Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review: The Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI by Lauren Johnson

Title: The Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI
Author: Lauren Johnson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publish Date: May 7, 2019
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Firstborn son of a warrior father who defeated the French at Agin- court, Henry VI of the House of Lancaster inherited the crown not only of England but also of France, at a time when Plantagenet dominance over the Valois dynasty was at its glorious height.

And yet, by the time he died in the Tower of London in 1471, France was lost, his throne had been seized by his rival, Edward IV of the House of York, and his kingdom had descended into the violent chaos of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VI is perhaps the most troubled of English monarchs, a pious, gentle, well-intentioned man who was plagued by bouts of mental illness. In The Shadow King, Lauren Johnson tells his remark- able and sometimes shocking story in a fast-paced and colorful narrative that captures both the poignancy of Henry’s life and the tumultuous and bloody nature of the times in which he lived."

My Two Cents:

"The Shadow King" is an extensive look at the life of Henry VI, a monarch who came to power at a critical time in history. In his early life, he inherited both the crown of England and France. By the end of his life, England had fallen into chaos as warring factions fought over the throne in the War of the Roses. Between these two time periods lived a man who is sometimes characterized as a pacifist and sometimes mad. This book seeks to shed light on the in between with great success. This is a very thorough and well-written account of Henry VI's life and his death.

I think this is the first time that I've read a biography of Henry VI. What a complicated man! Depending on who was writing his story, you get a lot of different opinions. Because of his involvement with the War of the Roses, you get a lot of looks through a biased lens depending on who is writing about him. Was he well-intentioned? Why did he fail so badly? What led to such mismanagement and squandering of his power? Did he cause his own dark circumstances at the end of his life or was he more of a victim? I appreciated that Johnson shows so many sides of this man and the people that surrounded him. 

This book would be a great pick for those that know a lot about Henry VI and those, like me, who know very little. The writing style is very accessible for such a heady topic. I liked how Johnson was able to weave so much detail into something that felt almost story like. She describes Henry's circumstances in such a way that you can imagine what he and some of the secondary characters are going through as England descends into chaos. 

This book was absolutely fascinating! Johnson's portrait of Henry VI is well-researched and well-rounded. I am looking forward to seeing what else she writes!

1 comment:

  1. Didn't know much about this Henry so I'd like to get hold of this one. Thanks for the review.


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