1. Some of the author’s characters are based on real- life figures, and some, such as Ranulf, are purely fictional. Why do you think she does this? What purpose does Ranulf serve? Did you relate to him differently than you did the other characters?
2. Do you think that Maude would have made a better ruler than Stephen? Why or why not?
3. In the Middle Ages, children of the nobility were sent away to be educated in other households. Why do you think this practice evolved the way it did? How do you think it impacted child- rearing during that time?
4. Henry’s mother vanished from his life for more than three years. Do you think he was adversely affected by her prolonged absence? How?
5. Discuss the medieval attitude toward physical disabilities. What would have happened to Rhiannon if her family had not been so supportive of her?
6. Anti- Semitism was obviously quite prevalent in the Middle Ages. Ranulf was at one point extremely anti- Semitic, but his attitude changed when he met the young Jewish peddlers. What do you think changed his mind? How is this plotline relevant in our society today?
7. Discuss the various romantic relationships and marriages in the book. How do you think Maude and Stephen each relate to their spouses? How does this affect their aspirations for power?
8. Maude paid a great price for being unable or unwilling to adhere to her society’s restrictive concepts of proper female behavior. Do you think her quest for the crown was doomed from the outset by male prejudice? How much of her defeat do you think can be attributed to her gender? How much to her personality?
9. How do you think Stephen would have fared in the modern world? Do you think he was advanced for his time?