As promised, here is my review of Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses: Stormbird. It’s an important novel for me as it partly inspired my current work-in-progress, Servants of Infamy (previously White Rose).
The genre is historical fiction. It’s set during the Wars of the Roses, 15th Century England. Conn Iggulden is a renowned author of historical novels set in Ancient Rome or Medieval Europe for the most part.
Click here for an article by me about why this book represents a dramatic change in Conn Iggulden’s writing style.
Is Stormbird any good?
This is some of the best historical fiction I’ve read recently. The author manages to get to grips with a complex tapestry of historical events without getting bogged down or letting his prose dry out.
It’s an immersive read. You can’t help but be drawn into the environment and empathise with the characters. I found a few characters particularly engaging: Margaret, Suffolk and Derry Brewer to name a few. Conn Iggulden avoids allowing his characters to be constrained by their historical personas. They are very human and that’s a good thing.
The plot also moves at a good speed and keeps the reader interested. There are twists and turns, moments of suspense to keep you hooked. You’re not always sure whether your favourite character will make it out of a situation alive.
Problems with Stormbird
In spite of all of this, there are a number of issues with this historical novel.
Perhaps I’m being fussy, but when I purchased a novel with Wars of the Roses in the title I expected, well… maybe a little bit of war between the roses. In reality, this novel concerns the build-up to the civil war, with the future opposing sides merely snarling at each other and firing warning shots. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was led to expect more.
There’s also the issue of where in society Conn Iggulden draws his characters from. It seems that Derry Brewer is most people’s favourite character and he’s certainly mine. That’s because he’s interesting, but more importantly he stands out from the rest of the protagonists as a man of humble birth.
After a while I lose all sympathy for someone who gets their head lopped off because owning a mere dukedom just didn’t cut it.
Should you read the next instalment?
You should definitely read Stormbird if you’re a fan of historical fiction. That said, I wouldn’t bother continuing with the series. The reason ties in with a few things I’ve mentioned above.
This novel is set before the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses and the characters don’t fit their historical personas. Sadly, when the conflict does begin later in the series, it seems to have a severe effect on Conn Iggulden’s characters. I lost much of my sympathy for those I liked in the first novel, much of my respect for those I despised.
The second instalment falls flat in many ways. I’d rather have read the first and treated it as something which stands alone, rather than as part of a series. If I wanted to read about Margaret of Anjou as the severe, ruthless queen rather than desperate heroine of Stormbird, I would have read a history and not a novel.
Find Stormbird here on Amazon.