You can find this book here.
Pemberton’s novel is a well-detailed historical novel, following three grandchildren of Queen Victoria: May, Alicky and Willy. If you are well-versed in modern history or the British royals, you may well know these characters already, or maybe you don’t know them as well as you think you do.
The novel follows the lives of May, Alicky and Willy and how they were bound together one day through a blood pact. If you read the tagline on the cover: ‘Her broken oath would cast an empire into turmoil’, then you can be sure that the consequences of their future by these characters are linked to the fact that the blood pact between the three of them does not remain. Whether their futures become what they do because a blood pact was broken or not, can easily be debated by you.
Their futures could also be shaped by who they are. May for example, is not a true royal and living with this truth around royals makes her feel like an outsider. Alicky is strong-willed, but never recovered over her mother’s death, even when she falls in love with the man she thinks she will be with for eternity. And finally, Willy, who was born with a birth defect that his parents were ashamed of and tried hard to “fix”, making him hide who he really is and becomes someone else.
Pemberton has researched her history well to create a family saga that is rich, and dare I say gritty, with detail. The characters are relatable; even when things start to break down for each of them, I still felt for them: I wasn’t distanced from them. Pemberton writes with flair regarding the settings, the architecture, the clothing … everything you need for a strong historical saga. I will say; however, that some things are repeated in the descriptions and memories. Whilst this could be reminiscent of human reminiscences, I found it a little jarring.
I did also find the list of characters sometimes confusing and couldn’t keep up. However, the more I made it through the novel, the better I became at handling this. Without it, would it really be so saga-like? There are family trees at the beginning for you to be aware of; but you can also be sure that the three main protagonists are not lost in this novel either.
If you enjoy reading about a lot of characters, historical fiction, or even royal families, this book is a good read. Whilst I am unsure how much is poetic licence (it is fiction, so there will be some); I still really enjoyed it.
Links for you:
Book list of Pemberton in the library here.
Title read-a-likes in the Library:
This book is set further in history, but is within the same genre, is descriptive and has a strong sense of place. The characters are strong females (which May could be), though it is a much more suspenseful novel.
Christopher (or C. W.) Gortner
This book is also historical; however, is more focussed on mystery than family sagas.
Read-a-likes in cloudLibrary:
Barbara Taylor Bradford
This series is historical in nature and has elements of family saga within. It is also written as descriptively as Pemberton’s novel.
A select bibliography:
Alix & Nicky: the passion of the last Tsar and TsarinaAlix & Nicky : the passion of the last Tsar and Tsarina
Julia Baird (also Julia Woodlands)