Sunday, 23 November 2014

King Arthur: Dragon's Child, by MK Hume

3 stars

A decent reimagining of the early years of King Arthur, or Artorex as he is known here - a blend of the Celt and Roman in one tall and ginger man (or 'russet', if you're sensitive about gingerness). 

Unaffectionately known as Lump by the foster family that has raised him in a small Roman settlement near Aquae Sulis and little better than a slave, Lump is ignored by most and valued by none except for the elderly slave Frith, at least until the family is visited by three travellers (one of whom bears the name Merlinus) who exhort them to train the young Artorex in the ways of battle, diplomacy and other qualities needed in a leader of men. Content to live the life of a simple steward at Villa Poppinidii, events are soon set in motion that leave young Artorex no choice but to venture into the wider, scarier world of ancient Britain and take up the sword against the marauding Saxons while discovering his true birthright as the only son of the dying Uther Pendragon, the malicious, cruel and murderous rapist who's High King of the Britons.

Apparently inspired by a note in a historical text referring to Guinevere as King Arthur's second wife, MK Hume has done a pretty decent job of building the world young Artorex lives in with the Britain of the time a curious mix of the Roman, the Celt, and the various other tribes who would have made up a large part of the population of the time, reminding me a little of the Clive Owen starring King Arthur (which, despite being mildly disappointing, did have the advantage of including both Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham looking like this:


One of the book's strengths were the small details on how life might have been and how society may have functioned and I have zero problem with the liberties taken with the myths as I know them, but did find that the book faltered somewhat whenever dealing with emotion. While it is quite fitting that the inscrutable Artorex not be mastered by his, there were still many times where the ordeals being faced should have stirred some feeling within me but, other than a small gulp of sadness concerning Frith, I was left completely unruffled. The characters were also drawn with pretty broad strokes, so while there was at least some effort to provide motivations and shades of grey, the villains of the piece were all blatant moustache-twirlers of the highest order.

That said, with the world outside of books needing a bit more of my brainpower at the moment, this was an undemanding and still fairly entertaining bit of brain-candy that will hopefully continue to soothe my tired brain as I plow through the rest of the trilogy.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood

3 stars

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the meaning in The Edible Woman, apparently Margaret Atwood’s first published book, but that makes it no less enjoyable as our protagonist Marian gets engaged and slowly becomes repulsed by more and more food, until there’s nothing she can consume.

The world may have changed a lot since the 1960’s when this was both written and is set (when women were expected to leave their jobs when they were getting married, and it was possible to find three virgins in an office) but it’s still very relevant today. Who hasn’t known someone (or been that someone) so consumed by their relationship that the person you once knew virtually disappears?

While not hitting the heights of some of Atwood’s later works The Edible Woman is still an enjoyable and interesting read, and is probably one of her most accessible.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M Cain

4.5 stars

Having already seen the Jack Nicholson/Jessica Lange movie, I knew before starting that The Postman Always Rings Twice wasn't about a particularly determined postie (mine doesn't even bother to ring once, judging by the amount of collection cards I get through my door). The film was OK, but it turns out that this tautly written noir is fantastic, accomplishing a lot in surprisingly few pages. 

A drifter shows up at the roadside diner of Nick Papadakis and is offered a job. Initially reluctant, he changes his mind the moment he sees Nick's hot wife and they're soon bumping uglies whenever Nick's away while fermenting a plot to see him gone for good...

A brilliant tale of horrible people doing horrible things, I'm now looking forward to reading more James M. Cain.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Princes in the Tower, by Alison Weir

4 stars

Written before her excellent book on the Wars of the Roses, The Princes in the Tower deals with the latter end of the conflict from the death of Edward IV onwards, as Alison Weir lays out a convincing argument for Richard III being the murderer of the Princes as well as the doer of many other dastardly deeds, therefore prompting the conflict with the Tudors that spelt the end of the sorry saga of the Yorks and Lancasters.

Despite having previously been staunchly loyal to his brother, Edward IV, Richard III has long had a reputation that's one of the blackest in our history. The youngest son of Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville, he was rumoured to have spent two years in his mothers womb before emerging with teeth, hair to his shoulders, and a humped back. Though it seems likely that he was born with deformities, it also seems that over the years these have been embellished and exaggerated, especially in light of his later reputation, with his perceived evilness of character being exhibited on his person by those writing of him (like Shakespeare, who's responsible for cementing this vision of Richard in the public consciousness via his play, Richard III).

