This is the first novel in the “War of the Roses” series by Conn Iggulden.
The author skillfully weaves the bodacious actions of two main fictitious characters (Derry Brewer, the King’s spymaster, and Thomas Woodchurch, a commoner living in Maine, France) with some pivotal historical events that took place under the reign of Henry VI of England.
Part One deals with Derry Brewer’s political machinations initiated on Henry’s behalf with the aim of bringing about a lasting truce with France. He throws into the bargain England’s two French possessions, Anjou and Maine, and an offer for Henry to marry the French King’s (Charles VII) niece, Margaret of Anjou.
Part Two tells the outrage felt by many English subjects who have lived all their lives in Maine and Anjou. Their riotous reaction to the English Crown giving up those lands is seen through the eyes of an archer-turned-merchant Thomas Woodchurch, who decides to lead a resistance movement in order to thwart the French army’s taking possession of the two towns. His attempt fails in the end. The English loses not only Maine and Anjou, but also Normandy.
Part Three describes the infamous Jack Cade’s rebellion in London amidst widespread grievances in society over official corruption and the weakness of Henry VI in the face of an ever strengthening France. It sets the stage for Duke of York's throne-claiming ambitions to play out.
All in all, the plot is a gripping one and the writing flawless, especially in the movie-like description of the battle scenes. However, I personally find it a bit hard to relate to the two fictitious characters. I’m giving this novel 3.5 stars out of 5.