Today's review is brought to you by my brother Jamie (Twitter: @xjammacx) .
Jamie lives in the West Midlands with his wife and daughter. He is an avid reader and enjoys reading on his commute to and from work.
One of his favourite books (ok it's a trilogy) is The Lord of the Ring's, a series that thankfully wasn't ruined when it made it to the big screen.
Although Jamie still tries to read frequently, his reading choices have altered slightly since the birth of his daughter and he can now quote Rapunzel word for word.
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.
As a normal follower of Lee Child and the late Tom Clancy, Stormbird by Conn Iggulden was a considerable departure from my usual reading material.
Having little knowledge of the War of the Roses and a more than passing interest in British history I was intrigued to see how the marriage of fact and entertainment was handled. My fear that this would read like a history textbook was initially reinforced by the family tree style royal line at the start of the book however it was quickly put to rest and this substantial book (500pages) turned out to be a great novel that I couldn’t put down.
From the death of Edward III at the start of the book we are led to the marriage of Margaret of Anjou to Henry VI and the subsequent peace treaty with France. All part of a play to strengthen and hold the young King’s realm. To his credit Iggulden’s creation of ‘Derry’ Brewer the kings spymaster is a stroke of genius as it allows him to explore the possibility of an individual behind the scenes guiding the powerplays that drove the key decisions of the time.
The other characters are not just there to make up the numbers each has their own story to tell and part to play, Jack Cade and his Kentish rebels for example are used to portray the feelings of the nation at that time. Together with Thomas Woodchurch and his son, who have lost everything as a result of the treaty, they march on London and the throne. Lord Suffolk is left in an almost impossible position of having to defend England’s lands on the continent against overwhelming opposition and all the while the Duke of York move pieces in to play to execute his own plans for the throne.
This book is not just about behind the scenes scheming and gruesome battles. There is also a softer side shown through the eyes of Margaret of Anjou where we see the shy chid bride blossom in to a key character who struggles to hold on to her husband’s throne whilst those that wish it for their own purpose circle.
Stormbird is the first of a series of books about The War of the Roses and I’m sure many will compare this to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (adapted to A Game of Thrones) which is inspired by the same events however where Martin uses Magic and Dragons to keep the reader entertained Iggulden manages to do this by beautifully weaving together historical fact and fiction to form a truly mesmerising story.
I for one can’t wait for the rest of the series.
I would like to thank Francesca at a Michael Joseph, Penguin for sending a copy to review.