Richard steadfastly supported his brother throughout the wars with the Lancasters (and is widely believed to have been involved in the murders of Prince Edward of Lancaster and Henry VI) and was therefore a natural choice for Protector of the young Edward V on the death of his father (especially as Edward IV's other brother, George, had been executed for plotting the King's demise and the rapaciousness of the Wydvilles, Prince Edward's maternal family, was notorious). However, Elizabeth Wydville clearly disagreed as she immediately spirited herself, her family (minus Edward, who was at the time under the care of his other uncle, Elizabeth's brother Lord Rivers) and quite a lot of the royal treasures to Westminster Abbey, where she claimed sanctuary. While it was apparent that Liz was trying to arrange for Edward to be kept under the control of her family and therefore retain the power she held as Queen, she also clearly feared the danger posed to her and her sons - fears which were justified as within three months Richard had declared his brother a bastard as well as a bigamist, disinheriting his lawful heirs and claiming the throne for himself.

The princes, having since been installed in the Tower of London and kept under Richard's guards, weren't seen alive following his coronation with their murders most likely taking place whilst he was on progress through the kingdom and trying to win the approval of his subjects, many of whom disapproved of the manner in which he'd seized the throne and were fearful for the safety of the princes. While seemingly a pretty good alibi, access to the Tower was restricted only to those with a warrant from the king, and Weir argues convincingly as to who was entrusted with the deed and how it was executed, while discounting theories regarding other suspects (such as Buckingham and Norfolk) or of the princes continued survival (as claimed by not one but two people later identifying themselves as Richard, the youngest of the two).

Certainly it was widely believed in Richard's time (not just in England but throughout Europe) that he'd been the architect of their deaths and this along with other acts of tyranny (he appeared to have no time for legal niceties, executing some of his biggest opponents without trial) and the committing of both adultery and incest with his niece while his wife slowly died...

...saw even those who had previously supported him unite behind the Lancastrian heir Henry Tudor and invite him to claim the throne for himself. Which he did after Richard was killed during the Battle of Bosworth, marrying Richard's niece and former lover Elizabeth York, and thus bringing an end to the rivalry between the houses of Lancaster and York. 

While not quite as insanely good as its sequel, The Princes In The Tower was yet again a deeply compelling, informative and rather convincing book seeking to illuminate one of the greatest 'unsolved' mysteries of the age, and I'm as eager as ever to devour every other book written by Weir.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Wars of the Roses, by Alison Weir

5 stars

Well that was fan-FLIPPING-TASTIC! I've just received over 400 pages of the most vivid, fascinating and comprehensive education on the Wars of the Roses at the hands of Alison Weir, that cleared up one of my big misconceptions (I was under the impression that the Yorks were the usurpers, but nooo!) and well and truly plugged the big gaping hole that formed my knowledge of one of the most turbulent times to ever rock the English Crown. And due to the way in which it was delivered - playing up the many personalities that made up the squabbling noble factions concerned (including a wealth of deeply interesting and formidable women, about whom I'd love to learn more) and reading far more like a deadly thriller than a history book, I could easily cane those pages all over again. I'm already looking forward to starting The Princes in the Tower as soon as I possibly can before going on an Alison Weir themed spending/lending splurge.

So, what did I learn? If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read 400 pages, then read on for my…ahem “summary” of events (this could take some time, so settle in).


Lasting more than thirty years, the Wars of the Roses were actually two wars - the first between Lancaster and York which spanned around 16 years, and a later, much shorter war between York and Tudor that resulted in the birth of one of the most successful dynasties to have ever ruled. The roots of all this trouble are traced here back to the rule of Edward III and his many heirs. Old Ed was a rather fertile man, having 13 children (not an unusually high number for the time) including five sons that grew to maturity. Marrying them off to heiresses, Ed would create the first ever English dukedoms for them, thereby also creating the 'magnates' who made up English nobility and were related to the royal line by blood, whose descendants would go on to cause the deaths of thousands in their fights for the Crown.

