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The Widow Queen: The Bold #1    by Elzbieta Cherezinska order for
Widow Queen
by Elzbieta Cherezinska
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2021 (2021)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Elzbieta Cherezinska's The Widow Queen is the first entry in her historical saga, The Bold that begins in 984 AD. Swietoslawa called the bold for her exploits (including dressing as her servant to spy on the men's doings) is the beloved daughter of Mieszka, great duke of Poland. For him daughters present opportunities to build his empire through marriages. Swietoslawa is close to her brother Boleslaw (the heir) and fond of her older half-sisters Astrid and Geira.

Next we meet Sven, son of King Harald of Denmark. Sven hates his father and plans rebellion, at which he eventually succeeds. Olav Tryggvason, the only surviving heir of the last King of Norway, was rescued from slavery to become the ward of Valdimir, King of Rus. He repaid his debt by fighting the king's battles but eventually was determined to reclaim his heritage. When Olav meets Swietoslawa, there's an instant attraction but fate keeps them apart.

As the tides of war begin to surround his country, Mieszka marries off his son and daughters - Boleslaw to a Hungarian princess; Geira to Olav; Astrid to Jomsviking Sigvald; and Swietoslawa to King Eric of Sweden. Swietoslawa names her first child Olof, and Olav sends her two lynxes which she keeps by her side. There are battles and betrayal, and our heroine is left as a widow queen, with a tsunami of suitors. She longs for Olav, but it is not to be. Can she retain power as a woman?

She is forced to marry again, and bears two more sons. Meanwhile the plotting continues. Readers will discover outcomes in the next episode, The Last Crown. I look forward to it as I very much enjoyed this saga of Polish and Scandinavian history swirling around a bold queen.

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