1483, Westminster. The bells toll for the dead King Edward IV, while his rivaling nobles grasp for power. His daughter Cecily can only watch as England is plunged into chaos, torn between her loyalties to her headstrong mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and her favourite uncle, Richard of Gloucester. When Elizabeth schemes to secure her own son on the throne that Richard lays claim to, Cecily and her siblings become pawns in a perilous game.
The Yorkist dynasty that Cecily holds so dear soon faces another threat: the last Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor. Meanwhile, Cecily battles with envy towards her older sister, who is betrothed to Tudor.
The White Rose of York has turned its thorns inwards, and royal blood proves fatal…
Princess of Thorns is a sweeping tale of loyalty and treason, ambition and family bonds.
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Quotes from Goodreads:
”Wow! This book is absolutely amazing! It is moving, heart-wrenching, emotional, hopeful, and much more! Whenever I picked up ”Princess of Thorns”, I was whisked back in time to late-Medieval Europe, and found myself hooked from the first page to the very last.
This is the first book I have read by Saga Hillbom, and I can’t wait to read more! Her writing style is spectacular! She brilliantly weaves history and historical fiction, and I truly feel like I learned so much from reading this book. I can only imagine the amount of research Ms. Hillbom must have done, as each and every moment, word, location described, and every historical figure she brings to life feel so authentic to the era. I truly felt like I was right there watching everything occur.”
”I absolutely loved Cecily. She was such a complicated character and I loved that we got to experience her thoughts and feelings as she grows up. She starts out a spoiled princess, moves on to become an ambitious, scheming member of the court, and finally realizes how to find happiness. I found her struggles to make sense of her opposing loyalties to be so sincere and authentic and I loved how we were given access to how she reasoned through her choices. She was strong, clever, loved her family fiercely, and figured out how to hold her own against strong adversaries.
The story itself moves pretty quick because so much happens over the span of the three decades. I was constantly sucked into ‘just one more chapter’ because I had to find out what would happen next. Plus, the intrigue, scheming, calculating, and double crossing of court is always fun for me.
But, what I loved most about this story is the abundance of strong females, depicted in different ways. During a time when women were expected to remain quiet and follow rules, Cecily shows so much strength by boldly challenging what she considered a ‘pretend king’ she did not support. Henry Tudor’s mother is constantly calling the shots at court and beyond. And to top it off, the author makes two very important women instrumental in the rise of the Tudor dynasty. Honestly, every female showed strength in one way or another and I was here for it.”
”If you are a fan of political dramas, sibling rivalries, and forbidden love this book will provide you with all of it and more. Capturing you from beginning to end.
“Never forget that. Women win through whose wedding band they put on their finger, not through who they slay on the battlefield. If you cannot alter the rules of the game, you must learn to master them.”
Cecily was such an amazing character to take from history and delve into her life.
She is, above all, a princess and there was not taking that out of her. A little vain and greedy and materialistic, sure, but she is also a very passionate and loyal character that feels deeply which balanced her wonderfully with flaws and virtues and made me fall in love with her character fast and hard.
She has a very specific way to see the world and life ingrained in her by a life above everything and everyone else. An institution that we’ve heard many times but just as much a person as anyone could be. And her personal character growth was heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time.
I was rooting for her to succeed so much it was almost funny.
The fact that we can follow her through her life was also really great as we could see how her passions and ambitions saw her through a very unrestful and precarious time.
“Life is uncertain! And that crown is nothing but a stupid piece of gold anyhow. It was never worth dying for.”
And that is just what this book is. Way too uncertain, as life was at the time was, and filled with sorrow.
There was hardly any time to rest from one thing happening to the next, which made the book move at an incredibly fast pace and, at the same time, to understand the situation and its precariousness as well as was possible. Because there was so much constantly going on or brewing quietly in the background.
The softly sprinkled romance and mystery that were intermingled with all the other drama were the perfect mix and the perfect amount to spice up the reading and have something greater and, I believe, more human.
Cecily’s love for her siblings and family was so profound that it was impossible to see it and not get teary-eyed. So intense that it felt pure and wholesome. And it shone brightly. It was one of her qualities that I loved the most.
“She is a bird with broken wings and broken lungs, not to mention broken heart, and I wish more than anything that I could make her fly again.”
Hillbom’s writing style and prose were just magnificent in each respect.
She managed to combine an old-feeling-much-too-fancy prose with a more-modern-and-simpler format that made it feel right for the time period but also perfect for our modern reality. And, as an added bonus, it made the story feel more grounded and at the same time dreamy.
That coupled with her magnificent way to express herself, because she has the prettiest descriptions of situations, had me mooning over every word that read. They just dripped feeling and meaning and cut deeply into my soul. I swear, I was crying over the most innocuous of circumstances because her words were just too pretty to remain unmoved.
Cecily’s description of herself as a dreamer felt engraved in stone and fortified by Hillbom’s words that truly gave her life.
They created the most vivid images in my mind and made me feel as if I was touching the words, tasting them in my mouth, and feeling them surround me with their weight. As if I was not just right there seeing the moment but that I was, somehow, the moment itself and all its timeless glory.
“The King is dead. Long live the King.”
If I had read this story in any other way I’m sure I would have found it mildly interesting and would have forgotten it between the minute. Not because it wasn’t important or captured my attention but because I wouldn’t have felt the story and really, truly understood it.
It is rather easy to see a moment in time, in history, and because of time and distance not really assimilate that is something that happened to a person like we are and that it affected deeply the lives of someone. They are stories in history books and little else.
By taking the story of Cecily and pulling it from time and space into the folds of the page and the confines of ink in a more humanizing way, narrated by her – even though it’s just an idea and illusion – the story became real and true and satisfying.
