The Widow Queen (The Bold 1)

Written by Elzbieta Cherezinska
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

Set mainly in Poland, Denmark, and Sweden from about 984 to 997 AD, The Widow Queen is the story of Swietoslawa, daughter of Duke Mieszko I of Poland, whose lands are constantly under siege. Mieszko is a schemer, and he plans to promise his children in marriage, including Swietoslawa, in order to form alliances. Promises are either kept or broken, depending on what is best for Mieszko. Swietoslawa secretly wants to rule on her own but knows marriage is inevitable. She soon begins to live up to her name, which means “the bold one.” All of the players in Mieszko’s game are present in this book—Swietoslawa, her brother Boleslaw, their sisters, and all the suitors, wives, lovers, and husbands. Mieszko’s formidable wife at the time, Oda, is a threatening presence, constantly scheming to take Poland for her own sons. This the first book in The Bold series.

This is an interesting read. I learned a lot about the rulers and politics of Poland, Denmark, and Sweden at that time. Swietoslawa is either a real person, a legend, or a combination of the two, who may have been married to Eric the Victorious of Sweden and Sweyn (or Sven) Forked Beard of Denmark. She also may have been known as Sigrid Storrada. In The Widow Queen, the author combines legend with fact and fiction to share a tale of war, betrayal, love, hate, and revenge, as thrones change hands, and blood flows in constant quests for power.

This book would have benefited from a cast of characters in the front, as there are many players from different countries and many names to remember. However, I felt instantly transported and learned so much about this time period. Fans of 10th-century historical fiction will enjoy this entertaining but bloody tale.