Review - Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
This is the first of a trilogy relating to the Wars of the Roses. Book 2 (Trinity) was published September 2014 and the final instalment (Bloodline) is scheduled for release in September this year. My version is a beautiful, sturdy hardback. The cover gleams gold and there is a coloured map at the front and a lovely illustrated royal family tree at the back. I acquired it shortly after its release when I attended a talk by the author at Sheffield central library. If you ever get the chance to attend one of Conn Iggulden's talks I would urge you to go. An ex-teacher, he is used to holding the attention of an audience and is funny, engaging and endlessly charming.
I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it. Whilst it is a lovely book it is rather heavy and, as it is signed, I was probably a little nervous about messing it up by slinging it about in my bag. It is no reflection, though, on how I felt about it and I was excited to finally begin reading.
Most people are familiar with the exploits of Henry V; the great warrior King who conquered much of France. Also many are aware of the bloody English civil war which ripped the country apart as the red rose of Lancaster battled the white rose of York. This book, however, bridges the gap between the two. Henry VI is a frail and weak king and France is growing bold. The inside flap of the jacket reads:
''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?''
My view: Conn Iggulden is an expert in writing historical fiction. His writing style is accomplished yet accessible and he manages to bring the past tantalisingly to life. The book balances political intrigue with battlefield action and the pace is good. This is around the sixth book I have read by this author and it seems to me as if he is becoming even more readable. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Henry VI's young bride, Margaret of Anjou, as in the other books I have read set in this period she is an older and battle-hardened woman. It was interesting to consider her early vulnerability and dedication to her cause and her king. I did stutter a little when the story lingered on the skirmishes in France. They went on a little too long for my taste as, personally, I prefer the political machinations and I probably would have enjoyed it more had it been 50 pages or so shorter. But I know that these books appeal to a range of people who have different preferences when it comes to reading historical fiction and I think that Conn Iggulden does an excellent job in catering for most tastes. His ratings on Amazon are consistently high and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Interesting review, it's inspired me to give it a go! Although I love historical fiction I've always avoided his books as I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that they leaned heavily towards the military aspect of history, something which doesn't really interest me. It sounds from your review that, although the battles do feature, there's enough other intrigue going on to make it worth reading. Lovely to read your thoughts as ever :)
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I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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