Wars of the Roses: Stormbird. Conn Iggulden. Penguin Group (USA). July 2014. 496 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780399165368.
All agree – King Henry VI is not the man his acclaimed father was – the great Kings Henry V, victor at Agincourt! He’s obsessed with prayer, believing his prayer can make the difference between war and peace between England and France in the late 1300s. Two Court officials negotiate a truce promising the return of French territory to England in Maine and Anjou with the marriage of Margaret of Anjou. The negotiations fare well but at first Margaret is married with William Duke of Suffolk standing in for the King on the wonderful wedding day! But promises are often full of unexpected debacles and the acts that follow begin a bloody war impossible to squash. For the French move to recover their territories but do so with despicable destruction, rape and theft and the English landowners who have endured blood, sweat and tears to make a profit from these lands as farmers are not willing to sit back and be dispossessed without a fight!
Conn Iggulden possesses a tremendous talent in depicting multiple points of view. Royalty to him is weak and spineless while Henry’s officials are a confused lot vying for profit while trying to save their own necks from the disaster their plotting has created! At the same time, the reader experiences mixed thoughts and feelings as the rights of the English landowners seem viable and yet their own violent response goes beyond their justified refusal to surrender, a response that may eventually turn their own native countrymen against them when they travel to London, England. How far may righteous principles go in action to earn back ownership of their land in France? Iggulden also brings out the fact that no act of rebellion ever goes unpunished; it’s a steep, devastating price one eventually must pay when the line between patriotism and treachery disappears!
Margaret of Anjou turns out to be more than a pretty French face and is quick to protect the interests of her new husband, a determination that infuriate those who have controlled the wealth and power in England since the death of Henry V.
Those like Derry, Suffolk, York, the Warwicks, etc. all vie for power but one wrong move winds up with the fall of many, since scapegoats must pay for the mistakes that yielded such inconceivable turmoil and death. The people’s fury must be assuaged regardless of actual innocence of the perpetrators whose intention was peace and reconciliation. The ensuing blood shed actually reveals a cycle repeated over and over in so-called civilized England and France.
Conn Iggulden again has created a fascinating first novel in a series in which he illuminates an historical period rife with hard-fought peace and war! Stunning debut of this latest series by this most notable author!! Highly recommended historical fiction!