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Review: Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims, Toby Clements

kingmakerIt’s 1460. Katherine is a young nun, caught outside her English priory by a group of rampaging knights during the Wars of the Roses. Her life is saved by a slightly older monk, Thomas, but her reputation isn’t. Not only has she spoken to a man, but her closest friend has died under suspicious circumstances, and Katherine finds herself expelled from the priory. Under related circumstances, so does Thomas, and these two young people find themselves with nothing and nowhere to go in the middle of a bloody civil war, fleeing from a knight whose mission is to kill them.

We’ve reached a bit of a saturation point with the Wars of the Roses, or at least I have. There are so very many books floating around about the Woodvilles, Richard III, Edward IV, the Princes in the Tower that it’s actually overwhelming, and no longer all that interesting in fiction. These royals have been considered from virtually every angle and it can seem like there isn’t anywhere new for fiction writers to go. Clements goes completely against that trend and focuses his novel on two ordinary people instead, who are simply caught up in what is wreaked by those who rule. In doing so, he creates something that is much more innovative and, ultimately, retains its interest in an over-saturated market.

In altering his focus, Clements allows us to take a completely different perspective on the war. Thomas and Katherine don’t really care who wins the war. They don’t even know what’s going on sometimes, though they do know the man who’s caused all of their troubles. They do their fair share of fighting and they even meet some of those figures about whom so many authors write. But this is a more personal struggle, viewed from a different level. They’re loyal to minor lords and it’s a member of the minor nobility who plagues them throughout the book. Everything else is more or less incidental, even though they travel across the Channel and back and feature in a few of the major battles fought during the war.

Both characters are sympathetic; I especially liked Katherine, but I wanted both of them to survive and thrive as best they could. Their personal struggles can easily strike a chord with readers; both have to find their way in a world outside the priory. They had assumed they would be there for their entire lives, but instead find themselves not only in a war but challenged with moral questions they never expected to encounter. The responsibility for killing people, the exposure to an outside world of sin, the fight for revenge; it’s very human.

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims took me a while to read because it’s fairly long, but I enjoyed it, getting wrapped up in their struggles and experiencing a little more what the other side of the Wars of the Roses would have been like. Recommended.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review consideration.

3 comments to Review: Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims, Toby Clements

  • This perspective sounds good … I want to read the new Iggulden book because I liked his Khan series. But I was just thinking the same thing as you did — The War of the Roses is the new Tutors / Henry VIII.
    Beth F´s last post …Today’s Read: The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • Yes, I see your point. And, really, you wouldn’t have known or cared much who was winning if you lived in a village or a convent, not unless they turned up on your doorstep. It would be your local lord who counted. I liked Josephine Tey’s take on it, when her Inspector Grant thinks it would have been like cheering for a football team. They didn’t generally involve civilians in their fights. I must admit, I still like the non fiction about this period and am currently reading a book about Eleanor Butler and another about the women of the York and Lancaster families. This book you’ve reviewed sounds interesting, I might see if t’s available in ebook.

    Recently, I was intrigued to learn from checking out a few family trees online that Princess Diana was descended from Elizabeth Woodville’s boy Thomas Grey, so her children and grandchild are too, but not the rest of the royals, who are descended from Elizabeth by her marriage to Edward.
    Sue Bursztynski´s last post …Teaching Year 8 To Write Stories ( from my other blog)

  • I am pleased to hear you enjoyed this. I also have a copy to read and I am looking forward to it even more now I’ve read your thoughts on it.
    jessicabookworm´s last post …Challenge: Once Upon a Time VIII Results