Ed's eldest son, The Black Prince, would die before Ed himself leaving his 9 year old son Richard as Ed's heir. Richard II wouldn't be a particularly brilliant king, as having been crowned at such a young age he'd had a long time in which to become incredibly self-important, extravagant and ostentatious while also being unstable and bearing grudges against any who dared criticise him (apparently even once having to be physically restrained from running the Archbishop of Canterbury through with a sword). Politically clumsy, he lavished honours, lands and wealth on his favourites, particularly one Robert de Vere (who was suspected of being his lover), dismaying many nobles - particularly Henry of Bolingbroke, Richard's cousin and the eldest son of old Ed III's third son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

Henry allied himself in opposition to the King's favourites and soon found himself exiled by the increasingly tyrannical Richard. Not stopping there, on the death of Henry's fabulously wealthy father Richard would also decide to allocate that inheritance to himself, pissing Henry off enormously and setting the stage for a confrontation. Returning to England and immediately setting about removing as many of Richard's advisors heads as possible while Richard's soldiers got busy deserting, Henry would soon take Richard prisoner and torture him into abdicating the throne and, conveniently forgetting the heirs of old Ed III's second son, Lionel (through which the York's would later have the better claim to the throne), be proclaimed King Henry IV, setting the dangerous precedent whereby pesky laws of succession wouldn't matter half so much as whoever could win a scrap (with most believing that winning a battle meant God wanted you to be King).

Henry soon discovered that seizing a throne wasn't half as hard as holding onto the bloody thing and his reign was dogged by constant tensions and rebellions, and certainly wasn't helped by the murder...sorry, 'voluntary starvation' of Richard who would become far more popular in death than he ever was in life. By the time the many rebellions had been put down in the latter part of his rule, Henry was suffering from increasing ill health and eventually collapsed and died while on a visit to Westminster Abbey. Surprisingly, given all of the rebellions against his father, his eldest son Henry of Monmouth would succeed him unchallenged to the throne.

Long fawned over by historians for being a great medieval king (i.e. he burnt lots of heretics and was extremely a particularly ruthless and brutal killer on the battlefield, especially of the French, which made him wildly popular with the English of the time) Henry V would also see a few rebellions along the same lines of those against his father, but as well as being extremely good at putting these down (and putting people off having any other rebellious ideas by chaining up and slowly roasting those who did) by this point people had become used to the Lancaster dynasty and didn't feel much inclined towards a change. Until he died, leaving behind a depleted treasury (having dragged the crown into bankruptcy through the long war with France), a bunch of nobles squabbling over whether the war should be continued, and a nine month old heir.

To govern through Henry VI's minority (childhood) a regency government was established in the form of a Council dominated by his squabbling uncles, the Dukes of Gloucester and Bedford. Meanwhile, Lionel's heir the Earl of March dies leaving his vast inheritance (and better claim to the throne) to his nephew Richard, also known as the Duke of York. This inheritance is initially 'sequestered' (i.e. nicked) by the crown, but he's allowed it back when he reaches his majority - for a hefty fee, of course. He's not, however, allowed a place on the Council due to the potential threat he poses to the throne and is instead placed firmly out of the way overseeing English affairs in France which aren't going too well, the French having rejected the treaty which entitled Henry VI to their throne. He'll have to finance this himself, despite promises of the crown meeting his expenses (sounds just like work now!), an early showing of the sort of treatment seemingly designed to provoke and insult him as much as possible - not the sort of behaviour that keeps a powerful potential threat on-side.

On reaching 16, Henry declares himself of age and takes finally takes control of the crown, and immediately shows himself to be spectacularly unsuited to kingship. Weak and inexperienced, naive and gullible, Henry's excessive generosity to his relatives and the many grasping and self-interested nobles surrounding him combined with his inability to stand up to anyone, his excessive piety and his mental instability to weaken him even further. Probably inherited from his mother, Katherine of Valois (daughter of the mad French king Charles VI, there's easily another book that I'd love to read on Katherine's life alone), from early manhood Henry suffered from depressive episodes, sometimes even lapsing into catatonic states. Not only inept when ruling, Henry was often therefore also completely incapable of it.

Despite being little better than a monk when it came to women, Henry married Margaret of Anjou (who made up in beauty and formidability what she lacked in a dowry) and quickly made the situation much worse. Already despised for being French (and for Henry secretly agreeing to give away lands in France in exchange for her hand) Margaret would soon be making most of her husband's decisions for him as he retreated further into his own world of prayer and meditation. Which wouldn't have been quite so bad if she hadn't completely misunderstood (or not given a shit about) the many prejudices of the English and frequently given their enemies advantageous deals, while also being rather corrupt and lavishly rewarding her highly unpopular favourites while insulting those like the Duke of York, who'd effectively beggared himself for the English cause in France only to see the money and reinforcements he was owed being diverted to the incompetent and the grasping. Yet more dukedoms are created for favourites, rivalry between court factions becomes ever more intense, and law and order declines as a blind eye is turned to misbehaving nobles doing whatever they want and people critical of the King's policies, like the Duke of Gloucester, are murdered...sorry, 'die of natural causes' (which were probably being smothered between mattresses).

