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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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I thought that this sounded like an interesting and new take on the Wars of the Roses and I must confess to being a little disappointed. Seward has chosen 5 historical characters to see the conflict through, but it didn't seem as if there was enough on each of these to make it really work.
One thing I found particularly peculiar was the authors habit of refering to William, Lord Hastings as William through most of the book, rather than the usual 'Hastings'. Despite knowing her real name to have been Elizabeth Shore, he insists on refering to her as 'Jane' Shore, because 'that is how she is known to history', and we seem to have rather more of her fathers story than of hers, even when she was one of the 5 chosen principle characters!
I also felt that the book was a little unbalanced in terms of bias. It was quite apparant to me that the author favoured the Lancastrians and had nothing but praise for Margaret Beaufort, John Morton and the Earl of Oxford.
This is also a book which really does require some knowledge of the events of the Wars of the Roses already, as it does not go into these in so much depth.
In short an interesting idea for a new take, but it did not work as well as I would have hoped and I was left feeling a little disappointed.
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on 23 August 2009
The problem with the subject of the Wars of the Roses is that it is so complex. A period of 30 tumultuous years, various battles, revolts, changes of monarch can leave the reader feeling bored and completely unsure as to exactly what is going on. Fortunately, this book is a gem. The author gives us a fast pace and entertaining piece of narrative. The big players are all there (Henry VI, Edward IV, Warwick the Kingmaker, Richard III etc)but as there are so many big players, the author effectively presents the facts by following the lives of five eye-witnesses and pulling all the threads of the WOTR together. There are so many Edward's, John's, and Elizabeth's in this book that one could easily become confused but the author solves this problem by providing a quick and easy 'whos who?' section at the beginning of the book-it is therefore easy to clarify any ambiguity. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to others.
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on 26 December 2012
The Wars of the Roses is a mightily complex period in English history. The author manages quite well to explain these 30-odd years. I liked it that he tells the story through these five characters. There is a tremendous amount of speculation on the life of Elizabeth Lambert but that doesn't weaken the book in any way.

What I found rather helpful are the two genealogical trees of the Houses of York and Lancaster as well as the `Who's who' section and the Chronology at the beginning of the book. I referred to all three of them quite regularly as I proceeded through the book. Without them, I would have found the narrative at times a bit hard to follow. Having read the book I have now a much better understanding of this rather confusing period in England's history.
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on 6 July 2011
A very disappointing read. The focus on 5 figures, none of them the main players and one at least of little significance means that the continuity of events is often obscured. In addition, the author's mannerism of often saying that one or other of them probably, or may have, or perhaps saw another etc becomes irritating: this is especially true of Jane Shore, about whom the author seems frequently to speculate irrelevantly just to keep her in the picture. We end up with a collage of impressions, but not enough sense of the narrative sequence, nor of the underlying motives or interests of the power bases. Read Michael Hicks' "The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485" instead - there are many other books about the Wars of the Roses: look around.
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on 28 October 2009
Really enjoyable read covering all the main points in the war in suffficient detali to give a good understanding of all the characters and issues involved. I particularly liked the reference to important buildings and places from that time that still exist today.
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on 1 May 2013
I suppose Mr Seward had to come up with an idea to sell to his publishers. Unfortunately he made a poor choice in trying to tell the complex history of the War of the Roses through the eyes of five individuals. The error is compounded by his choice of leading characters. The decision to use Jane (or Elizabeth) Shore, is particularly baffling. Hardly anything is known about her and Seward is reduced to referring to her father for most of the book and trying very hard to weave one or other of them into the story e.g. if a banquet is held Jane's father "may very well have been in attendence". At times, the author has no choice but to simply abandon this perspective in order to tell the main story.

That said, I did finish the book with at least a reasonable overview of the wars, even if I only enjoyed parts of it.
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on 3 July 1998
The author consciously attempted to write a book in the style of Tuchman's "A Distant Mirror" and was 80% successful. That still makes it a very good book and the reader has quite a bit of fun while learning about the bizarre civil war in 15th century England. Why only 80%? Because instead of following ONE person (a la Tuchman) he follows FIVE and that gets a bit confusing for the casual reader and leads to some discontinuities in the history. Still -- buy it and enjoy!
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on 17 February 2013
Although enjoyable, I find the amount of speculation and conjecture quite irritating. I'm not really interested in learning that Jane Shore's father might have walked past a pub frequented by The Earl of Warwick's butler (my example, but this is the type of 'colour' we are expected to find illuminating).

Add to this scholarly information that various attainted lords had their heads and body parts impaled on Tower Bridge (opened 1894); that caltrops are 'steel starfish' and that Columbus discovered America and the reader may begin questioning less widely available details.
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on 15 December 2013
I was simply looking for a general quick informative guide to the Wars of the Roses and this does the trick. Probably not for the detailed scholar but I've joined The Battlefields Trust and join occassional walks and lectures so this is ideal for good sound basic background information.
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on 21 August 2013
The book's approach was novel, by focusing on key individuals and their stories, I found the book informative and well written
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