This Son of York: A Novel. Anne Easter Smith. Bellastoria Press Llp. November 2019. pb, 506 pp.; ISBN: 9781942209638.
“Loyalty binds me” was King Richard III’s motto in the late 1490s in England. Anne Easter Smith presents the life of Richard in a fairly even-handed manner, using multiple accepted sources as well as the DNA and anatomy studies from King Richard’s corpse found under a car park in Leicester, Great Britain.
Readers cannot help but recognize that Richard lived a very difficult life with most of it spent trying to repel the Tudor traitors from reigning, an endless enmity between the Lancaster and York families. As a young boy, his brother Clarence demeaned Richard, calling him “runt” because of his smaller size. Clarence was always the charmer around adults but his true mean streak often fell on Richard. His brother Edward, the King, knew Richard was the serious moral son and acknowledged it in admiration but also in jest. Richard begins to earn some self-respect when he is being prepared to be knighted under Warwick (“the Kingmaker”) and serve the King.
Richard is late to experience romance but when he falls in love with Kate Haute, a commoner, he exhibits faithfulness and truly loving dedication to her for life. She will have several children who receive life-long financial support, even after Richard marries Anne, Warwick’s daughter. From this point, a series of disasters follow in which Richard is responsible for or connected with the death of King Henry VII, the two sons of King Henry VII, and several traitors including his brother Clarence. Add to that his loss of his son Ned and his wife Anne and readers understand how Richard is afflicted by guilt and depression.
The War of the Roses is the main plot of this novel, with Yorkist kings for the most part accused of too much drinking, injustice, poor leadership, etc. King Richard III actually only rules for two years before he is killed in the Battle of Bosworth. This story also deals with the scoliosis back problem that plagued Richard’s life. The author does a superb job of creating a complex character who is credible and doubtful, proud but plagued by self-doubt, compassionate but formidably harsh.
The Son of York is a momentous work of historical fiction sure to garner praise, questions and avid commentary. It deserves high praise for its excellent writing, characterization, depiction of setting and presentation of complex mysteries and challenges regarding 15th Century English history. Kudos to Anne Easter Smith for this highly recommended read!