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The Lion of Alnwick trilogy by Carol Wensby-Scott

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Misfit
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The Lion of Alnwick trilogy by Carol Wensby-Scott

Post by Misfit » Fri June 10th, 2011, 5:11 pm

Book #1 The Lion of Alnwick
"If there were ever an English king of Scotland than there would be no Scotland. And remember, my fledgling lord, if there is no Scotland then mayhap there'll be no Percys."
The Lion of Alnwick begins in 1357 as young Henry (Hal) Percy should be at court focusing on garnering favor and the best positions, but he takes one look at Margaret and falls head over heels, despite her being a widow with nothing to bring to the marriage, and she's a Neville to boot (gasp!). They wed, and happily, but Hal's loyalty is to King Edward and his relationship with the Duke of Lancaster and his son-in-law John of Gaunt suffer because of it and tensions are...well...just a wee bit heated, but becomes even more so as John eyes the succession while an aging Edward is more interested in his mistress Alice Perrers than governing the kingdom.

The latter part of the book covers the reign of Richard II (loved his portrayal here), and the continuing conflicts with Gaunt's (now Duke of Lancaster) ambitions to either rule or be the puppet master behind the throne. Hal's son Harry (Hotspur) has his own issues as he's torn between his loyalty to his father and his childhood *friend* Henry Bolingbroke (Gaunt's son) who may or may not have his own aspersions to England's crown. And then there's Hotspur's devious, witchy, grasping wife Elizabeth - but she is a Mortimer after all, what do you expect?
"So the white rose and the red rose come together! A charming bouquet, if it were not for the stink of intrigue."
Confused? This is a complicated bit of history, but Wensby-Scott does an excellent job of putting it all together in a novel that is both highly entertaining and educational at the same time. This book finishes off after the battle of Shrewsbury (look it up and spoil at your own peril).
"A trickle of blood had dried and hardened on the rotted cheek-tears of blood, yet there was none left to weep for now."
Book two is Lion Dormant and continues the story of the Percys and Nevilles and the events leading up to the Wars of the Roses. The third book is Lion Invincible and as I understand it covers the events leading up to Bosworth field. I loved her writing, especially the dialog. I still can't decide who got the best lines, Hal, Lancaster or Elizabeth. Highly recommended and fairly HTF on the cheapish side, especially the last two.
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Book #2 Lion Dormant

Post by Misfit » Fri June 10th, 2011, 5:14 pm

Harry (Hal) Percy is the grandson of the first Earl of Northumberland and son of Harry Hotspur. When the book begins in 1414, Hal is a *guest* of the Scots whilst they sort out his ransom, and he's been waiting many years for that to happen. In the meantime, the Nevilles have been making out quite well taking over the sequestered Percy holdings in Hal's absence. Henry Bolingbroke is dead, his son Henry is in a forgiving mood and Neville's scheming wife Joan Beaufort (you know, one of those Beauforts), suggests they marry their daughter Alianore off to Percy so's when the goods are returned to the rightful owner they'll still have their finger in the familial pie. Everyone seems to love the plan but Hal, who might hold a wee bit of a grudge against the man who killed his grandfather, hacked off his head and hung it as a trophy.
"Well, I resent the fact that your father holds land that should be mine. I resent the fact that he hacked off my grandfather's head and kept it on London Bridge for ten years. And most of all I resent the fact that I was forced to marry you to get back what was already mine."

What. A. Family.


Needless to say, although Hal is willing to swallow any bitter pill to get home and get his properties back, he's none too happy with the wife he's saddled with and she's left to mildew in the country whilst he goes off to play at being a courtier and soldier in Henry V's service. Hal eventually comes home and he and Alianore come to terms (and a very happy marriage), but when Henry dies leaving a mere baby as heir, those old rivalries that have been simmering since the deaths of Edward III and Richard II start heating up again - and they get even hotter when Henry reaches adulthood and appears to have a few screws loose.

