Henry finds his reign tainted by the dishonorable choices he has made to gain and keep power; Hal is torn between his responsibilities as heir and his love for the valiant, guileless Hotspur, "a plain man lost in a world where most other men had grown strange - collecting superlatives to himself as Saint Sebastian collected arrows in the wall-paintings.
A fictional Welsh woman, poignantly, chastely in love with Hotspur, is also a central character. Pargeter's language belongs to an earlier style of historical novel, borrowing literary cadences and vocabulary from the past to immerse the reader in its medieval setting. Initially, the story may feel labored as readers of the internet age adjust to a literary style paced to encourage the appreciation of subtleties. Their patience is soon rewarded. A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury offers a tale of heart-wrenching dilemmas, greatness of soul, and one of the best battle scenes in literature, flinching from neither the joy of battle nor its horror from the moment the two armies deploy in their "courtly, methodical, formalized preparation for execution More info.
Even as the narrative approached the eponymous battle, I found that I had no emotional skin in the game. The post-battle events were well-described and I truly felt like the author captured the price of kingship. You might even learn some history beyond your knowledge of Shakespeare; I did. Oct 02, Natalie rated it it was amazing. I read this for a book club, and really did not expect to enjoy it. For start, I like my historical fiction to be set before , and featuring Romans if at all possible.
The style is full of archaisms, and usually I find this very irritating, preferring contemporary language to be used in historical fiction. The writing is stately and slow-paced, but it adds to the chivalric aura surrounding the central character, Hotspur. It also helps to create a pool of calm into which the reader can escape from the hectic pace of modern life. Battle is depicted as a place for the display of honour, particularly for Hotspur — not as the confused, gory mess it so usually is.
But I have to confess that despite myself I fell in love with the beauty of the world created. In contrast is Prince Hal, the future Henry V, thrust unexpectedly into the role of Prince of Wales and forced by his new position always to hide his true feelings and present a blank front to the world, especially to his father, Henry IV. Faced with distance and coldness from the king, Hotspur becomes a father-figure and mentor to him. In summary, this is romantic escapism, but it is the best piece of romantic escapism I have ever read, and so it got five stars from me.
View all 3 comments. Oct 31, RJay rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. There are very few historical novels that I feel are up to the standard of Sharon Kay Penman's writing. This one comes really close. Just like in reading "The Sunne in Spendour", the battle preparations cause There are very few historical novels that I feel are up to the standard of Sharon Kay Penman's writing. Just like in reading "The Sunne in Spendour", the battle preparations caused this reader great anxiety and a strong emotional response at the end of the battle. The text is written in the style of the times so sometimes difficult to grasp on first reading - but well worth the effort to digest.
You won't regret your efforts! Aug 13, Kate rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , myth-legend. The minor characters are possibly even more compelling than Henry, Hal or Harry who are so well deliniated that you never forget which Henry you're with. This book took two starts as the first chapter and a half are a bit tricky if you've forgotten your history.
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By the end I felt sure I would never be able to read an actual history of the time without hearing the voices of Pargeter's Henries. Nov 20, Jane rated it did not like it Shelves: reviewed , middle-ages , library , abandoned. I tried 2 or 3 times to get into this one but morass of details just stymied me, so I abandoned it each time. I really liked her The Heaven Tree Trilogy but couldn't make it very far into this one.
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I do love that title, though. Aug 15, Sasha rated it it was amazing. On rare but magical occasions, I discover a book which, I feel, was written specifically for me by an author attempting first and foremost to make ME happy. Reading such a book is an incredibly delightful experience for me, but it does leave me with vestiges of self-doubt about recommending the book.
Well, let's take a quick look at the tailor-made-for-Sasha ingredients list: First, we have the historical On rare but magical occasions, I discover a book which, I feel, was written specifically for me by an author attempting first and foremost to make ME happy. Well, let's take a quick look at the tailor-made-for-Sasha ingredients list: First, we have the historical subject matter. I find the characters endlessly intriguing. Never mind the fact that the three Henrys in this book are not really the same people as they are in Shakespeare's play; I was predisposed to care intensely about these protagonists and their relationships because I find them so fascinating in Shakespeare.
Then, of course, add in the rest of the ingredients. Complex central characters with intense inter-personal relationships?
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Celtic freedom-fighters going down in battle shouting poetry in their mother tongue? Swoony electric-handholding-no-kissing romantic scenes? Not to mention the prose so luminous that I frequently had to pause, slow down, and reread entire paragraphs sometimes several times just to enjoy their lyricism. I'm not saying everyone would have to value this same ingredients list in order to appreciate this book.
Indeed, there is much that's appreciable in the historical content, the illumination of the politics and significant figures of the era, the medieval battle scenes.
A bloody field by Shrewsbury
But I can't get out of my own head, and in my own head, this book was all about the drama. So, I don't really know whether this book has any advantage on Shakespeare in terms of historical accuracy aside from the relative ages of the characters, which Shakespeare fudged big-time. In some sense, probably. But if Hotspur wasn't such a noble, high-minded, bold, romantic, exquisite model of knightly integrity in real life, I don't want you to tell me so. I'll just read this book again instead. May 10, Carol rated it really liked it Shelves: historical-fiction. Pargeter is one of the best historical novelists - my only disappointment with her is that she is deceased and thus will not be writing more books.
Pargeter's main concern is the relationships between Hotspur, Henry IV and Prince Henry: a fascinating triangle of loyalty, admiration, and affection held taught by tensions, jealousies, and anxieties. Hotspur comes off as a deeply honorable man Pargeter is one of the best historical novelists - my only disappointment with her is that she is deceased and thus will not be writing more books.
Hotspur comes off as a deeply honorable man of intense if simple integrity, Henry IV as a man soured and corrupted by the consequences of his own ambition, and Prince Henry as a shrewd boy growing into a young man keenly aware of his moral and political responsibilities. Pargeter has a keen eye for the complexities of character and action, and a good understanding of the political workings of the time.
Apr 25, Neil rated it really liked it.
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Wonderful book! Written forty years ago, it seems, possibly before Pargeter became Ellis Peters and found lasting fame with Brother Cadfael. But this is no historical whodunit. It's a highly accurate but fictionalized version of the brief period between the murder of Richard II we are spared the more lurid details, and told he was starved to death , and the ascent of Prince Hal to the English throne.
The characters are brilliantly-drawn, and Hotspur and Owen Glendower are as swashbuckling a pair Wonderful book! The characters are brilliantly-drawn, and Hotspur and Owen Glendower are as swashbuckling a pair as any in literature.
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If you did this period in Eng Lit Shakespeare at school, it will be like visiting old friends. Damn near a five-star read. Oct 30, Jennifer rated it it was amazing. From my boook review blog Rundpinne. Pargeter has masterfully captured a way to portray the late 14th and early 15th century England and Wales in such a manner Aug 10, Kate rated it did not like it Shelves: historical-fiction , general.
Great subject matter drowned by truly odious and repetitive purple prose, along with bizarrely flowery fawning over certain characters. I mean, Hotspur is a mediaeval coming of Christ as far as Pargeter is concerned, and the Welsh are a sacred race who can do no wrong. An historically questionable smear-job on Henry IV and a weird, off-putting not-adultery subplot involving a totally unnecessary and unappealing original character don't help.
I'm very disappointed in this book. Nov 27, Jerrie Brock rated it it was amazing. One of the best books of historic fiction I've read.
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What made it so good was the way it shows the personal conflict inherent in so many political issues, even in the past. To see the connection between Hotspur and Henry was touching. To know that even a personal admiration could not set aside the cruel realities of the political games just made it a tough read.