Thank you Ballantine and NetGalley for the eARC of Solomon's Crown! All opinions in this review are my own.
I appreciate how honest the author is in the historical note at the beginning of the book. She recognizes that other than the characters themselves, she strayed far from the historical facts. I know little about Philip and Richard so this didn't bother me too much.
Although it took me awhile to get into, I ended up really enjoying Solomon's Crown. I liked the political intrigue and rival aspect of the romance. The last 100 pages were so good!
Solomon’s Crown is an overall fun read with engaging writing, but had a bit too little substance for me to truly enjoy. It’s definitely a book that I enjoyed my time with, but not one that will stick with me for a long time.
There was a lot to this book that drew me in very quickly, and I found myself drawn in to both the relationship and politic dynamics (both between Richard and Philip and within their respective countries). There was a complex web of politics that kept Richard and Philip from both fully trusting each other and allowing themselves to get fully entangled in a relationship, and I felt like the author did a great job of weaving this web. I often feel like the plot points keeping two characters from entering a relationship in a romance book to be flimsy, and it often leads to frustration. However, the author did a good job of showing the true depth of the complications that would arise from their relationship, and that resulted in me both yearning for Richard and Philip to be together while also being entirely understanding of why they were hesitant (without being frustrated that the reasoning was silly or frivolous). It was a strong point of the book for me!
Unfortunately, I did have some issues with the pacing that led to my interest waning at points during the story, and it felt like certain aspects sometimes dragged on. A lot of time was dedicated to exploring the politics and historical setting of the book, and I feel like this began to take more and more focus as we neared the end of the book, with the romance often being overshadowed. While this would make sense in most books, the set-up and eventual end of the book was more romance focused. This meant that a lot of the political development in the second half of the book felt under-used. I found this especially true for the ending, where it felt like things just kind of suddenly worked out to make the romance end well, and didn’t necessarily ring true with the political aspects of the book. It overall left me conflicted, because while I overall found both the romance and the political plot interesting, they didn’t seem to actually work well together.
Overall, I had a fun time with this book and I do see myself trying out more novels by this author, even if Solomon’s Crown isn’t a new stand-out favorite for me. I definitely recommend it for those looking for a historical romance to read over a day or two!
Review will be cross-posted to my blog soon! Link to come.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book, as this book has already been published, I will not share my review on Netgalley at this time.
Solomon's Crown is a historical retelling of the lives, or I suppose the romantic entanglement of Phillip II of France and Richard I of England. It takes place mostly during France's war with Henry II (Richard's father). Obviously a few liberties were made with this one but who knows? There could definitely have been some shenanigans happening behind the scenes.
This story is told both in Richard and Phillip's point of view, and it was interesting to see the story unfold from both perspectives.
I listened to the audiobook of this one, because as I said, life got just a little bit too lifey for me to do much, lol. The narrators, Ben Allen and Steve West did a fantastic job at bringing the characters to life.
All told, if you like a good historical retelling, or a M/M romance that takes place along actual history, then you should definitely get Solomon's Crown!
We begin with a bit of mournful poetry from a legendary king of England. Because why have enemies to lovers when we could have rival medieval monarchs to lovers during the wars of the Angevin Empire? SOLOMON’S CROWN (Dell, 368 pp., paperback, $17), by Natasha Siegel, explores the relationship between Philip II of France and Richard the Lionheart — the queer love story we get hints of in “The Lion in Winter.” I cannot believe this book exists. I want to wrap myself in velvet to read passages aloud beside a blazing hearth that’s taller than I am. Quaffing is absolutely called for.
The prose thrums with the best kind of heartbreak: “I simply brushed a kiss across his temple, left the room, and went to war with a man whose hips were still inscribed with the shadow of my fingertips.” It’s staggering the space that “and” makes between “left the room” and “went to war”: a whole chasm in a single word.
