The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones

Following up on the story and success of The Plantagenets, Dan Jones now offers a book that I consider to be a public service for those just dipping into this subject. The Wars of the Roses is an era of great turmoil and upheaval, which means the players involved are many, and some of them switch sides as opportunity or desperation strikes. Most history books I’ve read on this subject either keeps it simplistic (in accordance with the propaganda of the Tudor era) or would have you believe it’s so overly complex that only an expert can wade into it with any amount of confidence, and even they might need a score card to keep up. Most people I talk to who know anything about the era have learned from historical fiction. Fine and well as a stepping stone, but no novel can ever hope to compete with the real story. The challenge is to find a book that presents it in such a way as to build the layers of intrigue and still keep it simple enough to read like a novel.

Like The Plantagenents before it, this book fits this bill. The scope and depth of this era are extended out even farther than many other books I’ve read on this, seeing this entire era as fallout from events in the Hundred Years War. Henry V’s victory at Agincourt leads to Joan of Arc’s rally of her people, and Henry V’s weak and childlike successor to the English throne leads to… this story. Where other books drop the reader right in and let us fend for ourselves, Jones gives us the context and guides us expertly through this time to what will become the reign of the Tudors. The result is a fascinating and satisfying read for those inclined to read a story like this one. While this book stands alone, I personally found it to be a wonderful companion tome to The Plantagenents. I’m hoping Jones is working on a similar project for the Tudors next, being the logical next part of the story.

On a side note, for fantasy enthusiasts, this is the era that provides much of the historical inspiration for George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire (i.e., Game of Thrones). While there are no dragons or whitewalkers to be found here, the fact that people keep coming back to this well speaks volumes of how interesting this story can be given even a halfway decent presentation. For even the remotely curious, this is an excellent book.

5 stars

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