Tomorrow (2/5/15) is the release day of THE PRICE OF BLOOD, the second book in Patricia Bracewell's THE EMMA OF NOMANDY trilogy and I am beyond excited!
Follow #AngloSaxonFact hashtag on Twitter to learn what Patricia Bracewell discovered during her research for the book! For instance, did you know that laws against stealing beehives were strict? Because bees pollinated crops, made wax for candles, and honey for mead. You can follow her at @PatBracewell to learn more.
Additionally, Viking, along with the author, has created a special online book club kit to help bring 11thcentury England to life at your next meeting. It's in the form of downloadable PDF file and it includes songs picked by Patricia Bracewell herself, a recipe from the author, a Q&A and a list of little known facts about Anglo-Saxon history! Be sure to check it out :)
The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes&Noble
Hardcover, 448 pages
Expected publication: February 5th 2015 by Viking Adult
Patricia Bracewell’s debut novel SHADOW ON THE CROWN introduced readers to the story of Emma of Normandy in 11th-century England, a time when daughters were traded like pawns and fear of the supernatural governed the actions of men. THE PRICE OF BLOOD (Viking; February 5, 2015, 9780525427278; $28.95) continues Emma’s story in the second installment of the trilogy based on The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle—one of the only written records to emerge from the time period.
It is 1006, and England is under siege. Viking armies pillage, rape and set fire, ravaging England’s coastal cities. Æthelred is a king besieged by enemies both foreign and domestic. The Vikings grow bolder each summer; trouble is brewing among his Northern lords; he mistrusts his sons and increasingly powerful wife; and he is still haunted by his brother’s ghost.
Queen Emma, the mother of the infant heir to the throne, eyes the increasingly erratic decisions of her beleaguered husband with misgiving, and fears for the life of her son. Theirs has never been a happy marriage, but as the king falls increasingly under the spell of a cunning advisor, Emma fears for her children and her country. While the king struggles against his enemies, both real and imagined, Emma begins to weave the alliances necessary to ensure that her child will survive to one day claim the crown.
Meanwhile, Lady Elgiva is forced by her father into a handfast marriage with a Viking prince. Beautiful, rich, and scheming, Elgiva is constantly underestimated by the powerful men around her. When she tries to get Æthelred to intercede on her behalf and stop her marriage, the consequences are dire. Elgiva’s dearest wish is to be queen; she had thought to accomplish it by marrying one of the king’s sons, but one prince is as good as the next. As long as she gets what she wants.
The king’s eldest son Athelstan is increasingly frustrated by his position. His father mistrusts him, ignoring his counsel and seeing treachery in his every move. But more than that, his love for Emma is as passionate as ever and there is nothing he can do about it.
Amid the chaos of a crumbling kingdom, as a Viking army ravages the land and as rivals for the throne jostle for power, it is the queen who steps into the void created by the waning power of the king. Faced with an enemy whose hands are steeped in blood, she must risk her crown and her life for the sake of her son, and she cannot know if her actions will bring about a victory or the very disaster she is hoping to avert..
Q. What can you tell us about the title THE PRICE OF BLOOD? How did you decide on it?
A. I plucked ‘the price of blood’ from a chilling reference to King Æthelred written by 12th century chronicler William of Malmesbury in his History of the English Kings: He was hounded by the shade of his brother, demanding terribly the price of blood. The chronicler goes on to describe the relentless Viking attacks on England, and Æthelred’s fruitless efforts to resist, all due to the unpunished murder of Æthelred’s brother. This is a good summary of what happens in my book. So I have William of Malmesbury to thank, not just for the title of my novel, but also for the ghost that continues to haunt the king.
Q. Of all the English queens, what about the lesser-known Emma of Normandy attracted you to her story?
A. There were two things about Emma that intrigued me. First, her marriages to two different kings of England who were mortal enemies. How, I asked myself, did a woman negotiate those relationships? The physical and emotional impact of her marriages must have been huge and, certainly from a novelist’s point of view, well worth exploring. The second thing that intrigued me about Emma was that in mid-life she commissioned a book that recorded key historical events as she remembered them. That this was done by a woman in the 11th century struck me as pretty remarkable, and it’s an indication of just how politically savvy Emma was.
Q. What challenges did you encounter in researching the life of Emma of Normandy?
A. Researching Emma’s life during the years 1006 to 1012, the years covered by this book, was next to impossible because there is almost no record of her at all. Her name appears on a few charters, indicating that she was at court beside the king on those occasions. One charter in 1012 is a grant of land from the king to Emma, and so historians conjecture that she gave birth to a son at about that time. But where was she the rest of the time and what was she doing? Because there was no other direct reference to Emma, all I could do was bury myself in the history of those years and make some conjectures of my own based on what I was able to learn about a queen’s duties and Emma’s later career.
