weewarrior: (Are you thinking what I'm thinking?)
[personal profile] weewarrior
This is literally a work in progress since I've been stuck at the eve of one specific battle for months now, and have read two other books in the mean time. I do like the book itself, although the constant battles get tiring after a while - must have been lots of fun to live at that time, both as a noble and as one of the rest - but so far, I'm sadly not seeing the appeal of our illustrous hero, Richard Plantagenet, last king of the York line and future Shakespeare villain. Given that the author is a Ricardian, he is thankfully not a cackling schemer, but he really goes into the direction of a bland, just hero a little too much. Granted, he is overshadowed by his older brother, King Edward, who is a very ambiguous and fascinating figure, and very much larger than life, so this is probably on purpose; I'll wait how he develops once Edward is dead.

As for the rest of the characters, there are some nice, complex female characters (Edward and Richard's mother, Cecily Neville, and Edward's wife, Elizabeth Woodville, are great) and a good villain in the Earl of Warwick, as well as several well-drawn supporting characters (I'm especially fond of Francis Lovell and - sniff - John Neville). Penman does her best to present Marguerite D'Anjou, the chief villainess of most of the novel, in a somewhat balanced way, but she is still rather stereotypical, as are the Duke of Clarence, Edward and Richard's sniffling evil brother, and his depressed and spiteful wife. Anne Neville, Richard's future wife, is so far as bland as her beloved, but she's only fifteen and might grow out of it. (I don't think age is a good excuse in case of Richard, given that he's already a military commander and Governor of the North at 17; besides, his brother Edmund is a whole lot more interesting at almost the same age, and he's not in the novel all that much.)

As far as characters go, I find it almost amusing that my favourites tend to die in rather spectacular and tragic ways; I'm rather relieved that Lovell is going to outlive the whole lot.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-10 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selenak.livejournal.com
Aw, my first Sharon Penman novel. I think if I read it today I'd probably find Richard too good to be true as well, but back then this was only the second positive Richard I had come across and the first one wasn't on page, so to speak (it was via Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time"), so I didn't mind, plus I was twenty years younger. I think I'd still dig the relationship between him and Edward, though, because Sharon Penman is really great with family relationships. And yes, with female characters. (Her Elizabeth Woodville is way more interesting than the one in the recent Philippa Gregory novel, "The White Queen", where Elizabeth Woodville is the main character!)

Re: Francis Lovell, not that this is covered in the novel which ends after Richard's death (plus epilogues for the surviving characters), but he didn't make it into old age, either. He took part in the Perkin Warbeck rebellion (I think - that one or the Lambert Simbel one, at any rate, one of the (fake?) Princes against Henry VII and died in it. But you won't have to read that!

George of Clarence: well, as Josephine Tey put it, if you look at the historical evidence, his relations must have constantly said "well, at least that's it; even George can't come up with a new outrage to top this" and he proved them wrong every time...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-10 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wee-warrior.livejournal.com
I think I'd still dig the relationship between him and Edward, though, because Sharon Penman is really great with family relationships.

She definitely is, though she gets the Plantagenets a whole lot better than some of the others. Warwick and his brothers are also fine, though.

Elizabeth Woodville: I think she is someone easy to stereotype, which is one reason I like Penman's version. She's not a nice woman, but she definitely has layers.

Lovell: oh, I know, I read up on all of the main characters after Edmund died a little, erm, "unexpectedly." (What can I say, War Of The Roses was never my time of expertise.) Seeing the way it goes here and with his loyalty to Richard, I'm not surprised he died in a rebellion (seems a general pasttime), nor that it was against Henry VII.

George: I'm mostly astonished that she managed to make him so bland. There is this one scene where Cecily realizes that he doesn't really have any emotions about betraying her (the Edward Is A Bastard situation) aside from being somewhat sullenly afraid that she would be mad at him, and at that point I thought if he were at least in some way charming, I'd might feel betrayed also, but this way? Like with Richard, I think that Edward might be part of the problem, though, since he is quite the overshadowing character.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-11 06:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selenak.livejournal.com
Edmund's demise completely caught me by surprise as well because I did not remember what had happened to him. Shakespeare changed the birth order and made him the kid to make Marguerite d'Anjou into a child killer as well, but I only browsed through the Henry VI plays - Our William was still learning at that point and it shows. So anyway, did not remember Edmund dying, so when he, a pov character, suddenly did it was quite the shock.

George's blandness: point to you. It's interesting to compare this with the later novels. When Christ and his Saints Slept, for example, which covers the Maude versus Stephen era of English history and the young Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II in the last third. Not only are Maud and Stephen both sympathetic and flawed (in different ways), which is more an Ellis Peters managed in the Cadfael novels, but when someone turns their coat there, you feel it, both for major and minor characters.

Then there is the Lwellelyn/Davydd relationship in "The Reckoning" and its predecessor, "Falls the Shadow", where you have the older brother - younger brother constellation with the younger turning against the older repeatedly, but as opposed to George, she makes it understandable why he does it (despite Lwellelyn being the hero of the book) and makes the reader believe that there is great affection in addition to the rivalry as well. (Which there must have been, because they kept making up and reconciling.) And it definitely helps that Davydd is charming as hell. Whereas you're right, with George, you feel for Cecily but not for yourself as a reader because George is unlikeable from the get go.

Lastly: it was Sharon Penman who made me realize what an interesting character Edward IV. must have been. (Shakespeare isn't interested in him at all, he's just sort of around in a minor way in Henry VI, Part III and killed off right at the start of Richard III.) And I think she's still the only one who tackled him in a big way.

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