I came to this work with little or no knowledge of the period in question except to say that, like `The Battle of Hastings' I had heard of the `Hundred Years War.' I say this because although established author Dr. Timothy Venning acknowledges a fascination for `what ifs' in history, his easy-to-read style of writing immediately created in me a desire to learn more about this period in my country's distant history.
The central plot of the Hundred Years War will be well known to some; between 1337 and 1453, Britain and France were at war - off and on, with both sides seeking the French throne. Allies loyal to both sides were also involved from time to time. It all started in 1337 when King Edward III of England refused to pay homage to the King Philip VI of France whereupon Philip confiscated Edward's estates in Aquitaine. Edward then declared that `he' - not Philip, was the lawful king of France having traced his ancestry back to a particular point in time - and so the conflicts commenced. What I found particularly interesting were the famous names which emerge from this period with such notables as Joan of Arc, the Black Prince and the Battle of Agincourt being just three.
Based on his undoubted extensive knowledge of the period, Dr. Venning explores the many alternative possibilities to what might have happened if... In so doing he provides several scenarios which follow their own individual path to conclusion as history is changed: What if the Black Prince had not died prematurely? What if 10-year-old Richard had not inherited the crown? What if Henry V had recovered from dysentery? What if Joan of Arc had not emerged as the leader she did? Each of these, and more, provide an incredible different view based on, and I repeat, `what if.'
What makes the book so intriguing is that each alternative scenario is followed to its ultimate conclusion in a way that can only be achieved by someone who has studied and fully understands the history of the time.
Whereas the underlying premise works well - if only because of the depth of knowledge possessed by the author, I do have two reservations; Whereas, the work is fiction - because these alternative events never happened, it is, nevertheless written in such a knowledgeable way as to possibly become confused with actual historic events in years to come. Finally, although great fun, I can imagine it might upset purists who are seeking to add to their knowledge of history and not what might have happened and so forth.
Having said all that, it really is an absorbing read.