Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Book Review: War of the Roses - Stormbird By Conn Iggulden

In 1437, the sickly ,gentle and pacifist  Henry VI, who is nicknamed  the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him almost ineffectual in his own right. Henry  is heavily dependent on, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk and other trusted advisors, to continue to maintain his kingdom and his kingship.  
Chief amongst these is Spymaster Derry Brewer, a scrapper of ill repute, whose double dealing in the fighting dens in back streets, brought him to notice and luck and hard graft have allowed an ascension to the king's right hand. He has no respect for any authority, but he holds the most disdain for the  Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York.
The York Duke stands bemused and disgusted at Henry's Peacekeeping efforts and  believes England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive the constant bitter attacks from France. Henry's  Father's famous victory on the fields of Agincourt can only carry so far in keeping the French in line. With England's territories in France under threat, and rumours of civilian unrest  at home, the  fears and worries  grow that Henry and his most dubious of  advisers will see the country slide into ruin.
Brewer has been instrumental striking a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou,  and with those fears becoming a hard reality, York seems to be justified (at least within his own mind)

I had originally wanted to read this because the period of the Elizabeth of York and the ultimate end of Richard III has intrigued me and so this examination of the era just prior was the next logical step as I am a little bit jaded by the later Tudors.

It was not what I expected being much more focused on the civil unrest in France and England after Richard signed a treaty to return swathes of France back to the French, so when English Nobles who had worked the land gifted to them by the GREAT Henry V and are now pretty peeved to have to give it back. Richard is sickly and conciliatory and So everyone bar Derry, his teenage queen and some loyal knights are against him.

The book culminates in the rebellion of 1450 led by Kentish Man Jack Cade, a force of the disenfranchised masses on London  and many were killed when they stormed the Tower of London. To prevent further bloodshed, the Young Queen offers pardons to the ringleaders, but these were not honoured and Cade was chased down to his Kent Home where he is mortally injured and brought back to London to be Hung Drawn and Quartered and his head displayed at the tower to act as a deterrent for further unrest .

The King’s medical collapse allowed Richard of York to take up the role of protector, King in all but name.

This was a good book for people with a passing knowledge of the time, but some might think Derry was a real man, he was not. Sometimes the dialogue veered a little too much into modern parlance  which grated occasionally, but once you accepted this as a flaw, the story clipped along and the characters were all sympathetic, even evil old Richard of York.

I definitely will read on as the series approaches my favourite beleaguered monarch ever, Richard III

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