A novel by Sarah Cawkwell
Published by Abaddon Books
paperback and ebook
North America on May 27th
UK and Ireland on 5th June.
Following the discovery of the body of King Richard III interest in him has peaked. He is a king that has had a rather interesting place in British history. Defeated in battle at Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485, by Henry Tudor he was the last of the Plantagenet kings. Buried in Greyfriars Church, now under the foundations of a car park.
Being a Yorkshireman myself when I heard about this book I was instantly intrigued. This isn’t a work of historical fiction. This story is set in an alternate reality.
So imagine if you will that on that day that Richard didn’t lose… what then for the future of England without Henry VII? No Henry VIII or any of his progeniture.
Ah yes, then there is the deal with a Demon that this Richard made to seal victory at his battle at Bosworth Field.
There are very mild spoilers in the next two paragraphs, much less than you’d see in a trailer for a movie.
The book begins with an excerpt from the in-world book A History of The Demon Kings, second edition (1694). This explains that Richard the Lionheart learnt magic from a wise man while on the crusades. This is followed by a Prologue deals with the battle of Bosworth Field and explains exactly how Richard III was victorious that day. Then we are brought up to date with another excerpt from the aforementioned history book.
Chapter one starts in April 1565 in the reign of Richard V, England is a country going through an Inquest founded by the present King’s father. The Inquisition is empowered to seek out users of magic and execute them. Then to Wales in 1589 to meet the protagonists of the book Mathias, a young vet, and Tagan, his betrothed and the local blacksmith.
This book is very much about characters. Obviously all books tend to have a character or two but you don’t always get to know them very well. Here we are given the inner feelings of several of the characters and everything that we get from this we can tell is true, at least from their perspective.
Recently much has been said about how George R R Martin has used this method, sometimes it seems that some people think he was unique in this. This writer’s tool has been used for years, characters in Shakespeare’s plays often tell the audience their innermost thoughts, something perhaps not obvious to the other characters on stage. Obviously I’m not trying to detract from Mr Martin, I really love those books, but I have heard people say things like ‘she did that like in Game of Thrones’ about one book or another.
One excellent aspect of this style of narration is that what isn’t said can hide something better than misleading a reader. Sarah uses this tool well and though my mind was trying to work out certain things in advance I could only be half right at times. This achieved with characters that seem so open.
Historical accuracy of course no longer matters much in an alternate reality with a different timeline and the undeniable presence of some quite powerful magic. However the story does give a feel of medieval Europe as despite the split from the real timeline there is enough preserved to help support the suspension of disbelief. There are historical people such as Henry Hudson, a few years before he discovers Hudsons Bay in our world.
There is clearly more to the world of this book than we are shown, there is enough texture to give hints of other possibilities.
A very interesting book with a good hook for a sequel.