Dragged to war

Wildfire being unleashed from a flame thrower during the siege
of the Tower of London in 1460.
A few months ago I reviewed the first in Conn Iggulden's series about the Wars of the Roses - Stormbird. Trinity continues from shortly after the end of Stormbird. All should be well in England, Margaret of Anjou has finally borne an heir to King Henry VI, Prince Edward of Lancaster; but the King has lapsed into madness, and is catatonic. Richard of York is now Protector of the Kingdom, but everything is thrown out of balance when the King revives. As Margaret attempts to stop York's quest for power, the nation will fall into civil war as family feuds resurface.

Readers of earlier reviews on Bookhound will remember that I enjoyed Stormbird, but was also struck by how heavily it was weighted towards the Lancastrian cause. Perhaps it is in the interests of even-handedness, but Trinity is much more sympathetic to the Yorkist situation during the 1450s-'60s. Trinity is a brilliant description of the sheer madness that is civil war.

Stormbird sees the lines firmly drawn, but Trinity is much more complicated, as the country rather than deliberately following the route of civil war, slips into it almost by accident, as family feuds and old grievances play themselves out on the wider field of battle. The other thing that I was struck by when reading this was the youth of many of the people involved - Warwick "the Kingmaker" just 26 years old, when some masterly tactics on his part at the first battle of St. Albans resulted in the day being won for the House of York, the future King Edward IV getting a taste of battle at just 12 years old.

If I was more on the side of the Yorkists before (with the odd nod to Elizabeth I), I was even more so after reading Trinity. I inevitably found myself asking, what on earth would I have done in a similar situation - with a king who was incapable of ruling, a very young heir, and a power vacuum at the centre. It is to Richard of York's credit that he didn't take advantage of the situation (it would have been very easy to assassinate the king), but with the machinations of the Queen (who was understandably eager to save the situation for her son), and the in-fighting between families that supported York and Lancaster (think The Godfather transported to 15th century England), it's not surprising that war followed.

It was a brutal age too, with no particular love for Henry VI following the actions of his officers against the people of London. This is often an uneasy read which shows how violent the age could be, but it's also enthralling, and kept me firmly hooked from start to finish. And so on to book three...


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