Monday, December 11, 2017

The Girl Empress by Amy Mantravadi – Book Review

Mantravadi, Amy. The Girl Empress: The Chronicle of Maud - Volume I. 442 pp.

Somewhat recently, I stumbled across Amy Mantravadi’s blog, and based on the content would say she is Reformed Baptist. As a writer, she is no slouch: I may disagree with some of her conclusions, but nobody can say she is not careful and thorough, so when she announced earlier this year that her book would be released soon, I was intrigued and ordered a copy. You should do likewise.

This novel is the first-person narration of Mathilda (Maud) recounting life to her daughter beginning in early twelfth century England. She is promised by her father, King Henry I, to the German emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Henry V, in an arranged marriage to help unite England with the empire. Such an arrangement was commonplace, and as one might imagine, this period of history is fraught with intrigue as both pope and king vie for power and authority within their overlapping spheres of influence. Added to this is the need to maintain peaceful relations and cooperation between duchies within the empire. Any means possible to solidify the empire were welcome. Medieval royalty and ecclesiastical authority were also noted for maintaining propriety. This is brought out time and again throughout the novel within the royal court (the cover illustration is telling). While this helped maintain civility and order, there are sufficient opportunities for subterfuge and treachery, as well as disease and catastrophe with which the emperor must deal.

Many historical figures and locations are brought out in the book, and I noted one review that disapproved of using so much history. I thought it delightful. The author was able to accurately and interestingly bring together a great number of facts pertinent to the storyline. But then I like history. In addition, the author presents a fascinating tidbit in her introduction:
Empress Mathilda (1102–1167), commonly known by the name Maud, was a real person, the daughter of King Henry I of England and granddaughter of William the Conqueror. She is also my ancestor twenty-eight generations removed, through the Grey and Hungerford families. It is my sincere hope that her story will be told more fully in these novels than it has been before, and that the twelfth century will come alive for a new generation of readers.
Of course, she would want to make this work as accurate as possible with the number of political and geographical interactions. (As a sidebar, I have a feeling all or most these characters will play a part in future volumes.) In addition, because many language groups were governed by the empire, the author interweaved those into the narrative in an appropriate way according to the character whether Latin, German, Italian, or French. The reader need not fear these portions since the dialogue is written in order to allow the reader to understand their meaning; however, if you already have a grasp of them, so much the better.

In all, this was a first-rate read and I cannot wait until the next volume comes out. Besides her blog mentioned earlier, you can find a website dedicated to the novel series – The Chronicle of Maud.

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