It is commonly known by fans of America’s outstanding fantasy fiction writer George R. R. Martin that the international best selling series of novels A Song of Fire and Ice is influenced by England’s medieval Wars of the Roses. A religious viewer of HBO’s Game of Thrones, I honestly never quite caught the connection. Perhaps this resulted from my primary interest in English Tudor Era history. Most likely, I just wasn’t looking closely enough.
After reading Conn Iggulden’s outstanding novel Wars of the Roses Stormbird, I am convinced. Yes, George R. R. Martin was heavily influenced by medieval English history in crafting his delightful plots. And yes, though the fantasy genre as Martin writes it is a downright fantastic read, historical fiction is also — particularly when written as brilliantly as Conn Iggulden does in this introductory novel in his Wars of the Roses trilogy.
War of the Roses Stormbird is an outstanding example of a novel weaving complex multi-faceted story telling through the solid development of multiple parallel plots. When you think of real history, and the ongoing series of inter-woven events that happen simultaneously in various locations, you would think that parallel plot development would be a lot more common in historical fiction than it actually is. Most historical fiction novels, however, focus upon a singular plot.
Why is this? Well, parallel plot development is exceptionally difficult to craft and can confuse the reader if not done perfectly. No worries here, Conn Iggulden is a master at multiple parallel plot development. This giftedness richly enhances the quality of the novel while also enhancing the believability of the narration.
Given the multiple plots in play, War of the Roses Stormbird also has multiple protagonists. The plot arc beginning with the marriage negotiations of King Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou and weaving through history to England hinging on the brink of Civil War, Conn Iggulden’s character development of the novel’s protagonists and major characters is nothing short of outstanding.
Enter Derry Brewer, King Henry VI’s lead spy and most trusted adviser. Best described as a fun blending of the personalities and strengths of Thomas Cromwell, Francis Walsingham and Tyrion Lannister, this crafty fellow drives the boat, the King behind the King. Completely fictional, Iggulden craftily uses him to do those things needed to move the plot along that are not accurately explainable for the historical figures that are very convincingly portrayed.
Enter Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England. We see her develop from a teenager at her Anjou estate to her ultimate Queenship, a true regent for her weaker spouse. Brewer and Anjou together? Well think Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, Tyrion Lannister and his sister Cersei or Francis Walsingham and Mary, Queen of Scots — enough said.
Richard Plantagenet and William de la Pole play heavily in events, as well. This all stated, the most brilliantly crafted characters in the novel in my opinion are Kentish rebel Jack Cade and Thomas Woodchurch, expert archer and leader of the Maine Rebellion. Without giving away the plot, let’s just say these two commoners are driven to their causes.
Beyond the parallel plot technique aforementioned, the overall plot development in Wars of the Roses Stormbird is just stellar. It is obvious that Conn Iggulden extensively researched in his preparations, because the scenes and overall plot is heavily laden with rich historical detail just exquisitely articulated.
Iggulden very smoothly weaves these details into the rich scenes, so much so that he even touches upon the persecution of Jews in France, explaining how a character gains the finances to afford a major event with no need to repay his debt. This particular scene was absolutely bone chilling, both historically on point and reminiscent of the historical era’s influence on George R. R. Martin’s work.
To be quite frank, I am not a fan of battles scenes. Most are poorly done and highly contrived. This admitted, the battle scenes in this novel are outstanding, and right here again is where you see the exemplary detail of Iggulden’s research, historically on point in every detail, once more illustrating the era’s influence on George R. R. Martin. The battles are realistic, tightly written, exciting and explosive. I admit it. Thomas Woochurch had my heart racing. A few words of advice — don’t mess with an English archer!
War of the Roses Stormbird is a outstanding novel, any genre. Conn Iggulden is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Look for this novel to also fly off the shelves in the United States, where it released earlier this month.
Born in 1971 to an English father and Irish mother, Conn Iggulden is a British historical fiction author. He studied English at the University of London and later taught English for seven years, becoming head of the English department at St. Gregory’s RC High School. He eventually left teaching to write his first novel, The Gates of Rome.
Conn Iggulden’s first five part series of novels, entitled Emperor, focus on the remarkable life of Julius Cesaer, from childhood to death. Conn Iggulden’s next series of novels, the Conqueror series, is based on the lives of Mongol warlords Genghis, Ogedai and Kublai Kahn.
Releasing in the United Kingdom in 2013, Wars of the Roses Stormbird is Conn Iggulden’s first novel focusing on British history. It the first of three planned novels focusing on the Wars of the Roses. Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons of New York, the novel released in the United States on July 8, 2014.
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