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England's Henry IV, who plucked the throne from helpless Richard II, was king from 1399-1413; his son Henry V had a similarly brief reign, from 1413-1422. And here, most unwisely, Plaidy has attempted a double-dip, Shakespeare-influenced chronicle covering both reigns--in a crammed, confusing book that piles in every highlight event and every shift in alliances (marital/political), conspiracies, and battles. Still, as usual, the emphasis is on some key women, and Plaidy begins with the joys and ordeals of one little power-pawn: pre-teen Mary de Bohun, married for her fortune to 15-year-old Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV). The match is happy, but Mary cannot bring herself to complain about endless child-bearing (of which she will eventually die). And there's also some focus on little Queen Isabella, Richard II's child-wife, whose marriage was never consummated, but who will love him forever: she'll return to her mentally unstable father, King Charles of France, after Richard's murder. Eventually, then, Bolingbroke will be king--after banishment, French alliances (the elderly Duke of Brittany's young wife Joanna will become Henry IV's Queen), invasion, and the Richard II demise. While Henry IV consolidates his kingdom with increasing ruthlessness, Prince Harry wins battles yet carouses in taverns with his friend John Oldcastle: Plaidy cribs (enervatingly) from Shakespeare's Falstaff but also tells the true story of Oldcastle's martyrdom as a leader in Lollard peasant revolt. And Harry's ""serious streak"" emerges as his father is dying of a disfiguring disease. So, now King Henry V, he is a victor at Agincourt, on his way to the crown of France; he'll marry Katherine, daughter of King Charles and the beautiful, adulterously scheming Queen Isabeau. But, before Henry V's early death, Katherine will give birth to the ill-fated Henry VI--thereby plunging England (and Plaidy) into the dangerous power-struggles of the War of the Roses. A low point in Plaidy's spotty Plantagenet series: too packed, hurried, tangled . . . and dull.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Putnam