It became a story that I won’t soon forget and that entrapped me, made me feel despair and sorrow, happiness and hope, hate and betrayal, and reality all between moments.”
”I would say that the greatest takeaway for me was the view on gender in the time period. Everyone wanted to have sons so there would always be heirs to the throne, yet, sons were the first ones killed. No one wanted daughters, but the girls are the ones who lived and married other leaders who (not always, but possibly) influenced their husbands. So in the end, being a girl wasn’t such a bad thing. I thought it was an interesting take on the topic and something I hadn’t considered before.
Another aspect that I loved about this book was that in all things, it was balanced. Was there mention of the horrific practices of torture and execution of that time? Yes, but the book was never gory. Was there mention of affairs or mistresses? Yes, but the book was squeaky clean and there were no bedroom scenes. Were there a few bad words every now and then? Yes, but they didn’t dominate the speech used between characters. I felt that life in this time period was represented. The author didn’t spare us the unpleasant parts of the past, but didn’t overemphasize them either. Very well done.”
”I love a good historical fiction novel with some drama, conspiracy, and headstrong characters. And Princess of Thorns delivers on all those accounts.
The writing style is just as splendidly ornate as you’d expect from a novel set in the 15th century. The vivid descriptions of the setting keep you immersed in the narrative.
Right from the beginning, the narrative covers ground with great speed in terms of events that are brought to light, plot developments that take place, and time jumps that are included.
Initially, I felt a little confused with all the names and status of characters that I had to keep in mind to understand the context of the developments, because understandably there are a lot of figures. But within a few chapters, it becomes easy to keep track of everyone’s role in the story.
Cecily’s friendship with Agnes and Thomas were two of my favourite storylines in the book, because the latter two are so blatantly honest with her, having no pretenses or qualms about her being the Princess of York.”
”I’m a huge historical fiction fan, I love novels set in Tudor England/The War of Roses time period, so this was right up my alley. I’ve read a lot of books that have Elizabeth Woodville or Elizabeth of York as the narrator, and this was the first book I’ve read with Princess Cecily of York as the main character. It was a nice change. I also liked that this book didn’t try to make it seem like there was a love affair between Elizabeth of York and her uncle, or that Elizabeth Woodville had her younger son smuggled out of sanctuary. I hate those tropes, while they could be plausible they’ve been done to death. There just isn’t enough evidence for either.
Cecily’s story is sad and compelling, she’s on the edges for basically all of the major events during that time period and I think the author did a great job giving her a personality and voice. The character goes through so much growth throughout the book, from a selfish spoiled princess, scheming young adult, to a woman who just wants to live happily and leave the intrigue behind.
I recommend this book to anyone who already loves historical fiction or wants to get into it.”
”Torn between loyalties, heartbreak and loss, this book is an emotional ride. A historical fiction that reflects eerily still on a culture of adults looking out for nothing but their own agenda.
Throughout the story, we are able to experience Cecily’s growth from spoilt Princess, to a clever and witty survivor. Cecily holds her own in a world built to oppress and repress woman, and I love her for it.”
”I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction. I love it. I live it. I breathe it. I’m obsessed. And Princess of Thorns by Saga Hillbom transported me to one of my favorite periods of history: the Wars of the Roses🌹. It even got me re-watching the Starz series The White Queen & The White Princess. I loved it! And reading it on my phone meant I could whip it out wherever and whenever, even when I was burrowed in bed. 10/10 recommend!”
”Many may often find it hard to properly relate to historical figures, having lived so long ago and under such different circumstances, but Hillbom makes it easy to care about Cecily. She’s imperfect, but earnest. She never quite manages to rein in her emotions like her perfect older sister. She’s a survivor, continuing despite every loss. At the core, she’s just another young woman who never truly wants anything but love and approval, yet is denied that again and again before she finds what she truly needed all along.
The story told is a quiet one, taking place behind the scenes of the major historical events and within the shadows of more powerful people. It acknowledges how women are forgotten, their names rarely spoken after their burial. Those women are given words here, a view of their life that most history books would deny, motivations beyond marriage and childbirth, and a look at the wars they waged in silence.
For a slow-burn that will still steal your attention and break your heart, Princess of Thorns is the perfect pick.”
”A heartbreaking but great read! I would highly recommend it. I wasn’t really that bothered about the historical genre but this book definitely changed my mind. It also made me realise how lucky I was to be born at this time as they had it really tough back then. You really get to know the characters really well and feel like you know them.”
”I only recently branched out into the historical fiction genre, and have found that enjoying the books in it can be hit or miss. This one, however, was everything I hoped for and more! It exceeded all of my expectations and is one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. It is written beautifully. The writing is formal, and a perfect fit for the setting while still keeping the story engaging.
Princess of Thorns follows Cecily of York through three decades of court drama and schemes for the throne. There is incredible character growth throughout the book, as it follows Cecily’s journey from a selfish girl to a woman who would do anything for her family. Her loyalty to her family, and her love for her siblings, were some of my favorite things about her character. I loved those relationships, along with her friendships with Agnes and Thomas. The romance is lovely as well, and wasn’t so much that it overwhelmed the plot.
The ending is always a deciding factor in whether I like a book, and this one did not disappoint. It was a satisfying end to a great book. I recommend Princess of Thorns to anyone who is interested in historical fiction! ”
”This book isn’t just based on historical events. It’s saturated in them. It jumps into the context of the War of the Roses, often times speaking as if the reader knew about the times and styles. It doesn’t talk down to the reader, and often includes tiny details that, should you look them up, will lead you down a rabbit hole of discovery. For example, bits of fashion, diseases, arranged marriages, and the skirmishes that form the backdrop of the plot. If you want to have a solid understanding of events and the life of nobles during the tumultuous war for British succession, this book belongs in your hands.”