In the twelfth century, to the shock of the whole kingdom, the indomitable King Giorgi of Georgia names his eldest daughter Tamar as heir. How can a woman possibly be ‘King’, especially at a time of great unrest? Many believe Giorgi’s decision will be the downfall of his dynasty, but those close to the royal household are not so sure: it’s true that Tamar will not be able to ride into battle, sword raised, to strike down her enemies, but she has many other qualities of a strong ruler if she’s just given the chance to show them. However, to be a great leader, Tamar will have to make many sacrifices to her own happiness, which she may be unwilling to do.
‘The Girl King’ covers a fascinating piece of history, from a part of the world which I haven’t previously read any historical fiction about. This really is what I’d call a ‘proper adventure’ story - we’ve got mean bad guys, a clever and determined princess, a brave hero and plenty of fighting, all in a gripping setting. The tale itself is well told, with great pace throughout, but I would have liked it to have been much longer and to have contained more information, particularly about the politics, mores and customs of the time.
Tamar works well as a heroine for me: she really is her own person and doesn’t let herself be dictated to. She’s also not afraid to go against tradition if necessary and stands up for what’s right. I really enjoyed the moments when she allowed her sense of humour to make an appearance, much to the consternation of some of her advisors.
I thought the author did a good job of making the history accessible whilst producing an extremely readable tale. She’s very honest about the liberties she’s taken, and adds a useful note at the end of the book detailing the reasoning behind her decisions. Yes, she admits she fiddled with the events at times, changing a little of the chronology, and making some fairly improbable assumptions, but if it encourages people to find out more about the history of Georgia, then surely that’s not such a bad thing?
3 and a half stars