Monday, July 28, 2014

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden --- 460 pages

Ever since George R. Martin commented that his Game of Thrones fantasy series was inspired in part by the internecine warfare that plagued England during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as descendants of the Plantagenet King Edward III's five sons struggled for control of the throne, there has been a revival of interest in the Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses.

Conn Iggulden, who was written a number of historical novels, including two series, one about the Roman Emperors and one about the Mongolian Khans, has now embarked upon a series about the rivalry between the House of Lancaster (the Red Rose) and the House of York (the White Rose). Stormbird is the first in the series.

This is a period in English history that has long fascinated me, and numerous books, both fiction and nonfiiction, have attempted to untangle the knots in this story of a country torn apart by escalating factions, ambitions, rivalries and treacheries. I read and enjoyed Iggulden's Conqueror Series about the Mongolian Khans, and anticipated another riveting read when I started Stormbird.

Unfortunately, Stormbird failed to grip. It's not a bad book, but I found the pace very slow and the historical characters  were one dimensional and did not come to life on the page. Iggulden veers back and forth between the (historical) havoc created by the puppet King Henry VI and his advisors versus his ambitious York cousin and his faction, and the resulting tribulations visited upon the common people of the realm. The parts of his story dealing with the common people are far more vivid and engrossing. If Iggulden had kept his focus there, and left the royal cousins in the background, it would have made for a new and interesting perspective on the period, rather than yet another tired rehash of royal skulduggery.

Bernard Cornwall is still the master here. His Grail Quest Series, set during the 100 Years War in the fourteenth century (precursor to the War of the Roses) and his stand-alone novel, Agincourt, telling the tale of Henry V's great victory over France, are vivid portrayals of the critical role of the English longbow archers in the wars against France. His Saxon Chronicles deals with the ninth century King Alfred the Great and the transformation of the divided Saxon fiefs into one country united under a single king. BBC America is currently producing a television series based on Cornwall's Saxon Chronicles, hoping to attract the same audience that is fascinated with Martin's Game of Thrones.

Click HERE to watch the trailer promoting Stormbird.

Click HERE to watch Conn Iggulden behind the scenes on the trailer shoot talking about Stormbird.

Click HERE to watch a video about the English longbow as a weapon of war.

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