The second in the War of The Roses series by Conn Iggulden starts in 1484, eighteen months after the King’s Catastrophic collapse that has left him catatonic and in permanent residence at Windsor Castle. The queen, Margaret of Anjou has borne a son and poor old Derry Brewer ( the fictional character who Conn uses to get the reader into the Royal chambers as the Spymaster to the King ) is travelling incognito as a itinerant Monk on the Road to Windsor after trying for weeks to ascertain the temperature of the people..
With Richard Duke of York, Protector of the Realm, age old feuds between the ruling houses of the land become inflammatory. York , playing a long game,strengthens his position throughout the kingdom with the King totally incapacitated. The Earls of Salisbury and Warwick join with Richard in a strong coalition , holding the country in their palms and together they seek to break the nobles support for Henry. Whilst signing the succession of the King’s son into Law,Richard is just biding his time.
The Nevilles have married into as many families as they possibly could, even the wife of Earl Percy , the Patriarch, a man loyal to the King, is a Neville by Birth. Percy’s hatred for his wife’s family is all consuming and he violently subdues her and exiles her to a convent, whilst sending his Son out to make an ill advised attack on the gathered wedding party of the son of the Earl of Salisbury and the might of the Nevilles is now bound to descend.
The meeting of Two opposing sides of Percy and Earl Salisbury is one of the best Battle descriptions I have read in a long while, the detail is so vivid , the pacing is brisk, but the time these battles must have taken is also evident in the pauses and repositioning of the various components of each fighting force. Archers, crossbowmen, riders and Axemen all play their parts in intricate battles.
Much to York’s Horror, the King unexpectedly recovers his senses and returns to London,seemingly his mind is stronger than it has ever been even if his body is less robust, the Royal seal is grudgingly returned to the monarch that bears it’s likeness and the seesaw of power and the peace of the country is once again thrown into a roiling maelstrom again.
If “Stormbird” was a love letter to the might of British Archers, I think “ Trinity”, is a valentine to the stallions of war, cut down to disable the riders. I he'd never realised that razor Spurs were common practice . It seems barbaric to force a horse into onward motion in this way, but these were I suppose times where a moment’s speed could mean life or death. I wonder if horses really were trained to Buck and kick on command, but Thomas Percy’s mount Baeleon is a ruddy hero in his own right!
The battle scenes throughout are well realised and for someone who rails against gratuitous stuff this was balanced just about right for me.
So begins a tug of War for England and the maintenance of the King’s Sanity.
You really need your head screwed on to get all the Dukes straight here, but I have really enjoyed the series so far and despite there being very little real historical work on Henry Vl , I enjoyed the way Conn made him three dimensional and against type I really respected Margaret who in Shakespeare is represented as quite the Harridan.
I think I will be continuing!
A word to fans of Phillipa Gregory and her ilk… I would definitely try this series, it is not romantic but the research is very solid and any liberties are explained in the comprehensive author Historical notes. The language does veer into modern vernacular a tiny bit but for me at least, that tiny grating was counteracted by a good pacing and an interesting period.