Highly readable as a stand-alone novel, but those who loved Stormbird will be anticipating Iggulden’s take on the...

MARGARET OF ANJOU

From the Wars of the Roses series , Vol. 2

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.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16537-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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