These men are flawed on a grand scale. Philip is melancholy and controlled, Richard tempestuous and violent with an appealing poetic streak to undercut the bloodthirstiness. Their romance is a sin and a crime and an abuse of power in nearly everyone’s eyes; betrayal and tragedy lurk around every corner. And yet there are moments of breathtaking loveliness: a kiss by a frozen woodland stream, light pouring through a stained-glass window, every acid-bright cameo by Eleanor of Aquitaine.
If you're looking for a detail filled, in-depth historical novel that will transport you into the era it's writing about: this isn't it. Likewise, if you're looking for something truly fraught, where characters are forced into making difficult, costly decisions there's not really much of that to be found here.
But if what you're looking for is a light historical-flavored novel, where there is tension but no insurmountable conflict, and the characters are all drawn in light, but interesting strokes: yes, this is it. For me this worked beautifully, because I was looking for something engaging but not overly taxing, but someone more in the mood for a Mary Renault or Nicola Griffith style book will probably be disappointed. I'm not sure that I would really be compelled to seek out this author again, but overall I did have a pleasant experience reading this and would probably recommend it to someone who wants a starter historical fiction.
The ANGSTY AND PINING. Ugh I loved it. I wanted more even. Obviously the historical parts weren't entirely correct but I honestly didn't care because I loved the characters.
A wonderful alternative historical romance! I just loved the tension between Richard and Phillip.
Well written - Siegel does a great job detailing the complexity of their relationship. Two countries historically at war, land won and lost.
The inclusion of Phillip's wife, Isabella, was also well done. Obviously not a relationship supported by all - background issue which I loved.
I stopped reading about half way. It was too odd for me and I just couldn’t enjoy reading it. Because I did not finish I will not be sharing my feedback.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC!
This definitely puts the fiction in historical fiction! It’s basically what if these two mega rulers during the crusades were actually pining for each other?
Not historically accurate of course, but good fun and well written.
Solomon's Crown is an exceptionally well written and lyrical queer historical romance by Natasha Siegel. Released 14th March 2023 by Penguin Random House on their Dell imprint, it's 368 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats.
This is a "what if" romance set in the 12th century between Richard of Aquitaine (aka the Lionheart) and Philip II of France. Both of them, viewed through the lens of modern society were more or less absolute rulers who made some dubious decisions about harming the people living within their huge spheres of influence: the crusades, driving the Jews out of France, unprovoked crushing and looting folks who just wanted to be left alone, etc.
The author says openly at the beginning that neither of them were paragons of virtue and that the two main characters aren't the *historically* accurate real figures, and license was taken. For readers who love historical accuracy and the sort of "what if" that weaves fiction around a solid framework of actual history, there are freedoms taken here which will likely annoy. On the other hand, for readers who love a well written queer romance, the author can certainly write.
It's full of frustrated longing and lingering touches and not much historical accuracy.
Three and a half stars.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
i feel guilty for not loving solomon’s crown because i truly admire the author’s desire to tell a queer love story with a happy ending.
siegel is entirely upfront about the liberties she takes with this reimagining, so i won’t criticize that, but i still believe solomon’s crown might have been stronger as an original work. it seems like the historical figures and the fragments of history she chose to include only limit her storytelling, and her philip and richard are so far removed from the historical figures that i personally struggled with the juxtaposition of the two.
as for the story itself, siegel’s writing is lovely. i plan to pick up her next book for that alone. i also appreciated the inherent angst of political intrigue warring with romance, but i don’t think the two were balanced as well as they might have been. it was difficult for me to buy this as the epic love story it was being sold as without being shown why i should feel that way, and as a result some of the scenes that were intended to be impactful instead felt hollow. i did feel that the last quarter of the novel improved on everything else and therefore felt significantly more meaningful—i actually very much enjoyed the symbolism of the ending.
