Saturday, June 25, 2016

"Ravenspur" ... a review.

Moving on from events in the last post...

The fourth and final novel in his Wars of the Roses series, and without a doubt the best one of the four... and that despite the fact you know the "my kingdom for a horse", moment is coming...   I'd say that each of the books improved on the one before, and Iggulden clearly "grew" into them over the series...

So (and yes, my English teacher always told us not to start a sentence with "so" ) what do we have in this book.... well to be honest any review is going to read a little like a history book as the events covered by the span of the book (basically from Warwick's return to Bosworth) are fairly tumultuous, and numerous! What I always get from good historical fiction though, is a better idea of how the events unfold - there is something about setting these events within a human story that helps me to see the "how" and "why" that you don't always get from a straight history book...  the better the story teller the more you're hooked in, and able to see all the whys and wherefores of events... and that for me is why I read so much historical fiction.....

So (there I go again..) after his exile at the end of the previous book, this one starts with Warwick's invasion (from France and supported by Louis because of Edward's support of his enemy Charles the Bold, ruler then of the separate state of Burgundy) in support of the still badly ill Henry VI (who I found an immensely sad figure throughout the books - clearly he was mentally ill, and some modern theories are that he had a form of schizophrenia - but basically he was manipulated by any powerful faction that happened to control him).

At the beginning of the book Henry is being held in the Tower for his own 'protection', by Edward (IV who has taken the throne) and his brother Richard (of Shakespeare's "crookback" fame). The invasion catches Edward unaware and poorly prepared, on an extended hunting trip in the north with just a few followers, and the York'ist faction is forced to disband following the defection of their main force (under Montagu) to the Lancastrian side. Edward and Richard go into exile in the Netherlands where eventually, and in tit for tat, Charles the Bold finances his own invasion.

Edward lands at Ravenspur (hence the book title, but also known as Reavenspurn) near York, enters York, reunites with his brother George (a slimy toad if ever there is one, who is married to Warwick's daughter and up until now has been a close ally of Warwick) and marches south gathering an army as he goes, entering London and imprisoning Henry (again)..  Edward IV, by the way, comes across as a really active, dynamite, man of action throughout the stories..  Iggulden thinks he is perhaps Britain's best ever battlefield King (and there's been a few), but he also has his weaknesses and Iggulden describes them as well....

Edward then marches out to face Warwick.

While this is all happening, Warwick has been waiting for reinforcements from France under the command of Henry's wife, the indomitable Margaret (brilliantly described in the book - a real titan, and, the real power behind Henry VI during his illness) who Warwick had made up with in France. She also brings Henry's son Edward (there are lots of Edward's in this period!), but their ships are delayed by poor weather, and before they arrive, Edward forces battle with Warwick at Barnet [clicky] and the outcome is the very worst for Lancaster. Warwick is killed, and the Lancastrian army defeated (the battle was fought in fog and in much confusion - at one point one part of the Lancastrian army even attacked another part of its own army!). After the battle Edward IV marches to London and again crowns himself King, and when Margaret's army arrives (finally) from France he defeats them at Tewkesbury [clicky] where Henry and Margaret's son is also killed cementing his position as King with the only other rival left being Henry (Tudor) who in exile in France at this time. Just to make sure, he, or one of his supporters, either known directly, or not, kills Henry VI - never having left the Tower.

Which leaves us in a period of rest and recuperation for England that lasted 12 years until Edward drops dead suddenly, naming his bother Richard as regent until his son (another Edward, the Fifth) reached maturity...  Richard is depicted as the arch political animal, a real Machiavelli, he moves quickly and imprisons both the young Edward, and his brother, in the Tower "for their protection".... and in the master stroke, he manages to engineer a legal statement that they are illegitimate clearing the way for him to become Richard III...  shortly after they disappear...  again either he, or one of his supporters, either known directly, or not, kills them...  despite his actions, I found Iggulden's depiction of the man really engaging...  he was not Shakespeare's 'crook back' - he definitely had a curvature of the spine, but not a hump, he was a warrior, a swordsman, and apparently hugely skilled with weapons....

The book ends with the final invasion by Henry Tudor (soon to be Henry VII), and the death of Richard at Bosworth, which is largely as Shakespeare depicted it (un horsed, he was killed on the ground)..

...and so a brilliant series comes to an end...  Steve the Wargamer rates this one as a 9 out of 10....


  1. Steve,
    Im with you, this has been a great series, and has improved with each book. A great review.

    1. Robbie - definitely 6, 7, 8, and 9 out of 10... quite exciting to wonder wht period he will pick next.. i'd love him to write a series against an ECW background, or Malborough..

  2. I've really enjoyed the series so far. I'm off on holiday in a week or so and I think this might be my holiday reading.

    1. Alastair, definitely recommended.. and can be read standalone if you haven't read the previous ones..