Might there be another, more capable person with an equally good claim standing by waiting to snatch the throne from Henry? Learning from his grandfather's mistakes, Hal is determined to support his anointed king, but since his in-laws the Nevilles have other plans that really makes the family relationships sticky. Well, you know what happens next, Richard of York makes his run for the throne supported by the Nevilles and what is now known as the Wars of the Roses begins. Can the Percys hold firm in their loyalty to the king, or will they be swept away in the tides of war?

I knew there were strong family ties in this dispute, but I had no idea how closely related so many of the northern families were. Alianore's sister was Cecily Neville (married to Richard of York) Hal's mother Elizabeth was a Mortimer (thus closely tied to Richard of York), and the list goes on and on. What do you do when you prepare to face your brother or cousin on the battlefield?
"I should hate you but I don't. Being a Percy just doesn't seem a good enough reason. A man must be judged by what he is, not his blood, and I've enough of yours and you've enough of mine for me to be confused...But Beaufort blood. That's another thing."
Well, you know those Beauforts :)

While not quite as unputdownable as the first book in this trilogy, I enjoyed this a lot. The author does an amazing job of taking a highly complicated cast of characters and not only making it all understandable but entertaining as well. The characters are well drawn, and no one is completely bad or good - they are people of their times and class and behave accordingly. Two thumbs up, and I'm now off to work on book #3, Lion Invincible. I loved how she portrayed nutty Henry VI and can't wait to see what she does with those grasping Woodvilles. 4/5 stars.
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Book #3 Lion Invincible

Post by Misfit » Fri June 10th, 2011, 5:16 pm

Portions of this review will discuss events that are historical fact. Those not familiar with the period might consider them spoilerish, so enter at your own risk.

After the battle of Towton, a very young Henry (Harry) Percy gets off on the wrong foot with the Yorkist victor and is promptly sent to gaol for nine years, the latter portion of which he spends at Pembroke castle where he meets Henry Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort. Harry is a Percy at heart and eventually bows to the inevitable and since a Yorkist king is as good or bad as a Lancaster, he swears fealty to King Edward so he can regain his earldom and lands in Northumbria.
"...I have more to concern myself with than whether my king is descended from John of Gaunt or Lionel, Duke of Clarence."
Harry was the product of a most unhappy marriage, and between that, his vicious mother and his younger illegitimate cousin John, let's just say that there's plenty of emotional upheaval, double-dealing and scheming afoot in Northumberland - can Harry get past the emotional baggage and find happiness with Maude Herbert? Let's hope so...

The Lancasters aren't down yet and Edward's reign is a rocky one at times, and Richard of Gloucester is sent to stabilize the north. The two lords butt heads at first, they eventually build a friendship based on mutual respect, and Harry swears fealty to Richard as his overlord. When Edward IV dies, Richard's ambitious nature comes to the fore and heads start rolling and let's just say that Harry's faith and loyalty to Richard is sorely tested, particularly when the young princes go missing (and what an interesting little twist on who suggested that foul deed).
"Yet the accusation that Richard had murdered his nephews had raised enough smoke to choke all Christendom and still Richard did nothing."
Henry Tudor finally makes his bid for England's throne and Harry is commanded to bring out the north, but is he able to keep his oath of loyalty after Richard's recent actions?
"But I did warn you, my lord, that if you ever break faith, I would not lift a hand to save you from all the fires of Hell."
Fires of hell indeed, but you'll have to read it for yourself. This was great reading, and fascinating getting a look at this conflict from the Percy point of view and I found the author's theory as to why Harry held back at the battle of Bosworth field a credible one, as well as events that happened afterward. Wensby-Scott excels at taking an extremely complicated bit of history and puts it into novel format that is both educational and entertaining. The characters are well drawn with plentiful shades of gray - no Richard-Sue to be found here. This book is the third in a trilogy the author wrote on the Percys of Northumberland, the first two being The Lion of Alnwick and Lion Dormant. They're getting a bit hard to find, so if you're interested I'd recommend snapping them up sooner rather than later. 4/5 stars.
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Post by annis » Fri June 10th, 2011, 9:34 pm

