shortlisted for Book of the Month
Following on from the previous volume, A King Under Siege, this continues the story of Richard II. Having been ruled and been frustrated by his uncles and other powerful nobles, Richard declares his majority, ruling in his own way and trying to put aside the humiliation he suffered. It does not start well as his young wife, Anne, dies in his arms. And it does not take long to alienate the powerful Thomas, Earl of Arundel who rises up in rebellion against him.
Mercedes Rochelle, well known for her her previous historical novels, has captured perfectly the tense political atmosphere of the early to mid 1300s, full of mighty personalities and egos. She has an easy, fluid style that makes reading easy despite the huge task before her. Richard himself is presented as a man of his times having grown from the petulant child of the first book to a king who knows what he wants, even if he does sometimes go too far to get it. We feel his pain at the death of his wife, the one person who could calm him down at times when his temper got the better of him. Perhaps things might have been different had she lived for there is no doubt in the author's mind that the two were very much in love and that she was the calming influence that might have saved a lot of trouble and, eventually, Richard's crown. And behind all this is the truly powerful figure of John of Gaunt.
I really enjoyed this book – as I had the previous volume. Public knowledge of Richard II does not extend much beyond the heroic actions of a 9-year-old boy quelling the riots on London to his ignominious death at Pontefract. Ms Rochelle goes a long way to filling in those gaps whilst presenting Richard in a very human way. Also, she thoughtfully provides a list of the major characters as the earldoms did seem to change hands rather a lot in those days.
As the book ends with the promise of the storm that was Richard's cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, I feel that Book 3 is going to be a corker and I look forward to its completion in due course.
Meanwhile, I heartily recommend this to those who love historical fiction at its best.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Richard Tearle