Review: The Winter King, Thomas Penn

Rating: 3 out of 5

In no way was this an easy read. Not only is the author’s style fairly complex, but also there are numerous sub-plots which need to be followed in order to make sense of the reign of Henry VII. It thus ends up that the reader sees both into the English Court but also many of the European counterparts — Isabella and Ferdinand in Castille & Aragon and Maximilian of Austria. The future Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon also play a considerable role throughout, especially after the death of Arthur.

Perhaps this complexity in both the literary and historical aspects and how this ended up described is my main problem here. It felt that quite often a pretender would waltz in and back out, Henry would take some decisions, and England & Henry would carry on with things having happened. Only in the introduction, however, did I get any sense of what Henry was like as a person when the entrace of some Italian ambassadors was described, and the purpose of that moment had been to awe.

Beyond this, the events of Henry’s reign were described — and especially the problems — but Henry the man was elusive. Perhaps this is because, as the author said to begin with, people have mostly glossed over his reign in jumping from the ‘terrible’ Richard to the ‘glorious’ Henry, but I wish that he had made more of an effort in revealing the person — and, with the person, the motives behind the various decisions.

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