainly provides a dramatic history of this period, from the very first moment you begin in Chapter One. All of the characters are fleshed out thoroughly, even those you only encounter briefly. They remain with you throughout the course of the novel, especially Nest's family I felt. It gave her a very relatable  dimension - a royal hostage within the Norman court, squirrelled away within a Norman family to train her in the new ways, for future Norman gains. You are immediately hanging on every page, desperate to discover where Nest's plight will next take her. 
Watching over Nest is Sybil de Montgommery, part of the prominent Montgommery family, whom Nest comes to care for, despite the circumstances of her capture. Sybil's husband FitzHammon plays a significant role throughout the vein of the story, as does Sybil's brother Arnulf. Nest must find her footing a her new environment, which is traumatic enough when you consider that under her father's rule there had been many years of peace. Upon Nest's father's death, her whole world and future is plunged into uncertainty. She has to rely on her wits and intelligence to navigate through the dangerous world she now finds herself in. 
The backdrop of Nest's new world is one of turmoil, as the sons of William the Conqueror fight amongst themselves for power. The Wheel of Fortune always features within historical fiction, and Conquest is no different, perfectly showing how the Montgommery family reach to far on their rise to power, and ultimately lose their grasp of power while Nest ascends to the court of King Henry I. I'll leave the reader to come to their own opinion of Henry I, for I still cannot make up my mind if I loathe him, or can accept him as he is. 
Warr is an engaging writer, and I very much enjoyed the tale she wove over the course of the book. She is artful at playing the reader's heartstrings, especially when you believe that Nest is at last going to achieve happiness and control over her own life. Warr dangles this tidbit enticingly before you and at the very last moment snatches it away in the only way a complete curveball can. 
There were parts of the book I could have done without, namely the parts of correspondence between Haith and his sister Benedictina. While I understand that they serve to provide insight and background information that Nest would not be aware of, and help to move the story along I did not find I made a connection to either of the two characters and was desperate to get through their parts to find out what was happening with Nest, although this is my personal preference and you may well enjoy their interludes. 
I would highly recommend Conquest to those of you who have enjoyed Joanna Courtney's 'Queens of Conquest' series (which I have also reviewed), as this is definitely along the same vein as her work, which I also very much enjoyed. Well written and researched, you will find as I did that I could not put this book down from the moment I started it. I practically inhaled the content and finished the book within 2 days, which is always a good sign. I am now hungry to continue the world Warr has created, and hope to read more about Nest, as after a spree of googling I see her story does not quite end where the book does!
Rating: 5/5
Find out more about Tracey Warr here and here
Purchase Conquest here
Twitter: @ImpressBooks1 + @TraceyWarr1
Have you read Conquest? If so what did you think? Do you have any new medieval historical fiction you could recommend - comment below if so, I'd love to read your suggestions!


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