The year is 1399 and Henry Bolingbroke, unjustly robbed of his paternal inheritance, returns to England at the head of an army, deposes his cousin, King Richard II and becomes King Henry IV. His eldest son young Henry (Hal) is only twelve years old. He was very attached to Richard, living in his court and hardly knows his father, by whom he is now made Prince of Wales. At the coronation young Henry is impressed be the stature and the proud bearing of one of his father's oldest friends and chief aides in conquering the crown, Henry Percy (Hotspur), son and heir of the Earl of Northumberland and it becomes his greatest wish to assume his Welsh responsibilities under Percy's protectorship.
The year is 1400 and Richard, imprisoned in the north, is pronounced dead by voluntary starvation. This death sows seeds of doubt of the King's involvment in both Hotspur and Hal, which, when resolved, will mark the end of innocense for both.
The year is 1402 when a young Welsh petitioner called Julian presents herself before the prince and his mentor in the border town of Shrewsbury on a family grievance. Like Hal before her, she sees in Hotspur her salvation and a chance for greater deeds. Hotspur himself is charged of trying to reach a peaceful resolution to the Welsh conflict with the 'true' Prince of Wales, Owen Glendower and becomes involved with Julian, her father and a family friend and rebel, Iago Vaughn. He also makes a new Scottish friend and is trying to release his brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer, from the Welsh captivity.
The year is 1403. King Henry gets married, trying to recover the peace of mind he has quite lost since acquiring the crown, Prince Hal is still battling with his feelings about his father, while Hotspur, upon discovering some ugly thruths about his once friend the King, decides to join the cause of his new Welsh friends and support his young nephew's claim to the throne of England.
The year is 1403. The place is the border town of Shrewsbury. Present are - King Henry IV, Prince Henry, Hotspur, Julian Hussey and former King Richard (if only in spirit). One of them faces the consequences of his actions and mistakes, while making some new ones; one makes a choice (that was never a choice in the first place); one gets a chance at a new life and dies; one learns what it means to have power.
"A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury" is a wonderful book, slow (yes, it may be said too slow at times, but it sure kicks off at the first signs of conspiracy) and descriptive, written in a language, though English, that's quite gone from this world.
The author treats these characters like people, with deep motives and emotions and ghosts (unlike Shakespeare who made them into caricatures).
The novel was written in 1972 but is might as well been written in 1872 - it feels timeless, unlike so many modern historical fiction.