Quite a while ago, I read the first book in Conn Iggulden’s War of the Roses series and loved it. Whilst I have read loads of novels about the Tudor period, the War of the Roses is an area of history I know less about, and the story of Henry VI and how the strife between the houses of York and Lancaster began was fascinating. And things got even more interesting in Trinity, with more battles, more complex politics and more character depths revealed.
Trinity begins over a year after Stormbird ends, with the mentally unstable King Henry VI still in a form of waking coma, and Richard of York acting as Protector of the Realm in his absence (and well and truly getting his feet under the table, much to the chagrin of Queen Margaret of Anjou). However, the rising fortunes of the Duke of York and his allies, Salisbury and Warwick take an about turn when Henry suddenly wakes from his slumber, far more alert and assertive than ever before. Tensions begin to brew between the supporters of the king and the supporters of York, and the country erupts into civil war…
Whilst I described Stormbird as never having a dull moment, its level of action pales in comparison to that of Trinity. I lost count of the number of battles and skirmishes that took place throughout, and the number of times the fortunes of both sides – the Yorks and the Lancasters – rise and fall.
Whilst I loved the level of action and excitement, one of my favourite things about this book was the characters and their continued development leading on from Stormbird. Some more background characters like Salisbury, Warwick and Edward of March moved more into the foreground in this book, and we are given far more insight into some of the main characters from Stormbird.
The biggest character turnaround for me was that of Richard of York (father of Edward of March who eventually became Edward IV). Whilst he seemed an out-and-out villain grasping for the throne in the first book, this was kind of negated in this book. He definitely wants the throne, but at the same time is loyal to the king and doesn’t want to be seen as a traitor. He is named heir and has the defenceless Henry VI at his mercy countless times but refuses (despite urging from his supporters) to harm the child-like king.
His three principle supporters, Salisbury, Warwick and Edward of March were also surprisingly likable. The second book almost seems to have switched perspectives – whilst King Henry’s side were the ‘good guys’ in the first book, and the York’s were villains, the sides are more equally portrayed in Trinity, and the book even possibly leans more towards the York perspective.
Whilst I didn’t really like Salisbury at first (his own hatred of the Percys for example clouding his judgement at the battle of St Albans), he grew on me throughout the book, as despite his ruthlessness, he is loyal to his allies and family. I also liked his son Warwick (the future ‘Kingmaker’), who is incredibly resourceful, cutting through the gardens and breaking the siege at St Albans, and recruiting the still angry Kentish men (from Jack Cade’s rebellion in the first book) for his cause.
Edward of March so far seems an unlikely future king, even if he is a fairly likeable character. The way he is described as huge and hearty makes him almost seem like a lovable dog (and I think Warwick even describes him similarly at some point), and he seems to act on impulse, and has to be reined in by his father, and the more calculating Warwick.
However, some of King Henry VI’s supporters were downright unlikable, despite technically being on the ‘good side’ (as in, the side of the rightful king). Earl Percy, for example, whose only agenda is to gain back the lands he has lost to Salisbury, and even stoops low enough to attack a wedding party. His son Thomas Percy however grew on me, as he seemed pretty foolish and high and mighty in the beginning, but became more likable as the book went on.
Henry himself is an interesting, yet fairly frustrating character. When he regains his senses early on in the book and is more in possession of himself than ever before I had hope (despite what I knew about the history, and who eventually gets the throne) that he would manage to turn things around and regain control. And whilst to an extent this happens for a while, his exclusion of the Yorkist lords from his Royal Progress at the urging of his wife results in the battle of St Albans, and his defeat there causes him to slip back into his fragile state, which he lapses in and out of for the remainder of the novel.
I also had quite mixed feelings towards Margaret of Anjou in this novel. Whilst I loved her character in the first novel, as she was a strong female character in a distinctly masculine world, yet quite kind and gentle at the same time, she became harder and almost bloodthirsty in this one. Her determination to protect her husband’s position as king, and her son’s inheritance is admirable, but in many cases her actions seem to shatter fragile moments of peace, and plunge the country back into war. Whilst I still have a great admiration for her character, and how she essentially commands the Lancastrian forces in Henry’s absence, some of her actions seemed pretty questionable, and mostly motivated by pure hatred.
Derry Brewer, the king’s spy, who was one of my favourite characters in Stormbird, also returns in Trinity. However, as the book was more focused on battles than spying and subterfuge, he has a lot less to do, which was inevitable, but a shame anyway.
This book kept me gripped all the way to the end, with the constant battles and the rising and falling fortunes of the two warring parties. The shocking (if you try and ignore what you know about history!) and explosive ending has me eagerly anticipating the next book in the series, and I really can’t recommend these books enough to fans of historical fiction, or to anyone who has an interest in the War of the Roses.