In the second volume of his War of the Roses trilogy, Iggulden (Stormbird, 2014, etc.) follows beautiful young Queen Margaret as she defends the Lancaster realm against York rebels.
Iggulden tells of blood flowing riverlike across "this earth, this realm, this England" in royal-upon-royal confrontations at St. Albans, at Ludlow, and finally in the fields outside Sandal Castle. Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, sparks the violence by sending warriors led by his son Thomas to strike a Salisbury wedding party. Percy, a supporter of the king, had grown weary of York ally Salisbury's incursions on his lands. Iggulden thereafter moves the action swiftly to the clash between mentally fragile and often stuporous King Henry VI, aided by loyalists Buckingham and Somerset, and York, Salisbury, and Warwick. "There will be no peace while York lives," says Margaret. But York only seeks "to strip the whisperers away from King Henry’s side before his house was destroyed by them." From such disputes thousands die as battles clang with sword and axe. Iggulden deftly describes the keys to victories: Warwick’s breakthrough at St. Albans; Trollope’s betrayal at Ludlow; and Margaret’s bartering for Scots allies to corner York and Salisbury at Sandal. Iggulden’s fictional Derry the spymaster reflects Margaret’s court activities, but other characters peek from history’s mists to populate the narrative, like York's son, giant Edward of March, only 18 and carrying "a weight of muscle that made experienced warriors want to look at their feet in his presence." But it is the yowling, pain-riven, spine-twisted Richard, who York believes should have been put out "on a winter’s night and let the cold take him," who foreshadows the bloodletting to come.
Highly readable as a stand-alone novel, but those who loved Stormbird will be anticipating Iggulden’s take on the mesmerizing Richard III.