Wednesday 11 January 2017

THE LAST SHROUD by Derek Birks

AMAZON UK £3.49 / £12.49
AMAZON US $ 4.48 / $19.99
AMAZON CA $ n.a / $25.83

Family Saga / Adventure / Military 
Wars of the Roses / 15th Century
Rebels and Brothers Series #4

"The Wars of the Roses must be settled on the field of battle. The prize? The crown of England. July 1469: just as England has finally found peace, a revolt breaks out against King Edward IV, forcing Ned Elder to take up his sword once more. But is Ned the warrior he once was? As the kingdom spirals into civil war, divisions between Ned and his sisters, Emma and Eleanor, threaten the family’s very survival. Out of the turmoil of rebellion steps an old enemy who offers to help Emma, but can she trust him?
Will the Elder family stand together when it matters most? They must, if they are to survive."

The Last Shroud is the final novel in Mr Birks incredible Rebels and Brothers series set in the chaotic years of the English War of the Roses. Ned Elder has had enough of this bloody (in both senses of the word) war but between the ambition of Warwick, and Master Elder's loyalty to Edward of York, the conflict is  hard to ignore.

Ned Elder is a very likeable character  by far the best of the troubled Elder family. With his companions, Hal and Bear, the three men do not flinch from what they know is their duty – even when such knowledge affects their families and loved ones. Ned has developed through this series from an angry young man to one guided by personal integrity and sense of honour. I liked him from the start, I like him even more now that he has matured.

The cast of characters is varied, and some are portrayed in a different light to what we have come to expect in novels of this period. (Anne Neville for example is quite different in Mr Birks' interpretation: bravo for having the courage to follow an own path!) Mr Birks' writing is descriptive in its detail and he has an obvious passion, and knowledge, for these turbulent times. The series as a whole is a wonderful and entertaining read, but as with them all, this one is a 'stand-alone', although for maximum enjoyment and reading pleasure I strongly suggest starting at the beginning with FeudMy single (very faint) murmur is that Ned always seems to be in trouble one way or another... but then isn't that often the fate of most fictional protagonists? The hero character goes to hell and back for the benefit of our entertainment. I've no objection to that at all,  though I guess the characters have!

The end of the Last Shroud, and this excellent series left me quite bereft of Ned's company and Mr Birks' talent for writing a good story -  but wait, three cheers! There is to be a second series, the first of which will be reviewed tomorrow!

© Helen Hollick

Note: in my reviewer's edition there was a typesetting error (it happens!) Pages 259-260 had a few lines repeated from a previous passage. This has possibly now been amended so may not be in the later post-proof read versions, even so, it did not detract from the story.

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  1. Many thanks, Helen, for this great review of The Last Shroud!

    1. Thank you Derek - it's a great book, great series. I wish you and Ned much luck for the future!


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