The Lady of the Ravens (Queens of the Tower, Book 1)

Written by Hickson Joanna
Review by Karen Warren

Joan Vaux, a servant to Elizabeth of York, wife of King Henry VII, is the “lady of the ravens”. The novel follows the first half of Joan’s life, and her relationships with members of the royal family and their entourage. The backdrop to the story is the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses: plots and intrigues are rife, and the throne is not secure. For much of the time Joan lives in, or close to, the Tower of London. She becomes consumed by the legend that if the ravens leave the Tower then the kingdom will fall, and she makes it her mission to ensure that the birds are protected.

I found this book interesting because Tudor fiction tends to concentrate on the later monarchs, and Henry VII is comparatively neglected. Reading about the political turmoil, and the pretenders to the throne, makes it easier to understand why the next king, Henry VIII, was so desperate for an heir. Seeing the era through the eyes of a minor historical character gives a different perspective, as does the legend of the ravens (I was intrigued to discover that there is still a raven master at the Tower of London). And I liked the character of Joan, with her determination, love of learning, and ambivalence about her role as a woman. The author is planning a second book about Joan’s long and fascinating life: I look forward to reading it.