The York King – by Amy Licence – independent book review – Historical Fiction (Britain)

NOTE: I was given early access to THE YORK KING in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you netgalley and Lume Books. Scheduled Publication: March 3, 2022.

This historical novel– Book Two in author Amy Licence’s HOUSE OF YORK trilogy — focuses on a chunk of the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487): British history between 1464 (when King Edward IV of England had been on the throne for three years) until 1471 (when he defeats King Henry VI for the second and final time). Awarded three stars on Goodreads, but I’d award it 3.5 stars if I could.

The book begins at a moment I have seldom seen included in novels about this period. It’s the moment when 22-year-old King Edward IV meets Lady Eleanor Talbot and promises to marry her. If you know Edward’s story you know that this promise becomes VERY significant after Edward dies in 1483. Because at this time period, a promise to marriage was as legally binding as the ceremony itself. So, IF Edward did promise to marry Eleanor, he was not free to marry Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, making ALL ten of his children with Elizabeth illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne.

Included in this novel is the story of how Edward meets Elizabeth Woodville, how he marries her against the wishes of his chief advisor (Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick), and how the ambitious Warwick and Edward’s younger brother George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence) then continue the Wars of the Roses in an increasingly desperate attempt to wield power. It’s an interesting story, in part because it also involves the King Edward’s own struggle as he weighs loyalty to family against wise policy.

Amy Licence
Photo from her Website

The issue I had with the book was the level of detail the very knowledgeable Amy Licence includes about daily life at this time period. It was just too much for me and I felt it made the story overly dense, even slow. At times, it felt more like part historical fiction and part history textbook. As a journalist, historian, and award-winning author, Licence has written many, many books (dozens!) about medieval and Tudor England. And I felt that she simply tried too hard to include too much of her impressive knowledge into her descriptions of meals, battles, and situations. I personally would have been happier if she’d spent more time with the internal psychology of Edward, Warwick, and George — who are for me three of the most fascinating characters from history.

More about the author, Amy Licence.

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