Book Review: Trinity, by Conn Iggulden

Available in bookstores nationwide.cv_trinity

Conn Iggulden is a best-selling author of historical fiction, with previous works covering Ancient Rome and Mongolia, as well as the Dangerous Books for Boys series.

Trinity is the second of a trilogy of books covering the Wars of the Roses, when the English noble families were at war with each other: from the ascension of Henry VI in 1422 to the more-or-less resolution with the crowning of Henry VII in 1485. It is a fascinating and complex period of English history, with strong characters and twists and turns of fortune. The Wars of the Roses has been fertile ground for historical fiction writers, with a list of authors as long as your arm; the period might be most familiar to some New Zealanders after the broadcast of the TV series The White Queen last year, which was based on three novels by Philippa Gregory, although events in Trinity predate those in The White Queen.

Starting in 1454, the novel picks up with Henry VI ill with some sort of catatonic sickness, his French queen Margaret of Anjou trying to protect her husband and her son, and the Duke of York and his cousins the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick (the Trinity of the title) ruling the country. These are the main players, along with a fictional character, spymaster Derry Brewer.

A good historical novel needs to be thoroughly researched, and Trinity (and the first book in the trilogy, Stormbird, which I recommend you read first) most certainly are. Because the major events are generally a matter of public record, the author needs to come up with some sort of hook to keep the reader interested. Iggulden does a great job of keeping the pace moving, not getting bogged down in minutiae, and presenting multiple viewpoints. Many authors and historians present Margaret of Anjou as unsympathetic, and it is refreshing to read Iggulden’s Margaret as a woman who is motivated by protecting her husband’s birthright, rather than a power-crazed harpy. Iggulden interestingly presents Richard, Duke of York, as a loyal supporter of the King, who is pushed by his relatives and circumstance into fateful rebellion.

The only criticism that I have, is that the trade paperback review copy is lacking in family trees and also a couple of maps (these are less crucial than the family trees) which are present in my local library’s hardcopy. The family trees are essential for anyone trying to follow the tangled web of who is related to who, and how, and what the various competing claims to the throne are (these are legion). Given that the paperback has 14 blank pages at the end of the book, I cannot see why the publishers chose to leave these out –perhaps this has been rectified in future editions.

Don’t let that stop you reading the book though – the relevant family trees are easy to find online if you want them for reference, even if the hard copy versions are specifically presented to fit the characters and conflicts within the book. Trinity is a well-written, absorbing page turner, making a murky and convoluted period of British history much more accessible. Enjoyable, and highly recommended (but do read Stormbird first).

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

War of the Roses: Trinity
by Conn Iggulden
Published by Michael Joseph Ltd
ISBN 9780718159863