“To all the anonymous, forgotten princesses
The nuns, wives, mothers and rulers, about whom history is silent
The girls marked in biographies of dynasties with a sad ‘N.N.’”
—the dedication in Elżbieta Cherezińska’s The Widow Queen
Tor Books has acquired the rights for the English translation of Elżbieta Cherezińska’s The Widow Queen, a duology inspired by the story of Świetosława, an influential real-life Polish princess who has been largely left out of history books.
The Widow Queen tells the story of a young woman who learned political maneuvering alongside her brother, Boleslaw the Brave, but was intended as a pawn in her father’s royal schemes. Nevertheless, Świetosława has more ambition than that; she means to be queen, and she will unite a kingdom to take the throne.
Elżbieta Cherezińska is a #1 bestselling and multiple award-winning Polish author who has written fourteen novels. The Widow Queen is her first novel to be translated into English, originally published as The Bold in Polish by Zysk. Maya Zakrzewska-Pim is translating and Lindsey Hall is editing.
When asked about her inspiration for this novel, Elżbieta said:
In Poland, Mieszko and his son, Bolesław the Brave, the first king of Poland, are very well known; they even appear on bank notes. Kids are taught about them. But nowhere in the textbooks is it mentioned that Mieszko had a daughter. When I found her in a historical source, I was surprised to learn that her history is so amazing. She is mentioned in a few serious medieval chronicles, however no one of them covers her entire, rich life. They describe only moments of her life, as a wife, mother, widow, banished or returning queen.
When I folded these into a sequence of events, a remarkable, strong character was revealed, a woman whose life was full of astonishing plot twists and who defeated adversity to win in the finale. She flashed through the chronicles unnoticed; not one of the chroniclers wrote down her name. For them, her husbands, father, brother and sons were more important. For them, those were the true warriors and rulers. The truth is different— she, Świetosława, was the one who unites the stories of them all. It was her life. Stories of the men were just a part of it, they were just episodes in her great, epic story.
With this book, I wanted to change the way of looking at that part of Polish, Scandinavian, and English history between 985 and 1017. Events in the history of several kingdoms which previously seemed to be unrelated get their guiding thread— Świetosłwa, the causative axis of events. Writing this novel, I wanted also to return her what the chroniclers took from her— her name.
The Widow Queen is coming from Tor Books in January 2021.