Eventually, York has had enough and returns to England set on getting the king separated from his awful advisors. Having married Cecily Neville, his thirteen children (which include Edward, George and Richard, later to become famous themselves) are descended thrice over from Ed III, illustrating just how inbred the whole nobility was while also resulting in a much better claim to the throne than Henry's, but for now York is simply eager to reform the regime and promotes himself as a champion of good government, gaining himself much popularity amongst the commons and the enmity of Margaret who treats him more and more like an enemy, eventually succeeding in making him one.

Having become bankrupt, the crown now finds Parliament unwilling to raise any more taxes to pay their debts and fund the ongoing war with France (especially if Henry is busy secretly giving much of what was won back again) and rebellions start to spring up. While proclaiming all traitors will be arrested, Henry flees for Greenwich leaving the Bishop of Salisbury and various other hated nobles to be hacked apart by the people, although Henry's troops will eventually prevail (though not before many of them have also mutinied and run riot through London). A furious York initially evades armed forces sent to arrest him and confronts a terrified Henry in his apartment, who placates him with a position on his Council. But refusing to learn from his mistakes, Henry (Margaret) immediately gets back to losing yet more lands in France and promoting his (her) cronies into positions of power and influence. York prevails, however, when the King lapses into another catatonic state during which Prince Edward is born. Influenced by York, the Council decide they won't recognise him as heir unless Henry - currently completely incapable of doing so - recognises him first and the first of many insinuations is made as to Edward's paternity. A regency government is clearly needed, for which Margaret makes a determined bid but is beaten by York, who is elected by Parliament as Protector of the Realm.

The first thing he does is to order the Queen to withdraw to Windsor which she's not then allowed to leave, before deposing and ordering the arrest of some of her most corrupt favourites and starting to sort out the Crown's finances. At which point Henry promptly recovers and immediately returns everything to the way it was, prompting a backlash against York and his supporters. While the Queen busily whips up Lancastrian support and intercepts York's letters to the king protesting his loyalty, York ignores a royal summons and with his allies Salisbury and Warwick (one of the most wealthy and powerful men in the land) whips up an army and marches to London. The war is on.

The Battle of St Albans resulted in hundreds of deaths and even Henry (who would spend battles sat on his horse under his banner, watching from a distance) getting an arrow in the neck. While he'd survived, the resounding York victory meant that while he was assured by York of his continued loyalty, his apparent subsequent breakdown would see York once again effectively ruling England and for the next few years York and the Queen would vie for control of the King, with York instituting reforms and recovering crown lands that had been given away to favourites only for them to be repealed and returned whenever Margaret had the reins. 

Until the Queen tries to have York's powerful and charismatic ally Warwick murdered, raising tensions and armies. The Yorkists respond with a propaganda campaign, accusing her of tyranny and once again calling into question the paternity of Prince Edward, and there’s an armed confrontation during which York's men are overawed at the sight of the tens of thousands arrayed against them and desert, leaving York and his allies to flee to Calais. With her enemies out of the way in France, Margaret returns to ruling in whichever way she sees fit - which is badly. An English public grown sick of Lancastrian misrule prove highly receptive to the propaganda still being spread, clearing the way for a Yorkist invasion which is given a warm welcome in the cities they travel through (though this is hardly surprising, as it seems most of the commons would cheer for whoever came through their city heavily armed, rather than getting stabbed). 

Another battle, notable for the treachery of nobles switching sides part way through, would result in another York victory and Queen Margaret fleeing to Scotland while Henry is captured. This time though, York would submit the genealogy showing his better claim to Parliament and an Act of Accord is passed naming him heir apparent to the throne and Protector of England. An enraged Margaret raises another army and even invites a foreign one to join her (England's hated neighbours, the Scots), scoring a victory with the deaths of York and his eldest son Edmund in the midst of a battle, their bodies mutilated and their decapitated heads adorned with paper crowns. 

