Publication Date: October 5, 1983
Length: 365 pages
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
I have been trying to read this book for years. After plowing through Sharon Kay Penman's 1,200 page version, also titled The Sunne in Splendour, I wanted to get Plaidy's take on the Wars of the Roses and the life of King Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville. Penman's version focuses on younger brother Richard's point of view while Plaidy sticks with a multitude of viewpoints, mostly that of Edward and Elizabeth. Of course I knew going in this was the YA version of the story and nothing in the realm of a huge historical fiction work like Penman's but I don't care. I enjoy Plaidy's simple style. She has a way of taking the complex and simplifying it and adding her own personal touches. That's why I continue to read and review her books even though I realize they are really for a younger audience just starting out with the subject of the book.
The story begins with the viewpoint of the Woodville family, specifically Jacquetta Woodville. Her beautiful daughter Elizabeth Grey, recently widowed, is determined to confront the new Yorkist King, Edward IV to try to regain her sons' inheritance lost when their father died fighting for the Lancastrians in the second Battle of St. Albans. Their famous meeting in Whittlebury Forest sets off a romantic chain of events culminating in the marriage of Edward and Elizabeth and propels the Woodville family to the highest standing in the country, allowing for numerous appointments of family members to important positions. The Woodvilles become more powerful than most of the reigning nobles of the land and create widespread resentment for years to come.
As the story shifts from the initial meeting of Edward and Elizabeth and their betrothal to their reign as King and Queen of England, Plaidy's narrative viewpoint also shifts, to that of Richard Neville, called the Kingmaker due to his role in seating Edward on the throne, and Edward and his brothers, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. We see the unfolding of the Wars of the Roses through the lens of Neville and the King and the many twists and turns of loyalty and betrayal between them all.
The three main parts of the book are divided into: Sunrise, High Noon, and Sunset. This correlates to the rise of Edward IV and his glory days of rule, followed by his death and the period of instability when his very young son and heir, Edward V is proclaimed King only to be dethroned by his Uncle and ultimately the disappearance of Edward and his brother. I found that Plaidy covers all the relevant players thoroughly and leaves no one out, from the many friends and admirers of Edward IV to Anne of Neville, to Buckingham and Henry Tudor. Her research is solid and detailed and she includes personal stories for each.
If you know the story of the Wars of the Roses you won't learn a lot of new information with this book. But somehow that didn't bother me at all. I knew what was going to happen pretty much throughout the whole book but it was like getting a refresher course. I It doesn’t delve into battles or detailed politics of the day but focuses more on relationships and betrayals. If you are new to the story you will come away with everything you need to grasp the major players and the historic timeline.