Posted By Claire on October 16, 2013
My father has been trying to get me to read Conn Iggulden’s historical fiction for years and I’ve just never got round to it, but when I received a review copy of Wars of the Roses: Stormbird it was the perfect opportunity to be the dutiful daughter!
Stormbird is the first in a new series of historical fiction set in the turbulent times of the Wars of the Roses and I can’t wait for the next book as this one has got me hooked! The book is beautiful – a gorgeous embossed gold cover – and it’s a rip-roaring read which I didn’t want to finish. It’s a huge book – over 470 pages – but I didn’t once lose interest or skip pages and I appreciated the Historical Note at the end where Iggulden explained where and how he’d filled in the gaps in history with his own ideas and why he chose to make one of the main characters a fictional one. This note is, I feel, important when a book features real events and people. The book also includes three maps and five family trees, so that the reader can figure out where the events take place and how all of the characters are linked. The list of characters at the beginning is also a useful reference, particularly when there are so many Richards!
The prologue sets the scene, taking the reader back to 1377 and the death of Edward III as he is surrounded by his sons: John, Edmund and Thomas. The Wars of the Roses resulted from a power struggle between these sons and their descendents: the Houses of Lancaster, York, Neville and Beaufort, so this is the perfect start to the novel. The book then fast-forwards to 1443, to the reign of Henry VI and the trouble caused by the King’s ill health and weakness. He was, of course, nothing like Henry V, his warrior father, and many felt let down by him. Will Henry be able to keep his throne in this time of turmoil?
The story is mainly told through the eyes of Derry Brewer, the King’s spymaster, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk and a supporter of the King; and Margaret of Anjou, the King’s new bride. However, there are other key characters and I particularly liked Thomas Woodchurch and his son, Rowan, who we meet in the English territory of Maine (in present day France). William de la Pole is my next favourite character, I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with this strong, loyal man who does all he can to support his King and Queen in the face of rebellion and events which might just cost him his life.
Readers who know the period well will know that Derry Brewer never existed but Iggulden argues that the King must have had some type of spymaster who influenced events, and he really is a wonderful character. It is the interplay between Derry and Suffolk, and Derry and Woodchurch which I found really interesting and which worked really well in bringing these characters to life. Obviously the scenes of battle and rebellion are exciting and incredibly well-written, but my favourite parts were the scenes involving Margaret and Henry VI, Thomas Woodchurch and his son, and Suffolk and Margaret. They were so human, real and poignant – beautifully written.
I don’t want to say any more as I don’t want to spoil it. Even readers who know their history well will still be kept on the edge of their seat with the twists and turns of this book, and the human element of the wars that is portrayed here. I highly recommend it and can’t wait for the next installment.
Blurb from Amazon
Historical fiction master Conn Iggulden retells the gripping story of the English civil war in his new Wars of the Roses series.
King Henry V – the great Lion of England – is long dead.
In 1437, after years of regency, the pious and gentle Henry VI, the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king – Henry depends on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, to run his kingdom.
Yet there are those, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, who believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive. With England’s territories in France under threat, and rumours of revolt at home, fears grow that Henry and his advisers will see the country slide into ruin. With a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, those fears become all too real.
As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who, or what, can save the kingdom before it is too late?
The Wars of the Roses series will be a benchmark for historical fiction, showcasing Conn Iggulden at his finest.
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Michael Joseph (10 Oct 2013)
Available as a Kindle book or hardback from Amazon.com and Amazon UK, or your usual bookstore.