This is such a good historical fiction. While the events (obviously) got a little mushed together to make the story work, it was still so well written. The angst, the yearning...so good.
took me a while to get into but once phillip became king, i was hooked. both characters have such distinctive voices and it is incredible to see every nuance and detail put into their stories. particurlary i LOVED phillip and isabella's relationship, the understanding and comfort they had with each other was truly the highlight of the book for me and the way the novel did not write her off and ignore her in favor for the relationship between richard and phillip was very nice. overall, this is a book that really isn't something i normally enjoy but i'm glad i picked it up!
3.5 Stars. What an interesting book. I was not sure what I was going into, but this was very much a romance first before anything else. The best way to think of this book is historical fanfiction. The author took the characters in name only to create a romance. There are no mentions of the horrible things the real people did, but this was never meant to be that. The characters are so divorced from reality you could enjoy the story without knowing anything about their real-life counterparts.
I greatly enjoyed the writing and you felt the chemistry between the characters. Richard and Phillip circled each other and felt destined to be together from the beginning. I wish there was more tension besides Henry and more between the two mains. Overall I am a little conflicted because I enjoyed it, but I feel like it could have been better and more complex. Also, the narrators were great, and I loved their voices' differences. It really captured their characters.
King Philip has newly been crowned the king of France. His one goal is to help restore his nation, a task easier said than done. Unfortunately, not everyone will help make this plan come to fruition. Take King Henry of England. He has plenty of reasons (and resources) to make this an impossible goal.
Then there's Richard, Duke of Aquitaine. Yet here he is, sitting as the heir to the throne of England. While this isn't what he wanted, it does put him in a position to bring change to the world – the sort of change he's always wanted.
Apparently, I've been on a historical fiction/fantasy kick lately! Solomon's Crown is the latest in a series of books I've picked, all of which delve into the past – with unique twists. In the case of Solomon's Crown, that means we have more representation, a rivals-to-lovers trope, and so much more.
In truth, I'm not entirely sure what genre I would label Solomon's Crown as. It defies the standards of historical fiction, and I love how it breaks the mold and creates a new one.
Let us not forget that this book is full to the brim (and I do mean that) of political intrigue. Seriously, a lot is going on. I had to write notes to ensure I kept track of everything (admittedly, history is not my strong suit).
This book is probably not for you if you're looking for a historically accurate story. This is very much a book of fiction, with facts strewn about. So you may be frustrated if you're hoping for something else.
Amazing historical fiction book! The flow was great, and it was an easy read. It was an incredible first time novel for Natasha Siegel! I can't wait for more from her.
I have voluntarily read and reviewed a copy of this title given to me through NetGalley. This book was just absolutely wonderful. It was just so easy to get lost in and I just couldn’t put it down. I just lost myself within this amazing story. I most definitely will read more by this author.
Philip, only son of ailing, addled King Louis of France, vows to regain the lands his father lost to King Henry of England and his sons. After his father dies and he is crowned, Philip is married to 13 year old Isabella and—though they do not consummate the marriage—they have a good friendship. When Richard the Lionheart, King Henry’s and Duke of Aquitaine meets King Philip, they feel an attraction to each other, but their romance is complicated by politics. Richard and his brother try to convince King Philip to ally with them in exchange for land. King Henry attempts to make Richard give up Aquitaine. Will he? Battle lines shift over the next several years. Somehow a relationship happens between King Philip and Richard despite thee risks. War is on the horizon, will the men be able to make it work or not?
The author has written the lives of real medieval European kings. Her writing evokes the era besides her well written characters. It felt like I was there watching the characters deal with their struggles and lives. It was captivating. The author does a good job of cf connecting them with their pasts and troubled families. This is excellent historical fiction.
I love historical fiction but I wasn’t sure if I would love this reimagining of King Richard/ King Philip. I was wrong. I finished this one in a matter of days because it was just that good! I also LOVE a dual POV, so I loved hearing both their thoughts. This one was full of thoughts about what power can look like with different people, duty, love, and making your own story. 4⭐️ for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in enhance for my honest opinion.