I was lucky enough to get a proof copy of Cecily before it came out in July. My first thoughts were how beautiful the cover is! It’s extremely striking and is so much more modern than lots of other historical fictions novels. That aside, I was excited to read it. I’d already heard good things and I have a fondness for historical fiction, which I hadn’t really noticed about myself until I sat and went through my Goodreads one day.
by Annie Garthwaite
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the King who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unseen protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the blood and exhilaration of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.
This book is the story of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. Despite being the wife of Richard, Duke of York, and the mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III (and an instrumental part of their strategy to get the crown), Cecily is a forgotten name in history. I’ll be honest – I had no idea who she was before reading this! It’s crazy that this powerful and influential figure is just swept under the carpet in history classes.
If you know some British history, then you will know the ‘ending’ and what all the action is driving towards, but that doesn’t spoil it at all! You can go into this blind or with that prior knowledge, I think it’s a good read either way. What I liked in particular about this was experiencing the run-up to the War of the Roses from a woman’s perspective, seeing the decisions and sacrifices Cecily made in order to strengthen her family’s position. There’s so much twisting and turning, never knowing who is loyal and who is just using you as a wrung on their social ladder.
It’s definitely a plot-driven book and there are a lot of characters to keep up with. Plus every man is called Henry or George, or at least that’s what it feels like! The pace is good though and you are led through the events quickly building up to the tension at the end.
I love any story about a strong woman, particularly one that was brave enough to challenge the norm in a time where that was a dangerous thing to do.
If historical fiction is your thing, then I’d definitely add this one to your collection. I’m wondering what Annie Garthwaite will write next!
Let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought!