A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
The Yorkist king Edward IV is driven out of England, his wife and children forced to seek sanctuary from the House of Lancaster. Yet rage and humiliation prick Edward back to greatness. He lands at Ravenspur, with a half-drowned army and his brother Richard at his side. Though every hand is against them, though every city gate is shut, they have come home. The brother York will not go quietly into banishment.
Instead, they choose to attack.
Yet neither Edward nor Richard realize that the true enemy of York has yet to reveal himself. Far away, Henry Tudor had become a man. He is the Red Dragon- ‘the man of destiny’ who seeks to end the Wars of the Roses. His claim will carry him to Bosworth Field.
There will be silence and the mourning of Queens. There will be self-sacrifice and terrible betrayals. Two royal princes will be put to death. There will be an ending- and a new royal house will stand over them all.
The fourth installment of Iggulden’s ‘Wars of the Roses’ series didn’t disappoint me in the slightest. Beginning where ‘Bloodline’ left off, with the factions of York and Lancaster warring again after years of peace as Richard, Earl of Warwick joined the Lancaster cause after numerous dishonours on the Neville family name from Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville. The book follows Warwick, Jasper Tudor and Richard of Gloucester as they set out to ruin their enemies and secure the safety of their lands and lines.
Now, I have to warn those who, like me, for some reason loved the character of Warwick, history was not kind to him. His death really broke my heart and although I knew it was always going to happen, as I knew from what relatively little I remembered of the ‘Hollow Crown’s’ adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays that Edward lived to see two sons born and therefore must have won against Warwick, it didn’t make it any easier to read. Perhaps it was because Iggulden was so clearly sympathetic to the man, but I couldn’t help but root for him and when his end finally came I felt deflated and sad. In that moment Edward cemented himself as the villain to me, despite the fact that I doubt the reasoning behind very few of his decisions. In hindsight, however, I can see that he would have kept his crown and line secure had he trusted Warwick more and Elizabeth less.
I did truly enjoy reading this book but I have to say that I couldn’t help feeling a bit rushed. Perhaps it was because the subtitle of ‘The Rise of the Tudors’ clearly highlighted to me that the novel would finish its tale at Bosworth Field and so I kept looking at the number of pages left thinking there’s not enough time! But, in truth, I would have preferred it if Iggulden had made a bit more of Richard’s reign, despite the fact it only lasted two years. The fact that 12 years of Edward’s rule were skipped over between Part One and Two probably added to the feeling of rushing to get to the ending.
Not only that, but I would have preferred it if a bit more time had been spent on the Tudors story. I liked Jasper, Edmund and Owen in the earlier books and I would have enjoyed a few more chapters with Jasper and his nephew in order to really get the feel of him. As it was, it was difficult for me to be really happy with the ending as I didn’t really feel any strong connection to Henry Tudor. In fact, because of the time spent on Richard of Gloucester it was difficult to really want him to lose. I couldn’t help but pity him after the loss of his family and although the deaths of his nephews and most likely his brother George and Henry VI himself were on his hands I still liked the character enough to be saddened by his pitiful demise.
These books were a bit of a roller coaster ride for me, emotions wise, as my allegiances shifted from book to book. But I really did enjoy reading them, and I’m a more than a little saddened by the fact that because ‘Ravenspur’ ended with Bosworth that that’s probably the final book in the series. I loved reading about Brewer and Warwick, the many Somersets and Percys. But most of all, I’ve fallen in love with a period of history that I didn’t really know much about before, so I have to thank Conn Iggulden for that.