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Kings Of Albion [Paperback]

Julian Rathbone
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
Price: 17.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 2001
England, 1460: The War of the Roses. Rival factions - Lancastrians and Yorkists - are hacking each other to death in a conflict that only the English could name after a beautifully-scented flower. It's not an ideal climate for tourists - but three exotic travellers from the Far East are not here for pleasure. They've come to find a missing kinsman. The English, however, are truly strange. Most of the indigenous population are of the cowed peasant variety whilst any noble who can't trace his ancestry to Norman Conquest isn't, really, an awfully nice chap. In between battles of the most astonishing brutality they convey respects instead of affection, make love strangely (and briefly) and amuse themselves by playing a game with an inflated bladder that is in everyway a war except it's called 'footie'. The Indians think they're mad. They also have this horrible suspicion that one day they will rule the world... A wonderfully offbeat take on medieval England at its most brutal and savage, KINGS OF ALBION snatches history, imbues it with the spirit of Rider Haggard and Joseph Conrad, turns it on its head, invites scintillating speculation and, best of all, renders it into a fabulously readable novel.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (1 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349113858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349113852
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


In 1460, during the War of the Roses, the Lancastrians and Yorkists are busy chopping each other into little pieces and, during time out, amusing themselves with a game called "footie", which involves kicking an inflated bladder around a field. Into this unlikely idyll walks a bunch of tourists from the East who have come to search for a missing Kinsman. In no time at all, they are horrified by the weather and confused by a series of appalling European idiosyncrasies (in particular, the fact that the Emperor of the Romans lives in Germany and the Christina High Priest in Rome). Julian Rathbone's follow-up to the bestselling The Last English King is a hugely enjoyanle amble into a most gruesome period of history (THE TIMES)

Although Kings of Albion is packed with jokes it is a serious book ... The Wars of the Roses never seemed so strange - or so real ... whether describiing a journey through London by boat or country fields in winter, so strange to an oriental eye, Rathbone has evoked the sights and smells of fifteenth-century England ... the result is a historical novel of charm and intelligence (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

A superb adventure story. The battle scenes combine excitement with an overwhelming squalor, and there are moments of real tragedy and pathos (INDEPENDENT)

Book Description

* A wonderful historical adventure set at the time of the Wars of the Roses

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comic & vivid portrayal of the Wars of the Roses 28 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Never the conventional historical novelist, Julian Rathbone finds a new slant on the Wars of the Roses, by unfolding events through the eyes of non-European visitors to England.
As a plot device this works well in that the strange (to us) details of everyday life 500 years ago can be explained while the narrator's alienation serves as a proxy for own. Nevertheless this plot device at times wears thin particularly when the visitors are portrayed as credulous and naive.
The novel is on the whole extremely funny. It brings alive the confusion and anarchy of the 15th Century, peopling it with the smells and textures and bodily functions, you imagine must have been prevalent in a less sophisticated time. The plot is a riot, full of adventure revealed via a sucession of picaresque episodes. The denouement is disappointing and feels like an artificial resolution to an otherwise stunning adventure.
I couldn't put it down.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The perception of western life through eastern eyes is a most timely corrective.
But how trustworthy is it? I ask because of the cartoon depiction of the future Richard 111. Rathbone appears to have swallowed More's satire and Shakespeare's morality play uncritically whole. The truth, if you're interested, is that Richard was a good king and able administrator, but fatally naive in politics and undone by treacherous factions, leaving the throne vacant for the truly evil Henry V11 and his terrorist son Henry V111. They don't teach that in schools either.
So how much of Rathbone's remaining research is robust? We've all got to think for ourselves in these times - that's the real lesson of September 11.
For further reading, you might like to try 'Good King Richard?' by Jeremy Potter, or for a diverting (but equally one-eyed) novel 'The Daughter of Time' by Josephine Tey.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great idea badly executed 3 Nov 2003
It is a long time since I have been so disappointed in a book. I don't mean it is the worst book I've ever read - I made it to the end - but it could and should have been so much better. The idea of viewing medieval England through the eyes of visitors from an alien culture (in this case, a group from India) is a good one, as it emphasises the alienness of the fifteenth century to modern readers. However, the novel failed to work for me at so many different levels.
My main complaint is Rathbone's sheer distaste for the period, as he trots out the cliched view of the middle ages as an age of ignorance, violence and casual heretic-burning. I'm not saying the author has to prettify the era, but he could at least show some affection for it. It amazes me that he should choose to write about an age for which he clearly lacks any feeling. His book is also wildly anachronistic. I am not referring to the deliberate in-jokes, but to the plot device that features the heresy of the Free Spirit. This 'heresy' was in all probability an invention of the Inquisition, and if it existed at all, it did so in the early fourtenth century, not the late fifteenth. It certianly had nothing to do with John Wyclif (or Wyclef Jean, as he was known in France). This may seem a pedantic point, but it typifies the cavalier attitude to the middle ages that carelessly lumps centuries together - "what does it matter, they all smelled of dung and burned witches whatever century you're in, didn't they?"
I could just about put up with all this, but what really pushed me over the edge were Rathbone's smug little "ooh, aren't I clever?" literary in-jokes, such as meeting a man called 'Skaksper' in Stratford-upon-Avon. Julian, it's not big, it's not clever, and it's not even particularly funny.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kings of Albion - tough going 1 Mar 2002
By P A Day
Rathbone uses a number of devices to narrate this tale to us. Stories recounted by Ali, Letters from Prince HariHara, and that extra bit of spice added by the magnificent Uma (whom I should very much like to meet).
The three sources are knitted together well, and one is presented with a coherently told tale .... but; The tale of the Wars of the Roses is long and is complicated by the major protagonists switching sides, doing deals, and generally confusing the heck out of anyone trying to understand what is supposed to be happening.
In the end this story like the cannons of the Yorkists gets bogged down in lengthly descriptions of muddy English roads in January.
Rathbone is a master of this style of histoical novel, as anyone who has read The Last English King will surely agree. But, this time he has bitten of more than he can chew, and believe me the last 100 pages of this novel will take some chewing. I'm ashamed to say that with 40 pages left to read, I really couldn't care who wins or who loses.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as The Last English King 2 Nov 2001
This book has much to recommend it. It is vivid, alive with the smells and sights of 15th Century England. The story has shifting points of view by having different narrators, and this is handled with skill by Rathbone. By having the main narrator, Ali, an Arab, who travels the Middle and Far East, it puts English History into a World History Context.

