Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Queen's Gambit: A Novel of Katherine Parr by Elizabeth Fremantle

The Tudor Trilogy # 1
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 6th, 2013
14 hours and 24 minutes (Audiobook);464 pages (Kindle)


Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived...

This is the story of the last wife of Henry VIII, the one who survived.

Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful monarch Henry VIII, who dispatches Seymour to the continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of King Henry’s previous wives, Katherine is obliged to become his sixth queen.

Katherine must employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by past events shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant, Dot, who sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine’s survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor’s edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

What Did I Think About the Story?


I listened to the audiobook version of Queen's Gambit months ago but have been struggling with exactly what to say about it this whole time. I absolutely ADORED the audiobook for Freemantle's novel Sisters of Treason, in fact it was one of my top books of the year, so I had extremely high hopes for this one. Now, having mulled over it for a while, I can say that, while I did enjoy the story, it just didn't live up to the high expectations I had for it going in.

First off, I wasn't crazy about the narrator. In the audiobook for Sisters of Treason we had three female perspectives, each with her own narrator, and this really helped me differentiate between each storyline and added to my appreciation and sympathy for the struggles each main characters went through. In Queen's Gambit there is one narrator for our three main alternating perspectives - that of Katherine, her step daughter, Meg, and their maid, Dot - and I found that the narrator didn't change things up enough for me to clearly and easily figure out who's perspective I was listening to at any given time. Perspectives often changed within chapters and the narration didn't pause enough between the breaks for me to immediately know we had even had a switch. This wouldn't have been a big deal if I was reading the story myself, but as an audiobook I found this frustrating. The fact that this is historical fiction with a lot of players and moving parts it just became too much to keep track of.

Now, as far as the actual story goes, there were a lot more positive aspects for me to enjoy. Queen's Gambit was a lot darker than I was expecting, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I enjoyed that, mixed in with the more commonly known parts of Katherine's life (her long-smoldering love for Thomas Seymour, her reluctant marriage to Henry VIII, etc.) were many aspects I was not aware of, which is always a plus when reading about a much discussed topic like the Tudors. I felt the author did an exceptional job of making all the characters feel extremely real and flawed and I appreciated this as it made it feel very believable to me. I can't say that I particularly liked  most of the characters, but to be honest I don't necessarily need to to enjoy their journey and appreciate where the story takes me. This being said, I did absolutely LOVE Dot's character and enjoyed her story arc the most. She gave me that "fly on the wall" aspect into the inner sanctum of Henry VIII's court as well as Katherine's gatherings that I always enjoy, but also takes the reader into the kitchen and servant areas as well as onto the dirty streets of London and even a dank prison cell! I couldn't get enough of Dot and really enjoyed how her portion of the story ended.

Overall I would say I enjoyed aspects of Queen's Gambit even if I can't say I loved it or most of its characters. I have a paperwork copy of Freemantle's novel Watch the Lady to read and I think the fact that I will be going into it with more realistic expectations than when I began Queen's Gambit and that I will be reading it myself as opposed to listening to the audiobook version will really help my enjoyment of it. Freemantle really is an exceptional writer, I just have to find my perfect way to experience her writing.


What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's okay. The woman on the cover is holding the chess piece, which Katherine definitely represents in Henry VIII's court, but beyond that it could represent any novel taking place during this doesn't really stand out or represent this novel in particular. 

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

I purchased this Kindle/Audiobook version for my own library and my review was not influenced by anything or anyone else.


  1. I thought your comments about how the narration of an audio book makes an enormous difference were so true. A good narration can really suck you in, whereas a bad one can ruin a book.I enjoyed this book on the page. Thank you for hosting my interview on Thursday, too.

    1. Thank you, Deborah! Yes, I've listened to some spectacularly narrated audiobooks (Sisters of Treason being one of them) and others that pull me away from the story more than into it. I have the Kindle version of this as well as audiobook so I might try reading it to see if that helps my appreciation....someday when I actually have time to start rereading books as opposed to trying to widdle down my TBR :). And you are very welcome about the interview...I had so much fun doing it!

  2. Wow! I can't believe this. I have had this book on my TBR shelved for a few years and decided to read it. I am a little more than 3/4 of the way into and I love Dot too.

    I usually like women for women rolss on audio books. But I had a hardback copy so that didn't matter. I loce the cover of the hardback because matches the description of her red wedding dress in the book. This reading experience was a success for me. Maybe the written word is better than the audio if the audio is not handled well.

    1. Hi Carol! Yes, I totally agree that the written word, especially when it comes to historical fiction, probably wins out over audio unless the narrators are spectacular. So glad you are enjoying it and thank you for stopping by :)!