Vicious battles, powerful monarchs, and royal intrigue abound in this true story of the War of the Roses—a struggle among three brothers, two of whom became kings, and the inspiration for Shakespeare’s renowned play, Richard III.
Thomas Penn’s weighty new volume takes as its titular subject the lives of these three brothers. But The Brothers York is primarily a biography of the charismatic Edward — and a superb biography at that ... The tragedy and brutality of the Wars of the Roses jumps out from every page of Penn’s book ... Against all this barbarism, the chivalric obsessions of Edward’s court may seem contradictory. But Penn’s achievement is to place at the heart of his narrative the stories that Edward’s followers wanted to tell themselves. This is a world of young men whose insistence on seeing themselves as a new Camelot was an essential veneer to the brutality waiting to burst out at any moment ... an impressive and engaging read.
... this vast, sprawling book offers an epic orgy of colour and character: there are soldiers and townsmen, poets and pirates, battlefield massacres and hidden murders. But the figure of Edward IV stands out ... One of the great strengths of Brothers York is the attention paid to the European stage, and Penn is good at bringing its protagonists to life.
... rip-roaring ... Penn has interwoven the multiple strands of this story with great aplomb, ignoring the dead-ends of conspiracy theory in favour of sensible, balanced judgements ... This does not feel like a 650-page book. Pacy, engrossing and evocative in its details (of feasts and jousts as well as battles and diplomatic skulduggery), it engages the reader’s emotions as well as intellect. For the plight of noblewomen of the time – commodified as either diplomatic bait or marriageable value, forced to witness the beheadings of husbands and sons, inveigled, threatened or even tortured out of their inheritances – it is impossible not to feel a kind of desolation.