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Richard III, in the Tower, with the pillow
on 4 February 2014
Alison Weir is an excellent historian and I have read and enjoyed many of her books. As a writer of historical fiction however, she still has some way to go. As historical mysteries go, the disappearance of the princes in the tower is right up there. Given renewed focus by the recent discovery of king Richard III's bones, interest in the period has never been higher. There are lots of (history) books available that give expert opinions on our most maligned monarch, some pro, some anti. They all work because of the limited evidence to provide the definitive answer to the mystery.
The author does say that she wanted to write the novel to allow her more latitude than is possible as a serious historian
and this she does. It's just that others do it better. The basis of the mystery is surely so well known as to remove surprise. The time shifting element is used to much better effect by other authors such as Tracy Chevalier. As someone with a good knowledge of the period I ended up finding the book a little bit boring. However it is well-written and provides a balanced view of the debate about the fate if the princes, before suggesting a conclusion that probably fits best given the absence of hard evidence (and I write that as a lifelong Ricardian).
The book demonstrates that as is often the case, real life is more exciting than fiction. The period is so exciting and there are so nany great histories of the period that do much better than this novel. I do recomnend the author's history books, especially her biography of Katherine Swynford, mistress and subsequent wife, of John of Gaunt.