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review 2015-08-17 20:15
Wolf's Head by Steven McKay
Wolf's Head - Steven A. McKay

I am no Robin Hood expert and admit to having difficulty removing the vision of a fox in green tights from my head when attempting to read a story like this. McKay's Hood is not a fox (spoiler), but he is muscle-bound, witty, friendly, and impetuous. An all around lovable guy, except for the fact that he happens to be an outlaw. But he became an outlaw defending his girl's honor, so even that makes him a good guy.

All the characters you would expect are given this author's own special twist to create a unique Robin Hood story that is familiar but different enough to captivate the reader's interest. I especially liked the fact that this novel was set during the reign of Edward II, so there was no horrible history surrounding Bad Prince John and Good King Richard.

Though it is an expected element of a Robin Hood story, I had difficulty getting around the idea of an honorable band of outlaws. Everyone was there because they stole food for a starving family or defended a woman against rape, but they sure turned into lethal killers when rich clergymen passed by. The negative portrayal of most men of faith in the novel, except for Friar Tuck who is only sort of a clergyman, rubbed me the wrong way, but wasn't a major issue.

If you are looking for a light, adventurous story where the good poor people claim victory over the bad rich people, this is it. Some attempt is made to delve into the greater political friction of the era (Despensers = Bad) with chapters switching over to Thomas of Lancaster and his plans to dethrone Edward, but they were infrequent and seemed to set the stage for things to come for the most part. I have hopes that the next book will blend these two story lines together a little more seamlessly.

Book 3 was just released a couple of weeks ago, so if you are looking for a fun jaunt into Sherwood Forest there is plenty to keep you entertained with McKay's series.

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review 2015-07-27 16:02
Isabella by Colin Falconer
Isabella: Braveheart of France - Colin Falconer

This was a quick, light read covering the life of Isabella of France from the time of her marriage to Edward II of England to his death. The controversial path of her life once her son was crowned as Edward III is not covered. With the exception of the sex scenes, much of this book felt like a YA approach to her story.

 

Isabella begins her life in England with a devotion to her husband, despite his obvious preference for Piers Gaveston. It does not take Isabella long to understand the true nature of their relationship, but she is no less determined to win Edward's love. She stands by him and advises him with impressive self control until Hugh Despenser comes along.

 

Once Isabella is sent to France to negotiate with her brother, King Charles, on Edward's behalf, few believe she will ever return. This is the point in her story where I lost respect for Isabella. She suddenly begins acting with little concern for consequences. The point of view of Prince Edward was also lightly covered. Rather than being driven by a concern for her son's future, Isabella is motivated by her lust for Roger Mortimer. While this is obviously a historically true element of her time in France, it is difficult to see this as her driving force. This portion of the story was dull and drawn out, leaving little time to cover the return to England and Edward III's ascendancy.

 

This was an easy read that would be good for one who wants a simple overview of Isabella's life (to a point), but is missing the detail and consistency of character that could make it a great story.

 

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.

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review 2014-12-31 19:13
A Tapestry of Murders
A Tapestry of Murders - Paul Doherty

In this sequel to An Ancient Evil (the knight's tale) in Doherty's series of novels based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the man of law tells a story about the events which followed the death of Isabella, Dowager Queen of England and mother of Edward III. She was also the daughter of the French King Philip IV (yes, that Philip - the persecutor of the Templars and the Jews), and known as "The She-Wolf of France". Many years earlier, she had led a rebellion against her husband, Edward II, and after he had been murdered she ruled England in his stead, with her lover, the English nobleman, Mortimer.

 

However, her son grew up, as sons will. He had Mortimer arrested and executed, and he incarcerated Isabella in Castle Rising, an impregnable fortress in a remote part of East Anglia. Twenty-eight years later, she died. But she had a secret, a secret that her son, the king, was desperate to prevent from getting to France and from being made public.

 

In his tale, the man of law, Nicholas Chirke, recalls those days, when, as a young man setting out on his career, he was called upon to act for the defence in a murder case that turned out to be only one of a series of murders all revolving around this precious secret so long guarded by the dead queen.

 

Not much in the way of occult phenomena here (unusually for this series) - apart that is from one very believable ghost - but a very real (indeed authentic) medieval mystery, set against the background of sleazy streets and taverns (and larger-than-life characters) that Doherty has made his own.

