In the 12th century, a 24-year-old woman is widowed. She's also an empress of the Holy Roman Empire, which means she controls England and Normandy, among other places. Although she’s the empress, she's married off as soon as she arrives in England, and she loses her throne; her cousin, who’s also her covert lover, takes it over. As time passes and anarchy reigns, the only hope begins to hinge on Matilda and her lover’s bastard child, who will inherit the throne. It’s a dazzling debut from a genuine historian.