The Empress of the Last Days

The Empress of the Last Days

Book - 2004
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This is a novel of many pleasures: a passionate and tender interracial love story that is also an fascinating scholarly detective tale. A young Oxford don named Michael Foxwist and a group of his academic friends come upon a collection of dusty old documents; they are intrigued to learn of the clandestine seventeenth-century marriage of the black prince, Pelagius, and Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. With mounting excitement, they discover that the true queen of England may not be the familiarly dowdy elderly woman of German extraction but a young and gifted black scientist of independent mind. She lives in Barbados and is the last living descendant of Elizabeth and Pelagius. Michael confronts her with her heritage only to find that she refuses to be the child of destiny and insists on being herself. But their meeting changes everything -- they fall in love. Of different race, nationality, and temperament, they must reexamine all their assumptions and the terms on which they live.
Though written to be read independently, The Empress of the Last Days is also the triumphant conclusion to Jane Stevenson's acclaimed historical trilogy, companion to The Winter Queen and The Shadow King. Often compared to such writers as Penelope Fitzgerald and A. S. Byatt, Stevenson once again gives us a splendid work of rich imagination, lively erudition, warm humanity, and wit.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004
ISBN: 9780618149148
0618149147
Characteristics: 360 p. ; 22 cm

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DorisWaggoner
Jun 03, 2014

I'm glad I read the books of this trilogy in order. Had I read this one first, I wouldn't have wanted to read the others. The academic types who attempt to tease out the stories of the dusty 17th c. papers one of them finds in a Dutch archives are cynical beyond belief and I didn't believe in them for one minute. They missed some of the obvious--Pelagius's time in the East Indies, for instance, or the nature of his relationship with Aphra Behn, that they should have been able to figure out, had they cooperated with each other. The character of Melita, the scientist on Barbados, who is the "rightful" queen of England, is delightful, until she falls in love with the scholar come to hunt her down, and falls in with his scheme to confront the Royals with her existence. In the midst of all this, there really is a lot of wonderful stuff on the process of doing research, and the beauty of Barbados as seen through the eyes of Melita, whose family has lived there for generations. But read the series in order!

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