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A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower

by Alison Weir

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-345-51189-8
Publisher: Ballantine

A curiously structured historical whodunit by Tudor doyenne Weir (Henry VIII, 2001, etc.).

There’s a certain kind of historical obsessive, found mostly in Britain laboring alongside the Earl of Oxford vs. Shakespeare set, who argues that Richard III had nothing but love for the tykes known as the “boy princes” whom he shut away in the Tower of London, the Abu Ghraib of the late Middle Ages, from whom nary a peep would emerge again. A person of such a bent might wax wroth, to be sure, on reading Weir’s imaginative view of events. Other readers will wonder at her narrative strategy, bracketed by the points of view of two women separated by a century: Lady Jane Grey’s sister Katherine on one hand, and Kate Plantagenet on the other. Both young women, scarcely teenagers when thrust into the limelight, are bound up in the intrigues so beloved of royals and nobles back in the day; both wind up doing time in the pokey, where they have ample leisure to ponder the fates of the young boys. Weir’s tendency to didacticism sometimes slows what is already a complex tale, and the proceedings can be a little talky; just so, the interweaving of the tales of the two Kates doesn’t always quite work. Still, no one alive knows as much about the Tudors as Weir; her historical facts and speculations alike are watertight, and any reader of Hilary Mantel’s excellent Tudor evocations will want to explore this book as well. Weir’s language is often as glorious as the tongue back in those endlessly inventive days: “Through the enticement of your whoredom, you sought to entrap me with some poisoned bait under the color of sugared friendship.” Zounds!

Did Richard III do in or merely discourage—“ ‘suppressed,’ mark you, not murdered”—his youngster kin? Read on.