Saturday, June 19, 2021

NetGalley ARC | The Brothers York: An English Tragedy

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Despite the claims of this bringing new information to light, or being a new look at the House of York, I don't think that is accurate. There was not really anything new here for me. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic look at the lives of the men who would practically tear England apart in order to claim the throne.

In the beginning Edward (IV), George (Duke of Clarence), and Richard (III) looked invincible. Brothers who would fight for one another in order to secure the crown. The House of York appeared unstoppable. Yet within a span of approximately thirty years it would all come crashing down. Everything we would expect in the fifteenth century played out in real life - rebellions, usurpers, executions.

The dynasty they'd attempted to carve out lasted but one generation before coming to a bloody end at Bosworth when Henry Tudor would emerge victorious. That in itself is the real tragedy. I enjoys the what-ifs and there are plenty to think about when it comes to this branch of the family. However, it also must be remembered that Edward IV took what was not his to begin with - Henry VI was the rightful ruler. Going back in time even further, what might England have looked like had Henry VI not been murdered, and his son eventually come to power?

Unfortunately we will never know, but it's fun to think about.

Despite not really giving new information, this is an incredibly in-depth analysis of the three brothers who would all come to untimely ends. The research is impeccable and the author plays it straight I felt, not biased in one way or another. A good 15% or so of the book is sources in fact, so the time spent on that part of the writing process is obvious. The facts are the facts, regardless of the motivation behind them. He presents those facts here and the reader may do with them what they wish.

My only real issue with the book is that it is not entirely about the three brothers. Edward consumes much of the book. George shines brightly for a time and is just as swiftly snuffed out. And then there's Richard. Ugh.

Side note: I think I have a bigger issue with certain Ricardians than I do Richard himself - looking at you, Philippa Langley. Getting all emotional and weepy just because it was discovered that he did in fact have scoliosis is fucking ridiculous. Ranting about him being treated unfairly for his supposed role in the murders of his nephews is also ridiculous. It is awful, and if he ordered it, he deserved his death at Bosworth. BUT. He was also a product of his time. Violent overthrow of a rightful king was no unheard of. What makes it so ugly was that they were children. Stop embarrassing yourself.

I do think Richard had them killed. The majority of Londoners thought the same thing once the princes were no longer seen. Richard would have heard these rumors. All he had to do was trot the boys out to show they were alive and well. He never did, because he couldn't. The Tudor propaganda machine was strong, but was not in high gear until later, long after people already believed Richard had ordered it. So, whatever.


As I was saying, much of the book is focused on Edward IV. This makes sense, as he ruled the longest. George and Richard are there in the thick of it, but never the focus until Edward's death when Richard made a play for the throne and it worked. I don't consider that much of an issue, as he was king for twenty years compared to George's zero years and Richard's two. On the other hand, Richard's reign is complex and deserves thorough examination. The death of the princes is touched on, but barely. They simply disappear. I feel like this is the defining thing, what people always associate with Richard, and should have been given more room. We truly do not know what happened despite dozens of theories, but it is possible to explain the events and still conclude we will likely never know.

The book does get slow; it took me months to read. Part of that is due to the fact that this is one of my least favorite eras in England's history. The Wars of the Roses in simplest terms is a bunch of jerks trying to steal something that is not theirs. And everyone dies.

The other part is that there is SO MUCH information, and so many important people to talk about in their relation to the three brothers.

This period was complex and complicated. The book can be dense at times. It is incredibly in-depth and you will be reminded of details you may have forgotten. So even though there is not necessarily any new content, it is still a very worthwhile contribution to books on this time and place.



  1. WOW, Sarah, you're on a roll!! i still worry about the kids in the tower... if you haven't read it, you MUST read "The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey... it's all about Dick and his nephews...

    1. I do think about it a lot, especially when reading books like this. I can't imagine how scared they must have been. The boys hardly knew each other and had no idea what was going to happen. Poor things.

  2. I love the War of The Roses. I'm the opposite of you, I guess, in that it's one of my favourite periods in history because of the complexities around it and how segued into the Tudors.
    This book seems like a worthwhile contribution to the the story.

    1. I tend to lost interest when Henry IV comes to power but pick it back up again when Henry VI is an adult. I am not sure why, but Henry IV and Henry V are my least fave to read about.

      You are correct, it is absolutely a great contribution. I think you'd enjoy it quite a bit.


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