Great reviews, Misfit. I've only read the first book in the series at this stage, but the writing is vivid and Wensby-Scott never loses the threads of the complex, epic tale she's weaving. If the characters weren't as she portrays them, they darn well should have been! I loved Hal Percy, a man whose loyalties are in constant conflict. He's a fierce, proud falcon of a man, and reminds me of Ralf Isambrad from Edith Pargeter's Heaven Tree trilogy. Like you, I enjoyed Wensby Scott's malicious Richard II, a bejewelled spider waiting patiently in his luxurious, silken web for the right time to strike against those who've aggrieved him.

And what a nest of vipers the royal court was! Kinship was certainly no consideration amongst uncles, nephews and cousins aiming to remove any hindrance to their own claim to the throne.

A series well worth retrieving from the mists of time :)
Last edited by annis on Fri June 10th, 2011, 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by robinbird79 » Wed June 15th, 2011, 4:13 pm

I can't wait to get copies of these! They look fabulous! :) Thanks so much for bringing them to my attention!
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Post by annis » Fri June 17th, 2011, 3:35 am

Slightly off-topic, but I was intrigued to discover that the Percy family are still alive and well and Dukes of Northumberland :) How's that for continuity?

Noted while reading a gossip column this morning about Pippa M and George Percy, heir to the current Duke of Northumberland. Don't know if it's my imagination, but doesn't this particular Percy look a bit like Prince Harry?)

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/51399 ... ntre-stage

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Post by Misfit » Fri June 17th, 2011, 11:52 am

Wow, that family has been around for a while. I can't imagine having a family history that long. And impressive.
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Post by Tanzanite » Fri June 17th, 2011, 11:37 pm

[quote=""annis""]Slightly off-topic, but I was intrigued to discover that the Percy family are still alive and well and Dukes of Northumberland :) How's that for continuity?

Noted while reading a gossip column this morning about Pippa M and George Percy, heir to the current Duke of Northumberland. Don't know if it's my imagination, but doesn't this particular Percy look a bit like Prince Harry?)

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/51399 ... ntre-stage[/quote]

Their castle at Alnwick is quite impressive - especially the family's actual living quarters. One of the things we thought was interesting when we were there is that the "guides" who were in the different rooms to answer questions aren't volunteers but actual full time employees of the Duke (who employs more than 300 people locally). One of the "family" room had a fooseball table and the guide said it's not unusual for the family to drag it to the middle of the room in the evenings to play. Looking around the room at all of the wonderful family heirlooms and antiques, I had to cringe! The castle rooms are full of family photographs as well.
Last edited by Tanzanite on Sat June 18th, 2011, 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Misfit » Sat June 18th, 2011, 12:07 am

I'd love to see that one. Quite a history that family has had. I did find a little something of interest on the Wik page about the early Percys,
The Percys, who hailed from the village of Percy in Normandy, had modest estates in Yorkshire, bestowed by the Conqueror on the first of the name to arrive in England in his train, William de Percy, 1st Baron Percy. The family, however, was represented by an only heiress, Agnes de Percy, in the reign of Henry II. Queen Adeliza of Louvain, the widowed and remarried second wife of King Henry I and a daughter of the Duke of Brabant, thought Agnes, with her wide possessions, a suitable match for her own young half-brother, Joscelin of Louvain. The marriage took place and the match produced the line of Henry Percys who played such a large role in the history of both England and Scotland. As nearly every Percy was a Warden of the Marches, Scottish doings concerned them more or less intimately—indeed, often more so than English affairs.


I'm about ready to go and plant myself back with Lady of the English so I'll keep an eye out for any mention of Joscelin's marriage.
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Post by SGM » Sat June 18th, 2011, 5:38 am

There are loads of people with the name Percy in Northumberland and Alnwick is such a perfect place for playing quidditch.
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