Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Review: Wars of the Roses:Trinity by Conn Iggulden

Wars of the Roses: Trinity – Conn Iggulden
*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Author: Conn Iggulden
Publisher: Penguin Group
First published: 2014
Cover: Hardback Waterstones exclusive

Pages: 549
Blurb:    -1454-
King Henry VI has remained all but exiled in Windsor Castle, struck down by his illness for over a year, his eyes vacant, his mind a blank.
Richard, Duke of York, Protector of the Realm, extends his influence throughout the kingdom with each month that Henry slumbers. The earls of Salisbury and Warwick make up a formidable Trinity with Richard, and together they seek to break the support of those who would raise their colours in the name of Henry and his queen.
But when the king unexpectedly recovers his senses and returns to London to reclaim his throne, the balance of power is once again thrown into turmoil.
The clash of the houses of Lancaster and York will surely mean a war to tear England apart…
History of my copy: I received this copy for Christmas last year (2014) after spotting it in Waterstones one day. At the time, I hadn’t finished the first book, Stormbird, but I wanted to carry on the series.

I always surprise people when I tell them that I am a huge fan of history, especially that surrounding the numerous castles of Britain. In my free time, I enjoy visiting castles and researching them, finding out all about their history from who built them, to any famous events that occurred there. However, my love of history is purely for pleasure rather than academia. Although I took it for GCSE, I find the way it is taught in schools, and the topics covered, rather dull and whilst I did briefly consider it for A-level, I ultimately kept it aside for my own enjoyment, along with music.
I must admit that I did not enjoy the first book in the series at all. I found it long and drab, and whilst there were certainly interesting scenes (the rebellion of Jack Cade being one of them), it was mostly based on setting up the politics and basis of the infamous Wars of the Roses for the rest of the series.

Plot: The second instalment in Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses follows the events preceding Henry’s awakening on Christmas Day 1454, including the birth of his son. One of the best scenes in the book is the battle of St. Albans where Richard must make the choice between being a traitor or to continue to serve his king.
         The second part of the book set a few years later in 1459 cover the next episode of Henry’s stupor. The rise of Queen Margaret is portrayed excellently in this book, along with the faithful royal spymaster Derry Brewer. Queen Margaret had ordered attainders on York, Warwick and Salisbury, a nasty loophole in English law which allows the royal family to strip whole families of their estates and title. This was her ‘punishment’ for the families that had killed some of her beloved earls and questioned her husband as rightful King. Of course, the families affected were outraged and insulted by the royal decision, resulting in them eventually returning to England to reclaim their titles. This attempt failed due to a royal ambush at Sandal Castle. The book ends with the Earl of March, Richard of York’s son, as the heir to the throne (the Duke of York was the heir after he removed the title from the King’s son whilst he had the King in captivity) and wanting to avenge the death of his father.
         The short story Woodchurch included in my copy of this book focuses on the Woodchurch family, who were introduced in the previous book. It is an entertaining story of how Thomas Woodchurch ended up accidently getting one of Derry Brewer’s men locked in the Tower of London and how he had to help him escape. In the end, as the King woke from his stupor, the escape failed but Gilpin was allowed to leave by the King’s orders.
Setting: Although set in a multitude of English castles from the 1450s, setting is, as always, less important in historical novels. However, the setting is both descriptive and imaginative and the battles such as St Albans and Blore Heath are explained with such vivid detail, it feels as if you are there.
Characters: One of my favourite characters is Queen Margaret herself. This book really delves into how she stepped up to take charge of the kingdom, and how she was both faithful to her family and intelligent. In a time at which women were nothing more than mothers and wives, it is amazing to see how much power the Queen held.
                Another favourite character is Derry Brewer, who humorously named his horse Retribution. As the spymaster for the royal household, he is a clever and imaginative man who is secretive yet enjoyable to read about.
                Thomas Woodchurch and his son Rowan are only in the short story, but I will mention them anyway. They were two of my favourites in the first book, and it was a shame to not see them in this one. Although just simple men, their father-son relationship is well written and their skill with a bow is uncanny. It was nice to have the family as a key part of the short story.

To read or not to read: Read. I absolutely adored this book. As someone who is particularly interested in the Wars of the Roses, I am biased towards it of course but it is a gripping book for any fan of historic novels of any time period.

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