 

They left the tavern and hired a ride on a cart going up Fleet Street. The day was cold but the thoroughfare was packed with carts fighting to get in or out of the city. Pedlars with packhorses and sumpter ponies and wandering priests and scholars thronged around them. Crippled beggars, clutching makeshift wheel barrows, hurried into the city to take up their usual positions for the day. At Fleet prison, just past the stinking city ditch, the execution cart was being prepared to take convicted felons up past Farringdon into West Smithfield. The prisoners were bound hand and foot and some - a woman sentenced to be boiled for poisoning her husband with burnt spiders, a footpad guilty of stealing a silver crucifix from a church in Clerkenwell, a river pirate and two counterfeiters - had placards slung around their necks advertising their crimes. The red-masked executioner tried to drive off the bystanders and onlookers with his whip, helped by the sheriff's men with their tipped staves. A drunken bagpipe player had to be helped to his feet so that he could give the death cart a musical accompaniment to the execution ground ... ...

 

Better than any film.

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review 2014-02-15 11:44
A story of sex and politics
Edward II - Christopher Marlowe

My first encounter with this play was a movie that I watched once on SBS (the Special Broadcasting Commission for you non-Australians – this television station specialises in foreign and art-house programs, and soccer, however it has earned the moniker of 'Sex before Soccer' because a lot of the foreign movies are quite saucey) and I would have to say that this movie pretty much falls into the category of 'gay cinema'. Now, because I am not homosexual I have never been interested in gay cinema, however this movie intrigued me even more when I discovered that it was written by the one and only Kit Marlowe.

As I read through this play (the second time that is) I came to realise how it does fall into the category of gay literature because it revolves around the love affair between King Edward II of England and his lover Piers Galveston, who happens to be a commoner. In a way this play could easily be about any king of that period who falls in love with a commoner, however the fact that his lover is male no doubt adds insult to injury. Kings would have had their fare share of concubines and prostitutes, and while I thought that the issue that confronted the antagonists of the play was that he was sleeping with a commoner, the more of think about it the more I realise that this probably went on all the time.

The problem was that his lover was a man, and a commoner, and the concern that the antagonists had was that Galveston held power over Edward and as such could use his influence as Edward's lover to better his position, as well as holding the hear of the king. However Galveston is pretty quickly dealt with by the antagonists, much to the king's horror, and we then learn that he finds himself another lover. What is really interesting is that this story is true – according to this play Edward II was a homosexual, and the only reason that he married Queen Isabella was so that he might have legitimate children to inherit the throne.

One could see this as a tale of a jilted lover, that being Isabella, who was effectively sidelined in favour of Galveston, but the truth of the matter is that royalty do not marry for love, they marry for political convenience (or at least they did in those days) so it would not be all that uncommon for royals to only have sex with their partners to produce legitimate offspring. Further, I am not convinced that the problem necessarily lay with the fact that Edward was having an affair with another male because no doubt that was occurring as well, but the problem was the status of his lover. A king could not marry a commoner, but no doubt he could have one as a concubine. However I suspect that it was different when it came to males because what we see here, and it is emphasised throughout the play, is that this was not the Greek or Roman idea of an old man sleeping with a young man, but rather a relationship of love, and a relationship that threatened to upset the social order – he was in love with a commoner and was raising the commoner to the position of a noble, which was something that was not to be done.

However, as the play moves on (and Marlowe has compressed the entire reign of Edward II into the play, as well as the epilogue where Edward III seeks revenge against the antagonists Mortimer and Isabella) it comes to light that Edward is not a strong king, but Mortimer, being Isabella's lover (and there is no criticism of that relationship) has gained such power that he is able to take the position of regent (namely the king that rules in place of a child king) and arranges for Edward's death. Yet Edward was not universally hated, particularly since Edward III after his coronation orders the release of his uncle, and then turns on Mortimer to make sure that his reign does not come to an abrupt end (as generally happened in those times). Mind you, from what I have read of the story of Edward III dealing with Mortimer, it was a lot more bloodier than occurred in this play, however the name of Mortimer has now come down to us as the atypical name of a bad guy.

Such is the power of the literary genius.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/852001634
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review 2013-10-10 13:40
Edward II
Edward II - Christopher Marlowe

bookshelves: published-1594, play-dramatisation, summer-2010, re-read, spring-2012, paper-read, winter-20122013, film-only

Read from June 10, 2010 to December 31, 2012, read count: 3

 

** spoiler alert **

third visit is the Jarman film: http://youtu.be/P0rCQhqYc2w
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