Book Review – The Queen’s Dwarf by Ella March Chase

Title: The Queen’s Dwarf
Ella March Chase
(Paperback ARC for the) Hardcover
Published: 2014

In 1629, the fourteen year old dwarf Jeffrey Hudson is sold by his father to the Duke of Buckingham who in turn gifts him to seventeen year old Queen Henrietta Maria wife of King Charles to join her “Menagerie of Curiosities and Freaks of Nature” where he befriends the giant Will Evans.  This is a historical fiction, so everything in the above sentence is true except for Jeffery Hudson’s age.  His historical counterpart was eight.  In the fictional account, Jeffrey along with performing in masques gets drawn into the world of court intrigue, spying, manipulating, and struggling to do the right thing with a lack of good options.

This is a thick book with lots of little plots twists.  Overall I found it well written and well crafted with a colorful variety of characters.  Historical fiction makes me a little nuts since I spend half the book trying to figure out which parts are actually historical, but Chase includes a note at the end detailing where she took liberties with history.  The rest seemed to hold up to my internet searches.

I brought up Jeffery’s age, because I think I might have enjoyed the book more from an eight-year-old’s fresh perspective than the rather cynical teenage one which narrates the tale.

What I liked about the book is that in Jeffrey it finds an interesting view on an aspect of history that most of us didn’t cover in high school.  He’s the son of a poor dog trainer from a village, so there’s a nice contrast of rich and poor with characters that read like people and not caricatures across the income spectrum.  The possible exception was Buckingham who came off as something of a mustache twirling villain, but there were attempts to give him depth or at least some mixed sympathy.

There are definitely some dark and weighty subjects covered, certainly an adult book, but the details are restrained to what is needed to tell the story.

Overall, I give it a solid 4/5.  There were a few places that felt redundant, the prologue reads like a misleading spoiler (so I might recommend skipping it),  and a couple of the story threads fell flat for me.  Yet, it kept me entertained, and I cared about what happened to the characters.  I think Chase worked well inside her historical confines and managed to make it vivid and alive.

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