A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury Paperback
From Edith Pargeter, who also wrote as Ellis Peters, A BLOODY FIELD BY SHREWSBURY is a vivid medieval tale of Henry IV's kingdom in crisis. 'Chivalry, treachery, conflict of loyalties...The clash of wills is as stirring as the clash of steel' Observer It is 1399.
Henry Bolingbroke, unjustly banished and deprived of his inheritance by Richard II, returns to claim his rights and deposes the king to become Henry IV of England.
He is aided by the powerful lords of Northumberland, especially by his friend, Harry Percy, nicknamed Hotspur. But the triumph of his accession quickly turns sour in the face of ever-growing crises in his new kingdom, and Wales is the most pressing and troublesome of these.
For although Henry's son and heir, Prince Hal, is the nominal Prince of Wales, the Welsh have a prince of their own blood in Owen Glendower, and they are swift to rally to his rebellious call to arms. The three Henries all wish to see the House of Lancaster succeed, but their partnership contains the seeds of its own destruction.
The memory of past crimes and growing doubts and divisions cause a dangerous rift. The king also has powerful enemies who are all too willing to take advantage of this and tension mounts as the three men are drawn inexplicably to a bloody collision some two miles from Shrewsbury...
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384 pages
- Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
- Publication Date: 05/10/1989
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9780747233664
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Review by Chatterbox
This novel (an old favorite that I first read when it was republished in the late 1980s) is one of the historical novels written by Ellis Peters under her "other" name, Edith Pargeter. It tells a fascinating story, that of the three-way relationship between Henry of Lancaster, who became Henry IV after seizing the English throne from Richard II, his son and heir (who would become Henry V), and a third Henry, Henry Percy, aka Hotspur, who was the equivalent of the idol of the masses, known for his valour & chivalry. (If you've read Shakespeare's novels, you'll have a sense of this.) The novel opens when young Hal returns from the care of Richard to his father's new court, and is entrusted to Hotspur's guardianship and tutelage. As the years pass, Richard dies in captivity, apparently making Henry IV secure on his new throne. But Henry is becoming old before his time; he can no longer trust after he has betrayed the trust of his cousin Richard and taken the throne. When that distrust becomes too large to contain, it leads him to actions that Hotspur and his family can't tolerate, and civil war looms, putting young "Hal" in the midst of a conflict. Pargeter does an exceptional job here, from writing about battle (both the adrenaline and the aftermath), to the psychological impact of estrangement between fathers and sons. There's an odd kind of romantic sub-plot here which is perhaps a bit unbelievable (although it offers some insights into the links between the Welsh and the English in the Marches at the time, and the lives of young women in the very early 15th century). A more difficult hurdle is the language: it is even more convoluted and flowery than that found in the Cadfael novels, so you have to be able to tolerate phrases such as: "They made their own terms of reference; she, perhaps with knowledge and calculation; the man, after his kind, by impulse and the blind brilliance of his own nature." This somehow works better in historical novels (I've not been able to read a trilogy of Pargeter's set in WW2, because of the language, although had oddly little trouble with the same flowery style in her modern mysteries written as Ellis Peters and featuring George Felse, the detective) but you have to be able to immerse yourself in it and somehow ignore it. For me, as a historical fiction nut, it's worth it: in this, as in the massive Brothers of Gwynned series she wrote, Pargeter has taken what was an overlooked tale and turned it into a compelling saga. Sharon Penman owes a lot to her; Penman's novels of the last Welsh princes followed Pargeter's and while they are without the flamboyant, flowery style, they also don't have the same sense of time and place. Recommended to those interested in historical novels and the period. 4.1 stars. If you like this, look for "The Brothers of Gwynned" -- be warned, it's a quartet of novels... -- and "The Marriage of Meggotta", another bittersweet novel featuring a manipulative and deceitful monarch.