This is a novel of many pleasures: a passionate and tender interracial love story that is also an fascinating scholarly detective tale. A young Oxford don named Michael Foxwist and a group of his academic friends come upon a collection of dusty old documents; they are intrigued to learn of the clandestine seventeenth-century marriage of the black prince, Pelagius, and Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. With mounting excitement, they discover that the true queen of England may not be the familiarly dowdy elderly woman of German extraction but a young and gifted black scientist of independent mind. She lives in Barbados and is the last living descendant of Elizabeth and Pelagius. Michael confronts her with her heritage only to find that she refuses to be the child of destiny and insists on being herself. But their meeting changes everything — they fall in love. Of different race, nationality, and temperament, they must reexamine all their assumptions and the terms on which they live.
Though written to be read independently, The Empress of the Last Days is also the triumphant conclusion to Jane Stevenson’s acclaimed historical trilogy, companion to The Winter Queen and The Shadow King. Often compared to such writers as Penelope Fitzgerald and A. S. Byatt, Stevenson once again gives us a splendid work of rich imagination, lively erudition, warm humanity, and wit.