Book Review

Book Review: War of the Roses: Stormbird

(Adapted from the back cover)

This is the first book in #1 New York Times bestselling author Conn Iggulden’s historical series about two families that plunged England into a devastating, decades-long civil war.

In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court.

A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it the opportunity to oust an ineffectual king.

As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?

My Thoughts

I wanted to love this book which came highly recommended to me by several fans of Tudor historical fiction and perhaps my expectations were too high.

Compared to a history text, this is a vivid recount of the prelude for my favorite period in history. Compared to a fiction novel, the the lack of character development and story line struggled to hold my attention. There is no twist, no foreshadowing, no surprise or tension. I predict a reader’s reaction to this Stormbird is probably dependent upon their expectation at page one.

There are a lot of characters in Stormbird – so many that I’m not sure “character” is the correct description, more name dropping at times. I get it, it’s a complicated historical story, but I still want to be entertained. Because there are so many characters I felt none of them are truly developed. Margaret of Anjou is the closest but she follows a predicable, dull path from naive child to protective queen without significant challenge or conflict. Even though this is a fictional recount of a true story and I knew the ending, I still longed for a character to cheer for or to sneer at. I felt disconnected from everyone which left me unconnected to every event.

That being said, I still finished the book, though I expect that is more due to my love for Tudor history than the writing. Despite being 460 pages (and ~100 pages too long), Stormbird is a fast read. The voice is simple which aids skimming  (which I found myself doing fairly often.)

The Historical Notes at the end were my favorite part. As a historical fiction author I appreciate how Iggulden manipulated history to weave his book and how he reveals what was his imagination and which parts are rooted in historical evidence. The historical notes heightened my appreciate for the piece and left me feeling more satisfied than I expected. It will be a while before I would consider tackling book #2, but I just might…


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