By Nathen Amin
‘Henry’ is the much-awaited third instalment of Tony Riches’ well-received and well-reviewed ‘Tudor Trilogy’ series, following up on ‘Owen’ (reviewed here) and ‘Jasper’, released in 2015 and 2016 respectively. As with its predecessors, ‘Henry’ follows a similar format with an easy-to-read narrative allowing you to become consumed by a fast-paced story covering the most fascinating aspects of the subject’s life. It doesn’t take long for you to feel part of the story, always a positive when it comes to a work of fiction you’re hoping will allow you an escape from the pressures of real life.
The book, twenty-five chapters long, begins in August 1485 with the attention-grabbing admission from the main character that he never in fact wanted to be king. Riches’ sombre Henry proves to be a reluctant hero, a man who stepped up to the plate because there was nobody else to challenge the tyranny of Richard III. As his uncle Jasper puts it to his nephew, “if you were king, you could bring peace to this country”. This serves as Henry’s motivation throughout the book, something I believe was true of the historical Henry;
“The archbishop blessed their union and declared them man and wife. Henry lifted Elizabeth’s gossamer veil and kissed her. As he did so, a weight lifted from his shoulders. He’d finally united Lancaster and York and would never have to face life alone again”.
As is Riches’ well-established style, the story doesn’t dawdle or stutter, and remains fast-paced throughout the work. There is little time wasted on irrelevant minute details, but rather the book is very much plot-driven, from Henry’s coronation to the birth of his children, whilst major story arcs include the various pretenders who threatened his throne and the heart-wrenching deaths of his wife and heir. This is not to suggest the work is rushed and incomplete; before you realise it, you will have read far more in one sitting than anticipated, such is the struggle to extradite yourself away from the Tudor court and put the book to one side.
A significant part of the book is spent exploring the relationship between Henry and his wife Elizabeth; unlike other fiction books featuring the pair, Riches’ follows known historical fact and puts forward a warm, even loving, relationship between the pair. They play cards together, hunt together, plan their family and even discuss policy in private, very much a united power-couple. I particularly felt touched by Henry’s gradual alienation from his children, and the realisation at one point that he barely knew his seven-year-old son Arthur, having become preoccupied with matters of state. At one point, the young prince, a serious character, refers to his father as ‘your grace’ and is gently admonished by the king.
‘Father’. He corrected his shy son. ‘You must call me father’. Henry studied his son’s thin, pale face and glimpsed an echo of his himself at the same age. ‘You are growing into a fine scholar, Arthur’, he grinned, ‘but we must make time for merrymaking. We shall spend more time together. I will teach you how to lose your money at cards!’
Henry is a likeable protagonist, portrayed at odds with the cold caricature often found in similar works that is at odds with the real Henry. He is backed up a charming Elizabeth for whom it is easy to fall for, her attractiveness leaping off the page. What I enjoyed most, however, was how Henry was shown to be a real man; not a superhero, not infallible, not perfect, but just a flawed man trying to navigate his way through a chaotic life using his considerable mental faculties, innate determination to do the best and natural inclination for caution. The book is an easy-to-read escape and a fitting conclusion to the Tudor Trilogy series. There are far worse historical fiction books on the market, and with ones featuring Henry VII, there are few better than Riches’ ‘Henry’. I strongly suggest you pick up your copy soon, or, even better, get hold of all three instalments in the trilogy.
Tony Riches is a full time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.
His real interest is in the history of the fifteenth century, and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period. Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking. Visit Tony online at http://www.tonyriches.co.uk, Tony Riches Author on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @tonyriches.