Iron, Fire and Ice – Ed West

Summary:

Game of Thrones (GoT), the HBO series based on George Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, has been one of the most successful TV series ever. The series is fictional, but in reality Martin was largely inspired by the English War of the Roses, and through this book you find that, sometimes, the truth is bloodier than fiction!

This book gives, in well-researched detail, the struggle for the English throne in medieval times, up to and after the War of the Roses. It also includes events happening continent-wide, that also find echoes in GoT.

Unlike its fantasy counterpart (the “Song Of Ice and Fire” is an epic series in their own right, much better read than watching the TV series imo), Iron Fire and Ice gives life to the real monsters that walked the earth. Ruthless power struggles, betrayals, the bloody end to the age of chivalry – this book shows how England was born. Dysfunctional families abound!

Main Characters:

Henry VI: This man became increasingly deranged as the years progressed, and rumours had it that his wife was the real power behind the throne. She also had many children, and given Henry’s – ah – indisposed condition, rumours also surrounded their immediate ancestry!

He was a depressive, not a murdering maniac – but who is his Game of Thrones Character? If you mentioned Joffrey, you could be right!

Edward IV: Young. Handsome, polyamorous, he becomes a fat debauched monarch at the end. He reminds you of…? King Robert Baratheon!

Margaret of Anjou: A fifteen year old bride who rose to lead a kingdom, in an era when women were seen as chattel, to be bartered for alliances. Strong-willed and power-hungry, she is most like Cersei.

Richard III: One of the most controversial figures in English history, he can be seen as an outright villain (thanks, Shakespeare), or a great reformer. As Lord Protector (of his nephews), he stabilised the economy, his Council of the North brought regional governance under central control, and had the law translated into English (from French). He may have killed his nephews to gain the throne, and was the last English King to die in battle. Tyrion, anyone?

Henry VII: A teenage exile, scouring Europe essentially as a beggar looking for support to raise an army. He seems to be most like Daenerys. The clincher? His banner was red, with – you guessed it – a dragon on it!

Plot:

If you loved GoT, you will find this real-life world fascinating.

The author has done a superb job in linking real history with the GoT fantasy, for example the “Black Dinner” and The Red Wedding”, each hugely controversial because of the complete disregard of the laws of hospitality.

The author also steps back and show the wider, international picture, where far-off events had resonances in England, where for example the French had to suspend their alliance support to the Scots, as a civil war had broken out.

The author also contextualises the conditions that people were living in, the extremely cold weather causing widespread starvation, and social unrest. Throw in the Black Plague, and you see the feudal system breaking down.

What I Liked:

  • The level of research is superb. Definitely one for the history buffs, but also accessible to a more general readership.
  • The clear linking of the similarities really brings the period to life, in all its goriness.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • It is a long read. The author does cover a huge amount in the book, and the events are so intertwined that it is hard to leave some stuff out.

Overall:

I liked reading this book. It was a violent, grimy, brutal time to be alive, and it was worse for the peasantry! This books gives a great flavour of the period, and the continual references to Game of Thrones will keep the interest. Well worth reading!

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to my fantastic library for stocking this book!

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