Warning: Spoilers for the first two books (if you don’t already know the history of the War of the Roses anyway!).
I finally finished it! Hallelujah!
If anyone read my post last week about being a mood reader, you’ll know why finishing this book is such a big deal. Although it was a great book, I seemed to get halfway through and suddenly decide that actually, I wasn’t really feeling the whole historical fiction thing right now, and then spent a couple of weeks avoiding the book. This is no reflection on the book at all, as I have loved both the previous books, and did enjoy this one when I could actually force myself to read it, but I had seriously considered abandoning it to read something else. Thankfully I managed to power through, and was rewarded with yet another great read by Conn Iggulden.
The book begins in the aftermath of the events of Trinity, with Edward of York and Warwick trying to come to terms with the horrific deaths of their father’s at the hands of Margaret Anjou. With vengeance foremost on their minds, they decide to make a bold move by crowning Edward king whilst the weak, fragile Henry VI still lives – something that has never been done before in history. With two kings in one country, the English Lords flock to take sides, and the country erupts into war again, this time even bloodier than before.
One of the things I’ve always loved so much about this series was the characters, and Bloodline continued to excel on that front. The loss of two of the main characters, Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury, weighs heavy on the start of the book as the character’s grieve (or celebrate in Margaret Anjou’s case). Whilst I hadn’t really liked York in the first book (probably because it seemed to be told from more of a Lancastrian perspective), by the second one he had grown on me, as had Salisbury, so I definitely felt their absence.
Thankfully their sons step up to become the new main characters on the Yorkist side of the war, and are just as engaging. I didn’t think Edward was the most likeable of characters: he is stubborn and quick to anger, and always wants his own way (which becomes dangerous when he is crowned king and can actually get his own way, as his way isn’t always the best). Warwick, however, I really liked, which is surprising considering how portrayals of Richard, Earl of Warwick usually are (a traitor, and often a villain). He manages to continue fighting through his grief for his father (whilst Edward gets drunk a lot in Wales to deal with his), and steers the Yorkist force in the right direction through his wit, and refusal to let Edward make bad decisions.
The characters of Margaret of Anjou and her spymaster Derry Brewer have been firm favourites throughout the series, to I was sorry to see them fade more into the background, but seen as halfway through the novel they flee to France, it is understandable that this happened.
The novel also has a few new characters who are worth mentioning, most notably Elizabeth Woodville. Whilst in previous books I’ve read about the War of the Roses I’ve tended to quite like her, this version I really couldn’t warm to. From her first appearance in the book I failed to see what was so appealing or charismatic about her that Edward would go against all advice and common sense and marry her, and her use of Edward as a puppet after their marriage doesn’t paint her in a particularly favourable light.
Yet again, this book was action packed with multiple battles occurring throughout, each with higher stakes than before. The Battle at Towton in particular seemed to be where it would be decided which king would reign, and added factors of the weather and the Duke of Norfolk’s missing wing made the odds of a York victory particularly precarious in the face of Margaret of Anjou’s vast army. The way the tides kept turning, first in favour of one army, and then in favour of the other, kept things exciting as you waited to see who would be the victor (if you tried to ignore what you already knew about history).
Overall, I really enjoyed this book (despite the age it took me to read it), although perhaps not as much as I enjoyed Trinity. The characters continued to be interesting, fresh new spins on the historical figures involved in the War of the Roses, and the action was as ever superbly written and engaging. If only I could have been more in the mood for historical fiction and could have appreciated it more!