First, a little story - by the books I recently read, it may be obvious that I'm all over medieval England and War of the Roses especially. Funnily enough, I was hardly aware of the subject until March the 3rd, 2012, when I've read a childhood favorite "The Black Arrow" by R.L.Stevenson. It takes place during the war and mentions the completely awesome, if a bit of a prick, Duke of Gloucester and the House of York. Obviously, I wanted to know more and this place was very helpful and everywhere I looked on the net, I came across one book:
I looked for it in bookstores and they had none. In fact, they didn't have a single Penman between them. After being robbed blind by some hackers I've forsworn Internet shopping and knowing no one who didn't, I've quite dispaired. Until one day I remembered a conversation I overheard in a Steimazky book store years ago, about the possibility of ordering a book from overseas through the store itself and so I did. It took over a month for the book to arrive and when it did, I've began reading the very same day.
It says on the cover that it is the story of Richard III but it is so much more than that. The cast is enormous and not one of them is a support character - each has a story of their own, each has a voice, a past, friends and rivals. I was surprised that even the little people, like Rob Apsall and Ankarette Twynyho, who would have been but a footnote in any other novel, hardly even given a name, have an environment around them, their own little worlds.
The events span years and have ups and downs (and since it's war with two side to it, what is up for Yorks is down for Lancasters and vice versa) and though Richard, especially in the later years, is usually present, it's not all about him. Another one who is constantly present, if only in spirit as being dead for some years, is Edmund, the second York brother, ignobly murdered while being a prisoner of war.
I liked Richard, not only by virtue of being the main character, but because of him being a real person, with loves and hates, never perfect, always trying to do his best. His relationship with his wife Anne I've found to be lovely, like a real normal couple, though with far to many problems and responsibilities for someone so young. Anne herself is a great character, a true woman who knows her duty. Though being sceptical at first, I really liked "The Adventures of Two Noblwomen in the Slums" episode.
Another couple I like, separately and together, are Edward and Elizabeth. Edward is awesome. One can feel his radiance and energy through the page and he says the funniest things sometimes. Elizabeth is not some low-born wannabe slutty witch (though those are convenient insults to use against her) but a grown woman, of less-than-noble birth (on one side at least), with, yes, a large family, people she wants to take care of, now that she's reached prominence.
I've read the first 700 pages in a few days and the last 200 in over a week, such is the burden of forward knowledge. I did not, emphatically, want to get to the end. In fact, I wanted to do this:
But I soldiered on, and though the final battle broke my heart a bit, it was, at the same time, the awesomest thing ever.
The book is over 900 page long and every one of them is well used. The best thing is we meet those people as children and get to know them growing up and when they do something in later life, we don't ask "eh? what'd he do that for?", we know, because we know them.
Two things, two tiny little things, in 944 pages, bothered me - if it is acknowledged that this is Richard III, the painting of the portrait episode was unfortunately lacking. As well, Humphrey of Gloucester is presented as the son of Thomas of Woodstock, while being the son of Henry IV, which is such a weird mistake to make.
To conclude, I love this book immensely and look forward to reading it again in the coming years.