Desert Isle Keeper
The Queen's Dwarf
I had forgotten how very dense good historical fiction is – there is simply so much going on that you have to read more carefully, pay attention to the little details as they come up. It’s been a while since I last read historical fiction, and I think that The Queen’s Dwarf was a good place to jump back in. Heavy in intrigue, light on romance, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely a fascinating read.
Standing only 18 inches tall, Jeffrey Hudson has found his way to a life of luxury – as the newest member of the Queen’s “Royal Menagerie of Freaks and Curiosities of Nature” alongside two other dwarfs, a Welsh giant, and more. What Queen Henrietta Maria and the rest of the Menagerie do not know, however, is that Jeffrey was sold by his father to Buckingham, who has now gifted him to the Queen as a spy in her household.
As a court fool, Jeffrey has some limited freedoms, and his cleverness and the training given to him by Buckingham serve him well. Unfortunately, his ethical and moral compass are tested strongly as he is asked to betray the Queen’s confidence, as well as that of his new friends in the Menagerie. Balancing his new friends against his family and Buckingham’s demands will require all of Jeffrey’s cunning, if he is to survive intact.
Jeffrey Hudson, also known as Lord Minimus, was a true historical character, with an even more exciting life than the one pictured within this story (apparently he was kidnapped by pirates – twice!), as were many of the other characters within the story. The author obviously did her homework on the time period, and the accuracy shines through. We get to see the religious and political turmoil of the time, the unhealthy relationships that the Duke of Buckingham cultivates in those around him, and the growing relationship between a king and queen that is surprisingly intimate, though it is through a third party. And while there is not really a romance as such, the entirety of the story is quite romantic – the dwarf who falls in love with his queen, although he is sworn to betray her. It reads like it should be a tragedy, but I found myself uplifted.
I appreciated how even the more minor characters (John, Jeffrey’s eldest brother; Clemmy, the servant from Buckingham’s household and one of Jeffrey’s first friends) are more than just place-fillers. Each gets their own story and their own romance or tragedy, though again it is through Jeffrey’s eyes. Although I know that most of these minor characters did not exist (or if they did, were probably not as the author described them), I was constantly convinced that they were in fact real. I love when a book can so completely transport me that the boundaries between reality and make-believe blur for a time.
Honestly, I don’t know what more I can say other than read this book. Do you like historical fiction? Want to try it for the first time, or jump back in? Do you enjoy intrigue, or spy movies? This definitely fits the bill. However, if you want your reading material to remain entirely fictional, don’t pick this up – Jeffrey Hudson, his family, and his friends feel real to me now, as if I knew them personally. And all their tragedy, as hurtful as it is, makes their triumphs all the more satisfactory.