Q. You offer a vivid account of the time period. What research did you do to make sure the story was authentic?
A. Sometimes there was what I think of as ‘boots on the ground’ research. For example, I made a trip to the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde, Denmark where I saw the ancient bones of Viking ships; modern, full scale recreations; and tiny models of Viking fleets. That visit answered a number of questions for me including, when I saw models with tents rigged up mid-ship, where a queen might shelter during a voyage. There was also painstaking research into chronicles and historical minutiae. For example, an 1134 inventory of the treasures of Ely abbey listed precious textiles donated by Queen Emma including a blood-red altar cloth. So in my novel, when Edward went to Ely for schooling, Emma sent a red altar cloth with him. It’s a minor detail and probably no reader will mark it, but I know that the altar cloth was real. Frequently the vagueness of historical records forced me to invent. For instance, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle claimed that the Danes attacked London several times in 1009, and that the Londoners always repelled them. But there was no description of what, exactly, happened when the Danes attacked. I had to make it up based on my imagination and what I could learn of the military tactics of the time. More research!
Q. There has been recent resurgence in the popularity of Vikings with the History Channel’s show “Vikings”. Do you watch the show? What do you think of its appeal?
A. I’m a big fan of “Vikings”. I had great fun blogging about the second season and I’m looking forward to the next one. My interest in the show was strong right from the start, but I liked it even more when the Anglo-Saxon King Ecbert came on the scene in Season Two. I’m impressed with the way writer Michael Hirst contrasts the Christian Anglo-Saxon world with the pagan Viking world. I think the show’s appeal lies in its strong characters, both male and female. It doesn’t hurt that along with the bloody action and adventure there’s a fine script, top notch actors, and some incredible sets and costuming.
Q. Emma and Elgiva are two very different women, but there are also clear similarities in the obstacles they must overcome. Was that intentional?
A. The obstacles they face are inherent in the history and in the society in which they find themselves, so yes, the similarities are intentional. One of the central themes in the novel is how women of that time attained and wielded power. Whether you were a queen or a commoner, your access to power was through a man – a husband, a brother, a father, a son, a powerful ally. Both Emma and Elgiva have to forge alliances in order to tap into the lines of power.
Q. How do you think your novel speaks to today’s reader?
A. I think today’s readers can relate to many of the themes that run through the book: marriage, family bonds, loyalty, honesty. The book also explores the use and abuse of power, and that is something that echoes through every age right down to the present day. In particular, the value of information – who has it? Who controls it? – will, I suspect, strike a familiar chord.
Q. When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A. When I’m not writing I’m frequently researching the next book or up to my ears in social media. I like to connect with readers. But I also make time for tennis, the gym, the theater, travel, or just taking walks through my neighborhood.
Q. What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
A. Write about what excites you, and never be satisfied with anything but your best work. Be persistent, but be patient. If you’re a writer, you’re in it for the long haul. There are no shortcuts to success.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. The third book in my trilogy about Emma is rattling around in my head. I have several new research books on my desk to read as well as half a dozen books that I want to re-read. I’m trying to get a firm grasp on the history so I can discover the story I want to tell.
Q. Who would be in your ideal book club?
A. I would invite some of my favorite novelists: Kate Atkinson, Sebastian Barry, Bernard Cornwell Sarah Dunant, Diana Gabaldon, Nicola Griffith, Robert Low and Louise Penney. Then, for comic relief and to bring us back to reality, I’d bring in Bill Bryson. And then I would be in too much fan girl awe to say a single word.
About the Author:
Patricia Bracewell grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. She has always been fascinated by English history, which led to her studying Anglo-Saxon history at Downing College, Cambridge University. She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Oakland, California.
Meet Patricia in person!
PATRICIA BRACEWELL WILL BE TOURING TO:
Oakland, CA Diesel Bookstore / 6:30 pm February 9
Pasadena, CA Vroman’s Bookstore / 7 pm February 10
Petaluma, CA Copperfield’s Books / 7 pm February 20
Scottsdale, AZ Poisoned Pen / 2pm March 28
What you can win:
the paperback edition of SHADOW ON THE CROWN and new hardcover THE PRICE OF BLOOD
Open to: US residents only
a Rafflecopter giveaway