We all know the story of the “princes in the tower” and their evil uncle, Richard, who murdered them. Mainly because of Shakespeare’s play. This novel attempts to recreate the life of Richard of Gloucester, and the times in which he lived and died. And it does a great job of bringing the era to life. It also does an excellent job in dispelling many of the rumours about Richard and his rule. But more importantly than that Penman creates real characters that are entertaining and believable. The one huge problem with historical fiction, especially those novels written about real people is that you know how it the story is going to end.
Richard did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods. In the fading light, the trees began to take on unfamiliar and menacing shapes.
Beginning in 1459 this book tells Richard’s story. How his brother Edward became king. How he was surrounded by betrayal and war on all sides. This was a time of almost unending war and strife in England as the House of Lancaster and the Yorkists battled over the crown. And it ends many years later with Richard’s death.
I’m not too familiar with this period in history, so I’ve no idea how accurate Penman’s details are, however, the characters all seem true to their characters which is probably more important in fiction. And the character of Richard that she creates is one that you can’t help but feel for, and, at the same time, recognise his flaws. She doesn’t paint him as a saint, he wasn’t one. But she does succeed in poking through the later Tudor propaganda. After all, we all know that history is written by the victors. One of the interesting things about historical fiction is that is allows the losing side’s voice to be heard, or at least another version of history to be entertained.
Highly recommended, an entertaining and gripping read.