Review: Son of York by Amy Licence


Amidst the bloodshed of the Wars of the Roses and the turmoil of Lancaster versus York, a true warrior king will rise to power.

As King Henry VI descends into insanity and his grip on power begins to slip, Richard of York assumes control and proves a popular protectorate of England. But the House of Lancaster will not hand over the throne without a fight – and when Richard is killed at the Battle of Wakefield, the Yorkists’ claim suffers a huge loss.

Richard’s son Edward is the natural heir to that Yorkist claim, and grows up keen to emulate his father’s fearsome reputation. Fired by grief and inspired by his predecessors, the 18-year-old Edward now looks to defeat the Lancastrian forces at Towton – but his story, and that of England’s two warring families, is far from over …

Son of York follows Edward through adolescence as he tries to survive the vicious factional politics of mid-fifteenth-century England and establish himself as the true heir to the throne.

My Review

Ironically, when I first downloaded this book to my Kindle, because of the testimonial I thought it was nonfiction! It took me a while to get around to it, and I was surprised to discover it was historical fiction after all; I would have read it sooner had I paid attention. The Wars of the Roses can be an intimidating subject to bite into, and fortunately this book gives us an introduction, chronologically, rather than plowing into the whole conflict. We witness the growing dissatisfaction with the inept and vacillating King Henry VI, who is ruled—along with the rest of England—by his wife, the hated Margaret of Anjou and her favorite, the Duke of Somerset who happens to be York’s enemy. This book is about the Duke of York’s struggle and its aftermath, giving us a sympathetic portrayal of a family faced with harsh choices, at a time when men of different political factions have evolved into deadly enemies.

I wonder if the book would more appropriately be named “Sons of York”, because much attention is given to Edmund, the next son after Edward. Both boys are teenagers, and a little more than one year separates them in age, though they are wide apart in temperament. Whereas Edward is bold, aggressive, fearless—almost heroic—Edmund is more thoughtful, less intrepid, and eager to prove himself even though he lacks his brother’s daring. Both sons are very aware of their father’s status and his potential claim to the throne; their own destiny is irrevocably tied to his. We see a Duke of York who is proud, daring to the point of recklessness:

But York did not speak. Instead, he strode past them all with his long, confident step, past the long table and the rows of men, right up to the distant dais and the carved chair reserved for the king. Turning to face them, with all eyes fixed upon him, and perfect stillness in the room, he paused. Then, with one clean movement, he drew his sword from its sheath and held it aloft. With slow deliberation, he placed his other hand firmly upon the back of the throne in a gesture of possession.
A gasp of surprise ran through the room. Edward looked to Warwick who stood agog, then to Edmund whose face was set in pride.

Once the fateful step had been taken, war was inevitable. Much of our story focuses on the domestic side; the characterization of York’s family is very strong, though we don’t see much of the king or queen. I was disconcerted at times by the abrupt scene changes; at one point, York announces that he is going back to the country, then in the next section Edward is in his mistress’ bed. The same thing happened with some of the battle scenes. Eventually everything tied together, but as a reader I got a little frustrated. Nonetheless, the prose moved forward effortlessly and I found it to be a very interesting read.

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