Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

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.

I’ve read novels about the War of the Roses before, but never like this one – with so much detail. In this first novel of the series, Conn Iggulden drills down deep into the history of this war, bring forward details  about how it began and why. What makes this book so successful is that the author has time to develop each character, bringing their motivations and issues to the forefront.

It is the story of King Henry VI, a man plagued by frailness and a strange illness that renders him mute. His weakness demands others run the kingdom when he is incapacitated, and it is these men who are at the root of the problems. The English held territories in France are also at risk, with France working to seize back their lands.  To bring peace, he marries Margaret of Anjou, the French king’s daughter. As their marriage progresses, Margaret must take a stronger hand in guiding the kingdom’s affairs.

Impeccable historical detail, coupled with compelling, well draw characters, and a fascinating period in history makes Conn Iggulden’s version a must read. There are plenty of brutal and detailed battle scenes which contrast nicely to the gentler, kinder, or harrowing domestic scenes between the king and queen. This is definitely the book to read if you want a greater understanding of the cause and effects of the War of Roses on England and its people. Great pacing, fascinating people, and vibrant descriptions make this a must read!

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