Monday, November 24, 2014

Team Lancaster vs. Team York

Source: Author Website
The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir (1995; Ballantine Books, 2011, 496pp.)

Starting with the fourteenth century reign of the semi-insane Richard II and ending almost 100 years later with the reign of the equally mentally ill Henry VI, Weir focuses on the swath of activity that occurred during the legendary wars for succession between the Houses of York and Lancaster (known as the Wars of the Roses).

I should begin my criticism by professing my profound respect for Weir as a writer and as a historian, and I would highly recommend her to anyone who loves British history
but! This is not the book to start with. Due to the narrative's multitude of historical characters, things quickly becomes confusing, simply because you're not sure who's who. People are not referred to by their birth names (Joe Smith, for example), but by whatever title they hold at the time they're mentioned.

Now, this wouldn't be so bad if you were simply talking about a well-known monarch like Henry VIII. Everyone knows who he is. Folks like Henry IV, on the other hand, don't have it as easy. During the course of the narrative, Henry IV doesn't just stay Henry IV. He starts out as Henry Bolingbroke, then becomes the Duke of Hereford, and later calls himself Henry of Lancaster/Henry IV. And, lucky for the reader! He has a son named Henry Monmouth (later Henry V), who in turn, has an uncle named Henry Beaufort (his father's half-brother). That said, once you get into the rhythm of the narrative and are a bit familiar with the names, Weir's history makes for some very absorbing reading. (You just have to pay REALLY CLOSE ATTENTION to what you're reading AT ALL TIMES.) Recommended for established history buffs already familiar with the material. For similar books, I would also recommend Weir's Mistress of the Monarchy, which covers a portion of this subject material in greater depth.

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