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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
The Beggar Queen is a work of historical fiction by Kelly Evans. Born into nobility in seventh-century England, Bathilde is captured by invading French forces and sold into slavery. A kind, caring, hardworking young woman, Bathilde draws the attention of the mayoress, the wife of the man who owns her. But when the mayoress passes away, Bathilde’s life becomes precarious as unwanted attentions are directed her way. She escapes and lives on the streets, begging for food. Hearing that her owner has remarried, she risks returning to her master, knowing that the penalty for an escaped slave could well be death. Spared, she once again attracts the attention of those higher up, including the king. From slavery to beggar woman to nobility to finally becoming queen, Bathilde never loses her faith, her love for those around her, and the dedication she feels toward those less fortunate than herself.
Kelly Evans’s historical fiction novel, The Beggar Queen, follows the fascinating life of a relatively unknown figure in European history. The author has a thorough knowledge of the era which she shares in her writing, allowing the reader to enjoy the plot-driven narrative and the historical detail. Like the fascinating historical fiction writers of our time, particularly the late Sharon Kay Penman, this author instantly captures the reader’s attention and they savor every moment of the era’s history and the person(s) being documented. Both Penman and Evans have a good grasp of history, particularly the history of the Middle Ages (Penman focused more on the late Middle Ages, while this book marks the beginning of this era). The plot follows Bathilde’s journey from the comforts of her home in England to the life of a slave girl in France and finally into the royal house of France. This book is an exceptional example of compelling, engaging historical fiction. It’s one of those books that will have you contemplating the history of this era for a long time to come. Wow!