Tuesday, February 19, 2013

book review: "The Sunne in Splendour" by Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman

News of the discovery of Richard III's remains under a car park in Leicester, England prompted me to finally read this hefty novel.

Richard III is infamous as the king who had his brother Edward IV's son and successor Edward V and other son Richard, popularly known as the Princes in the Tower, killed while imprisoned in the Tower of London. He is the last king of England to have died in battle, in Bosworth Field in 1485, and the last Plantagenet king, after which the Tudor dynasty reigned.

I first read about Richard III in "The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey about 5 years ago, and was intrigued by the story of Richard and his nephews. Did he, or did he not, order their murder?

In this novel, as in "The Daughter of Time", the author tries to make a case for Richard III.  She chronicles his life and the life of his brother Edward IV, that of their family the House of York, and of their friends and supporters during the Wars of the Roses. Penman also shows us the other side of the coin, the House of Lancaster of Henry VI.

My thought throughout the novel was, "George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has nothing to this!" It really happened; rebellions and factions and betrayals... I wonder if the Wars of the Roses inspired GRRM. Like ASoIaF, it was difficult to keep track of the characters at first, all the Edwards and Richards and Henrys and Elizabeths and Annes, that I had to look for a family tree online.

Having no previous knowledge of English history and not having read the play by William Shakespeare, my sympathy lies with Richard III. But I admit that these historical novels were written against popular belief, so I aim to read a non-fiction account, "The Princes in the Tower" by Alison Weir, in future.

For now, I remain loyal to the Whyte Boar of Gloucester.