Conversely, I found myself getting confused by the events. Who was fighting who and that sort of thing. Now I know with the War of the Roses, it is difficult to differentiate between the two sides; but I would have thought it was the novelist's job to do just this for us. Towards the end of the book, I had stopped caring about either the characters or the plot. There is also too much description of people. A brief descripton suffices. "She was tall, with beautiful brown eyes and olive skin" is all you need to say about someone. A paragraph spent describing someone's looks is a paragraph wasted. Too much description and the resulting image is that of a grotesque freak.

This is such a disappointment after The Last English King, which is so superior.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull dull dull....
Starts slowly and continues slowly. Don't bother if you want to know about the War of the Roses, the "action" doesn't get to England until page 82!
Published on 30 Nov 2009 by Android
2.0 out of 5 stars Very good plot badly presented
What would otherwise be a fascinating view of 15th century England and a superb opportunity to enlighten readers on the Wars of the Roses (because it is almost completely ignored... Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2009 by MiddleAge
2.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, yet strangely annoying.
As one of the previous reviewers said, this is a wonderful idea that could have been better executed. Read more
Published on 4 July 2008 by Iphidaimos
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but not Rathbone's best
In a similar vein to the excellent 'The Last English King' - which gets a small mention - but somehow not quite as good. Read more
Published on 10 Jun 2008 by N. Young
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull
It is interesting that if you write a negative review that you tend to get more people voting that your review was useless. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2006 by A. Gothorp
5.0 out of 5 stars Smashing!!!
A hugely enjoyable read. I read this book when it first came out after having seen it in the library. It exceeded all my expectations. Read more
Published on 22 Aug 2005 by Clare
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel perspective on the wars of the roses
On the whole I found this to be a really novel and interesting perspective on a period of history of which I have read in depth. Read more
Published on 27 Oct 2003 by kate Gething
5.0 out of 5 stars A new look at old attitudes...
What a great book. It left me breathless, informed, uplifted, excited and slightly uneasy about all the throw-away references that must have gone over my head. Read more
Published on 8 July 2002 by Steve Gray
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow start - but worth it
I enjoyed this a lot - eventually. The slow start was overlong, but once our heroes managed to find 15th century England off the coast of Calais, it become very gripping. Read more
Published on 6 May 2002 by A. Fitzpatrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This is a unique idea and well written. It also offers a lot of detail of the time (similar to George Macdonald Fraser)so as well as enjoying the story you get a feel for life... Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2001
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