Iron Queen by Joanna Courtney



I really don’t know quite what I thought of this.  Even the book itself seemed a bit confused.  The blurb on the back referred to the Bronze Age, when it was actually set during the Iron Age, and the explanatory map had Leicestershire in Derbyshire, and Derbyshire in Cheshire.  Anyway, It’s the third in the “Shakespeare’s Queens” series and is about King Lear’s daughter, Cordelia.  All I actually knew about Cordelia was that “her voice was ever sweet (or soft), gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman”, thanks to Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s obsession with that quote; but, having had a bit of a read-round, the book doesn’t seem to have anything to do with either Shakespeare’s Cordelia or Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Cordelia.

That’s probably fair enough.   Whilst we know very little about British society in 500BC, it’s unlikely to have included medieval-style dukes.  But this was just … odd.  Joanna Courtney’s created a matriarchal society in which men are only really good for battle and breeding.  OK, it could have been the case, but the ruler, the grandmother of Goneril, Regan and Cordelia (shortened to Gee, Ree and Dee!) was obsessed with flying (which kept making me think of Britannia), and died whilst trying to fly.  As you do.  Whereupon Goneril took control, and pretended to kill Cordelia’s fiance.  That bit was at least dramatic.  Prior to that, everyone had seemed to spend most of their time either having affairs with druidesses (Goneril) or breeding dogs (Cordelia).

Cordelia then led a coup against Goneril, so it did get quite exciting at the end.  It was just rather peculiar.   The sections about the druidesses and their work were quite interesting, as were the sections about the actual ironsmithing (Cordelia’s fiance being a smith), and the way in which their world turned with the seasons, but I just found it all a bit strange.  But I don’t know what I expected.  Maybe it’s simply that prehistory isn’t really my thing.  It was entertaining and I read it quite quickly, but I think I’m better with books set in a more recognisable world.   And with rather less emphasis on dog-breeding.


One thought on “Iron Queen by Joanna Courtney

  1. This does sound strange! I’ve read two of Joanna Courtney’s earlier books but her habit of anglicising the names of the characters irritated me and put me off reading more. I’m not tempted by this one, but I’m glad it was still entertaining!


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