It’s been a while since I read a historical fiction and I was VERY intrigued by The Widow Queen. Called The Bold Queen, The Widow Queen details the life of Swietoslawa as she navigates changing alliances and love. It’s an epic and expansive book that ended up keeping me reading till the very end. Keep reading this book review if European Historical Fiction is your thing!
The bold one, they call her—too bold for most.
To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire.
But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father’s schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side.
The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Widow Queen fascinated me with its promise to shed light on a previously forgotten queen. Women who exert power, who use their wiles and cunning, but who are never remembered. And with Cherezińska’s dedication I was even more in love. In many ways, this project seems like a love letter to all the women forgotten by history, who history chooses to forget. For women who are used as marriage alliances, only seen for their potential heir providing services, and not given a say. They have to fight for whatever power, influence, and security they want.
The Widow Queen takes place across Denmark, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Norway. It’s a world where power is only temporary and made for the taking. Where concealed knives and ambitions stretch across kingdoms. A world where women are used as pawns in these game and manipulations, but they have hidden and strong power. The Widow Queen is full of alliances and marriages, bards weaving history with songs, and carefully plotted blood soaked battles. Even though there were multiple characters that traveled throughout the world, my favorite had to be Swietoslawa.
Even though there were multiple characters, I felt like Swietoslawa stole the show and I began to just want to read her chapters. Not going to lie, I also liked Olav, but there were also some characters that I definitely didn’t care as much about. Even with Swietoslawa, and her vulnerabilities and strengths, I felt like I could have used a little more space for internal reflection. But it’s all about what you’re looking for: expansive and detailed histories or ones focused on character details – it’s all a matter of scale.
How we can chase power and security, using our lives as collateral, and still be so vulnerably in love. We all share dreams and smothered loves. Where a powerful women is seen as lacking a husband. Destiny becomes a force of reckoning that we’re never sure if we can either fulfill or conquer. The Widow Queen is intensely political. Where war demands blood and silver. It’s a world of change as Christianity gains steam and coins are created. Movements across Europe, battles won and played out which were put into motion years ago. I enjoyed the ways Cherezińska unfolds these histories within their lifetimes of betrayals, alliances, and veiled promises.