Her triumph wouldn't last long however, as York's claim to the throne had now passed to his eldest remaining son, Edward, who would score a resounding victory at the subsequent and spectacularly bloody Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. The Queen's retreating army robbed, raped and burned their way back across the country with so many atrocities being reported that even staunch Lancastrians start to switch sides, before surprising Warwick at St Albans, killing another few thousand and rescuing Henry from under guard. Meanwhile, Edward races to London where he receives a rapturous welcome (naturally, he is at the head of an army after all), is proclaimed King Edward IV and hailed as the restoration of the true royal line.

It's not a done deal yet though, and with Margaret and her army still haunting the north Edward's army meets the Lancastrians in battle once more. This time the combined armies would number around 2 per cent of the English population at the time, and the resulting Battle of Towton would be the longest, largest and most important battle in the Wars of the Roses. Taking place in the middle of a thick blizzard (and brilliantly recreated in the book), the battle would end with the Lancasters fleeing back to Scotland and as many as 40,000 dead, the ground stained with so much gore that the battleground would shortly become known as The Bloody Meadow.

Now firmly ensconced on the throne, Ed proves to be a much firmer ruler than Henry had been, overhauling and reforming the Council and putting down the continued raids of the Lancasters. When not dealing with matters of state Ed gives himself over to pleasure, becoming notorious for seducing and then abandoning young ladies and presiding over an extravagant court, but powerful marriage alliances between France or Burgundy are scuppered when it turns out he's secretly married a commoner - Elizabeth Wydville, a Lancastrian widow and former lady-in-waiting to Margaret. Having cannily refused to become the love-struck Ed's mistress, the ambitious and greedy Liz wasted no time in promoting her entire family into positions and marriages of wealth and influence, setting up a whole new wave of jealousy between court factions. Meanwhile Margaret, having worn out her welcome with the Scots, starts intriguing with the French while Henry is captured once again and taken to London Tower. It's at around this time that the powerful (and power-hungry) Warwick, having been alienated from Ed by the rapid promotion of the Wydvilles, starts plotting with Ed's equally ambitious brother George to depose Ed and put George on the throne. The old troubles start again as feuding factions, high taxation and the corrupt practices of York favourites lead to outbreaks of violence and frequent uprisings, before Warwick announces his intentions to save the king from evil influence and promptly gives the royal army a royal kicking.

Warwick takes Ed prisoner and attempts to rule in his name, although he's roundly ignored by everyone and soon has no choice but to free him once more. Warwick won't be put off though, and through the intercession of King Louis in France switches his allegiance to the Lancasters. Another invasion is launched.

Once again the invaders find themselves welcomed with open arms by the people of the cities they ride through (that’ll be those swords again) and their forces soon swell to nearly 60,000 men, including many of Ed's deserting army, and Ed has no choice but to flee for Calais. Henry is liberated and restored to the throne, although he's now little more than Warwick's puppet. Another massive army is raised when Ed returns to England and more scraps ensue, resulting in another race to London for the winner to be proclaimed king. Ed gets there first, where Henry is handed over to him by the Archbishop, and then he's off to confront Warwick again who still has an army three times larger, complete with newly invented handguns. They don't matter much though as in the midst of the confusion of battle Warwick's own troops start mistakenly attacking one another, and Warwick is killed while attempting to flee.

With barely any time to rest, Ed is soon facing off against another army - Margaret's (in which the now of age Prince Edward, Henry's son, is seeing active service for the first time). This battle will see Prince Edward dying along with the hopes of the House of Lancaster, with the finishing touch delivered via the murder…sorry, ‘dying of excessive melancholy’ of Henry in the Tower (probably at the hands of Ed's brother Richard). And with that the Wars of the Roses was finally brought to a close, leaving the Lancaster dynasty shattered, thousands of men dead (Margaret herself would eventually die in great poverty in France) and a great many fortunes vanished. Edward would rule over England for a few more years, before his sudden death left his two young sons at the mercies of their Uncle Richard. 

But that's a whole other book…

Monday, 10 November 2014

In The Beginning...Was The Command Line

by Neal Stephenson, 1 star.

Sometimes I can be a complete plonker, but never more so than when I start grabbing virtual copies of books without bothering to read their descriptions. Which is how what I thought would be a little slice of sci-fi turned out to be an essay on computer operating systems.

