War of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

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I am nothing more than a bauble, while they play games of power all around 

Margaret Anjou

Stormbird is the first chapter in the new War of the Roses series by Iggulden. It is the first of his historical novels to be set in England. And comes on the tail of his Emperor Series. My review of Emperor: Blood of Gods was the last book in that series.

The book opens with the death of King Edward III in 1377, under the watchful gaze of his three sons. However, the story really begins 66 years after his death with his grandson, Henry VI the Lamb now on the throne. England has been thrown into turmoil, as cousins have turned on cousins in a bid to wrestle power.

A political marriage of convenience to a young Margaret of Anjou that aimed to secure peace with the French leads to disastrous results for the kingdom, and the rest of the book focuses on the impact this had on both sides of the Channel.

The book captured the machinations of politics as well as its brutality and had an authentic ring to it, as all the characters came to life throughout. – whether they were courtiers or peasants. A key feature of the book is that even though it retold the story of Henry VI’s reign, his role throughout the narrative was rather one of a supporting character as the events seemed to be retold through the eyes of the others. This made for interesting reading.

However, my only criticism of the book is that it introduced a lot of characters, which led me to refer to the character list as well as the various family trees to understand the relationships. This is inevitable as I would presume that some of the characters will feature in subsequent books.

A book, that even for those not knowledgeable about this period of history, many would find engaging. I would definitely recommend to the more avid historical fiction reader, as well as the novice.

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