Monday, June 10, 2024

Rebecca Hazell's The War Queens - Review

I always find funny the adage that women are the weaker sex. Women in history had a hand in so much of what went on politically, and yet few are remembered, or as well-known in history as their male counterparts. Once again, I credit historical fiction for bringing such a figure to my attention. Even as a history major in college, I had never heard of Queen Brunhilda of Austrasia. 

As I was reading The War Queens, I did some side reading on Brunhilda and much that is said about her is that she was power-hungry and driven. This would ultimately lead to her demise. On the other hand, Fredegunda, the rival queen is remembered as being behind many assassinations and political intrigues and yet she escaped the demise dealt to Brunhilda. Had she lived as long as Brunhilda did, I can't help but wonder if she might have met a similar fate. Though she seemed to always be triumphant in her schemes. 

Brunhilda of Austrasia (c. 547 - 613)
Antoni Zürcher, c. 1830

I have read the first book in Rebecca Hazell's The Tiger and the Dove series, The Grip of God (review here). She has a real talent for telling historical stories. The amount of research conducted is always astounding, leaving no doubt of historical accuracy. That being said, the stories are never dry. Queen Brunhilda is a complex character. She is driven, though I never feel she is power-hungry. She cares about her family, and the people of Austrasia...that is her motivation. Even her rivalry with Fredegunda never comes off as solely fueled by revenge over her sister. Fredegunda is a true narcissist who cares only about herself, something that shows even with the mothering of her children. History has not told us much about these two women so I'm sure there is more to the story. But I can't help thinking that Hazell got it exactly right. 

As an aside, I return to the whole "weaker sex" implication. Who is more weak than a king who allows himself to be persuaded by feminine wiles and sex? Oh, it's obvious that King Chilperic is the weakest of the four brother kings. This is why I question why so many faulted Brunhilda as being power-driven when she always only wanted to work as a partner to her husband, and subsequently to her son (and grandsons) as regent. Yet here we have Fredegunda influencing a known weak king, but nothing is said by others of her being driven and power-hungry. In this, I circle back to Hazell's deft storytelling. Fredegunda is very good at disguising her motives and making it look like it was all the king's idea in the first place. Brunhilda wears her heart and convictions on her sleeve, and ends up paying for it. 

As is probably obvious, I really loved this book. There is truly nothing better than historical fiction that makes us think, and spurs us to look beyond the story. This book is perfect for anyone who loves history, and for anyone who loves a great story.

About the book:
By the sixth century, the Roman Empire is already lost to tribal invasions, brutal Merovingian Franks have seized Gaul from the civilized Romanized Visigoths, and a dark age has descended across Europe. Now a deadly rivalry arises between two Merovingian queens. Brunhilda and Fredegunda are equals in beauty and intelligence, but opposite in vision and temperament. When the Franks demand a royal bride, Visigoth Brunhilda marries into a world that despises women. Suddenly thrust into power and repeatedly facing loss and grief, she seeks to revive a new Rome based on justice and prosperity. Her implacable foe, Fredegunda, is a former slave concubine who lives only for personal power. Insanely jealous of high-born Brunhilda, she uses seduction, assassination, war, and even witchcraft in her campaign to destroy her. Can Brunhilda survive this onslaught of evil? Can her vision survive?

About the Author:

Rebecca Hazell is a writer and artist whose nonfiction books for children garnered awards and critical praise, and were optioned for a television series. Her historical trilogy—The Grip of God, Solomon's Bride, and Consolamentum—is still in print after more than a decade. Before entering the world of books, she created educational materials for high schools that were used across the United States. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband; her grown children and sister live nearby.

Find out more by visiting or follow Rebecca on Instagram @RebeccaHazellbooks

Add to GoodReads:

The War Queens

Available on Amazon.

Never miss a post!

* indicates required

1 comment:

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. Thank you for this wonderful review! As always, very insightful.

- See more at:
- See more at: