There are few ways of approaching a story that ventures into historical fiction, stories with the odd bit of history thrown in for good luck or to validate a time period, fiction that imagines a different narrative of history and stories with inaccurate historical facts.
Then you have the authors, who like Anne O’Brien, incorporate their story within the confines of accurate historical narratives, obviously with a wee bit of artistic licence here and there, thereby making it more than just a read. It is an experience of culture, learning and history.
In Queen of the North O’Brien takes the reader to the events in 1399, and although they aren’t given as much attention as the events that unfold a few decades later, they are pivotal to said events. They are the seeds that are sown, which bring about the later catalyst and murderous power struggles between the York and Lancaster cousins of the Plantagenet house.
From the very beginning one thing is clear about Elizabeth, she will never forget the fact she is a Mortimer or the legitimacy of their claim to the throne. Her loyalty to the name comes before any loyalty towards her husband, the Percy family and even her own children.
In fact I would go so far as to claim hypocrisy, because the political power plays and machinations of the men she is surrounded by are no different to her own secret plans and ploys. Fluttering eyelashes, sweet voices and wiles of a woman, all in the name of her own agenda. Elizabeth has to take a step back and consider her own portion of guilt in regards to her husband, his untimely death and the desecration of his corpse.
Along with her propensity for elaborate prose and descriptive writing, O’Brien’s powerful characters are what I enjoy the most about her books. She is in a class of her own, and in my personal opinion belongs up there with the best.