I’m far more computer-friendly than most people I know and also have a thing about always finishing what I start, but for the first time in years I couldn’t bring myself to finish this, giving no shits whatsoever about the subject.

I normally wouldn’t review a book I hadn’t finished, but as I’m currently 6 books behind schedule on my Goodreads challenge target, I’m claiming it.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Witches of Eastwick, by John Updike

2.5 stars

I was already really familiar with the film adaptation when I picked this up looking for a campy and fun pre-Halloween read, only to find myself somewhat disappointed at the very different tone of the book (not the only way in which this differs from the film, which also seems to have cast the lead actresses in the wrong roles as well as being in possession of a far more charismatic Darryl Van Horne than the one written). 

Usually I'm a book-first kind of girl, and I did admittedly struggle thanks to having the film so vividly in my head, and found myself continually comparing the two.

Alexandra, Sukie and Jane all reside in the Rhode Island town of Eastwick where their powers flourished once they'd been relieved of their husbands through either death or divorce. They spend their time sleeping with the remaining married men of the town in between their Thursday meetings where they raise their power as a coven and raise small but mean-spirited spells on their neighbours while boozing and gossiping. Until the arrival in town of the mysterious Darryl Van Horne, taking up residence at and renovating the old Lenox mansion. He's soon having the ladies over for orgies, testing the bonds of their friendships and separating them from the rest of the town before disappearing, leaving their friendship forever changed and them facing a new coven of opposing witches, whose own powers arrived once they were deprived of their husbands by our witches. Eventually, our witches too leave town, having magicked themselves up new husbands.

For such a relatively small book it took a long time for me to get through, quite possibly due to the lack of narrative thrust - I'd quite often put it down and then forget to read it again for a few days. And while Updike writes well - and never more so than during the incredibly effective passage on the murder-suicide of the Gabriel's - his flair for description didn't do enough to counteract what I felt as a lack of narrative drive.

Having neither loved nor loathed this, I'm probably not destined to remember much about it either.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Red Queen, by Philippa Gregory

4.5 stars

The White Queen was a decent book that gave us the War of the Roses from the perspective of Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful former nobody who became the wife of Edward IV. The Red Queen is an excellent book from the Lancaster side, particularly that of Margaret Beaufort – cousin to the Lancastrian King Henry VI, child-bride of Edmund Tudor, possessor of saint’s knees and barely-even-teen-mum to the future King of England Henry Tudor (who was helped in large part to become King by the determination and conniving of his mother).

While not exactly someone I’d have ever wanted to spend any time with (I’d have spent most of my time being denounced for my vile whorish and ungodly ways), Margaret was a truly fascinating and formidable woman and made for a much more compelling central character than Elizabeth, supported by Gregory’s seeming to have far more of a grasp on her voice. The circumstances of her life were also much more interesting (I may point some of the many people who have told me I’m bitter and cynical Margaret’s way, although she is probably near the top of the list of people who’ve ever had just cause for such feelings) and due to the lack of the privileges shown to Elizabeth as Queen was also a far more informative source on the harsh realities of life for the women of her time (whether it be regarding upbringing and expectations, marriage, childbirth, property law, or having your child taken from you for being a possible future threat to the current holder of the throne and still having to serve and obey the shits responsible).

Interestingly (to me), The Red Queen also made me consider what my own position and thoughts might have been at that time with regard to the monarchy. In our present society I’m staunchly anti-monarchy – having not truly ruled over our democratic country in a very long time, I see the Royal Family as a parasitic and unnecessarily expensive tourist attraction that has no more right to their unearned wealth and luxury than my nan does – but I’m also a stickler for rules and so, coupling the laws of succession** with an abhorrence of bloodthirsty shits who can’t even be trusted not to murder their own families let alone vulnerable prisoners...

...I think I’d have been firmly on the Lancastrian side.

While bearing in mind that it is fictionalised, I found The Red Queen brought a turbulent and sometimes confusing period of history to life for me, and I highly recommend it for people like myself who are interested in history but intimidated by more scholarly texts.

**Edited 7 Nov to add:

Having read further into the roots of the Wars of the Roses I now realise that, according to the laws of succession, it was actually the Lancasters that were the usurpers. And while the Yorks were indeed spectacularly stabby, King Henry VI was a particularly crap king who really ought not to have been ruling. So with regard to whose side I'd have been on - they're all as appalling as each other and so I'm declaring myself firmly on the side of the peasants.