Stormbird, Conn Iggulden

The War of the Roses, the period of civil war between the different houses of the Royal family in England in the 15th century, has had a lot of attention lately. (due to the succes of Game of Thrones perhaps?)

Conn Iggulden, who wrote an excellent series about Julius Caesar, also started a series set during the War of the Roses and Stormbird is the first book.

In the first part we are present when king Edward III dies in 1377 and three of his sons are there. Their sons and grandsons would rip England apart in their ambition to become king in the years to come.

When king Henry V died, he left a huge empire with land in France. The new king, his son Henry VI, was not a king like his father was. He did not grow up to be a warrior, but he was a simple man who spend a lot of his time in prayer. He was not capable of continuing the war with France and his advisors were looking for a solution.

To make a treaty, they came up with the following plan in 1443; Henry would marry the niece of the French King, Margaret of Anjou. Anjou and Maine would become possessions of the French crown again and there would be peace for twenty years.

This was not a bad trade, only nobody bothered to explain this to the English people who moved to Maine and Anjou and had farms there. The French army swept in to throw them out, but most of them would not go without a fight. They want to defend the land they see as theirs, and the French king sees this as a breach of the treaty and declares war again. He does not only take Maine and Anjou, but also other English lands like Normandy.

In the meantime the situation in England was not very sure as well, since the king was not capable of governing and a queen who was intelligent and brave, but also young and inexperienced.
People are revolting and an army of rebels even marches towards London.
The only one who is profiting from all of this is Richard of York, who sees himself as the next king.  

Conn Iggulden is a very good writer, he has shown that in his previous books. In Stormbird he manages to bring the historical people and events to life, with an eye for detail, but without long explanations that could make things boring. It is clear he did a lot of research and he gives a very good historical justification where he explains which parts are real and which parts are made up.

He also created some great characters, like master-spy Derrihew Brewer, the architect of the treaty with France and a man desperate to protect his king against the scheming of the nasty Richard of York.

In short, an amazing historical novel that you need to read when you have enough time, since it is a book you cannot put down once you started in it.
I am looking forward to the next part in this series.

Original titel: War of the Roses book one: Stormbird
Published in 2013