Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: May 12, 2014

Joan of Kent, the renowned beauty and niece of King Edward III, seems blessed with a life of royal privilege until her father is executed for treason and she becomes a ward of the king, living amongst those who deem her the daughter of a traitor. Joan begins to understand the brutal constraints and dangers inherent in being of royal blood. There is one at court who loves her, but his love proves the greatest threat of all. As an impetuous teenager, she escapes into a clandestine marriage in a bid for freedom, then must hide it for nearly a decade, as her guardians marry her off to another man. After her first husband's death, Joan—now a mother of four—enters into another scandalous relationship, this time with the heir to the British throne, Prince Edward, hero of Crécy and Poitiers, who has loved her all along. But his devotion comes at a terrible price. Haunted by nightmares of her father's execution and the ruthlessness of her royal kin, Joan must reconcile her passion for the crown prince with the potentially tragic costs of a royal life.

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James Purefoy as Thomas Coville/Edward, the Black Prince
in A Knight's Tale. © Columbia Pictures
I give author Emma Campion credit for recognizing the potential in Joan's story, but that said, I can't say A Triple Knot impressed me as much as I'd hoped it might.

Generally speaking, this is where I'd offer readers a cautionary warning regarding spoilers, but I find doing so in this case irrelevant as the marketing department has spelled out the entire plot in the jacket description. There are a few minor details left out, but honestly, if you've read the blurb you know every major plot twist between page one and four hundred eighty so if you've made it this far you can rest easy knowing nothing I say will ruin your experience. 

In looking at the cast, I can't say Joan held particular appeal for me, but she is well-rounded and I enjoyed watching her mature as the story progressed. I greatly admired Campion's treatment of Thomas Holland, as well as the darker drama Edward brought to the narrative, especially as mention of the Black Prince always reminds me of James Purefoy's rather sympathetic and light-hearted interpretation. Unfortunately, I felt all three leads upstaged by members of the supporting cast. 

Reading the book over Mother's Day weekend, I suppose it's rather apropos that I found Margaret Wake, Maud la Zouche, and Philippa of Hainault the most interesting of Campion's characters. Their motivations, machinations and movements were fascinating and more than once prompted me to consider the intricacies of maternal devotion and influence in a period where women enjoyed relatively little authority or power.

I felt William de Montacute the weak link in the narrative. His character is fairly one dimensional which was disappointing as I felt Joan's second husband should have enjoyed more prominence. He may be a scum-sucking bottom feeder, but I genuinely feel his role demanded more import than Campion extended here.

Finally, the narrative's irregular pacing and linear presentation didn't sit well with me. Some incidents, like Joan's hanging the silk or her crossing to Ghent are beautifully detailed, but others, such as the pestilence, the births of her children and the siege camp after the Battle of Crécy felt weak and underdeveloped.

Bottom line, I enjoyed the history, but can't help feeling cheated by Campion's portrayal. At the end of the day, I feel there is more to Joan than the complexity of her multiple marriages and was disappointed that the author chose not to explore those avenues of her life and/or character. 

Note: Since penning this commentary, Broadway Books has revised and corrected the jacket description. The current blurb omits those statements that spoil the story and correctly identifies Joan as Edward III's cousin rather than his niece. My review retains the original blurb as that is the description that graced my ARC. 

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Blinded by tears Joan pushed her way through the crowd, stumbling, whispering her apologies, shaking her head at expressions of concern, running as much from the sound of Ned’s voice as from Thomas and his brothers, running from herself, from the hopeless tangle of her life.
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Daphne said...

I liked her book on Alice Perrers (sp?) and have this one for review. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it more.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think it a fluke. I liked The King's Mistress very much and was very surprised I didn't enjoy this one more.