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Wars of the Roses 1483-5 / Present Day
King Richard III lies dead on the battlefield at Redemore Plain, his body stripped and thrown on the back of a horse ready for an unceremonious burial. And then he wakes up on the battlefield. Found and mentored by the mysterious monk, Gilbert, he learns that he is in Purgatory and must account for the past deeds of his life. This is done in a series of episodes covering all the controversial incidents of his short reign.
Naturally, the problem of the fate of the princes arises and the author does not put forward some over-imaginative and previously unthought-of personal theory but sticks with one that is universally recognised as a possibility and makes a good case for its likelihood. In doing so, Ms Skidmore may well elicit some sympathetic reactions towards the character and actions of her Richard.
Yet this is a little more than just another retelling of Richard's story: it proposes the possibility of reincarnation, of a spell in Purgatory where tests and trials are made to determine whether the 'candidate' is ready to enter the Kingdom, and also one man's struggle for redemption when faced with the decisions he made whilst in his earthly life.
I have only two quibbles: the 'tests and trials' are not gone into at all and I was left wondering as to what they might have been – physical, mental, spiritual? The other concern is that the book is only 170 pages, too long for a novella, but very much too short for a novel. Which is a shame because the writing is lovely, well-characterised without being stereotypical and has an ending which is both emotional and thought provoking. The cover is attractive, too: the White King fallen at the feet of its victorious nemesis.
Despite these quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed this slightly new take on an oft-written about subject.
© Richard Tearle
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