Emma struggles to deal with the realities of her new life in the strange land with a husband she quickly learns to despise. She is able to make a few friends--most importantly, Athelstan, the king’s eldest son and heir. Athelstan has all the intelligence and steadiness that a king should have, everything his father does not.
Unfortunately, the only way for Emma to have any real standing in England is for her to produce a son. Once she does, the son will become a rival for the throne. She and Athelstan are aware of the difficulties that could cause for their relationship, but so long as there is no baby, there is no threat to Athelstan’s inheritance unless it comes from outside England.
At the same time, Athelred’s unending missteps have brought the wrath of the Danes upon England. Their leader, Swein Forkbeard, is determined to add England to his list of conquests, and it seems Athelred will be powerless to stop him.
Bracewell does a good job imagining the lives of these characters and places them in a vividly realistic, often brutal, historical setting. I’d recently read The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick and enjoyed seeing a different take on the same storyline. Shadow on the Crown covers a shorter segment of the queen’s life, taking us only into 1005. I suspect a sequel is in the works, since Emma’s life becomes increasingly exciting from here.
The historical fiction challenge 2013 is hosted by Historical Tapestry.