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Portions of this review will discuss events that are historical fact. Those not familiar with the period might consider them spoilerish, so enter at your own risk.

After the battle of Towton, a very young Henry (Harry) Percy gets off on the wrong foot with the Yorkist victor and is promptly sent to gaol for nine years, the latter portion of which he spends at Pembroke castle where he meets Henry Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort. Harry is a Percy at heart and eventually bows to the inevitable and since a Yorkist king is as good or bad as a Lancaster, he swears fealty to King Edward so he can regain his earldom and lands in Northumbria.

“…I have more to concern myself with than whether my king is descended from John of Gaunt or Lionel, Duke of Clarence.”

Harry was the product of a most unhappy marriage, and between that, his vicious mother and his younger illegitimate cousin John, let’s just say that there’s plenty of emotional upheaval, double-dealing and scheming afoot in Northumberland – can Harry get past the emotional baggage and find happiness with Maude Herbert? Let’s hope so…

The Lancasters aren’t down yet and Edward’s reign is a rocky one at times, and Richard of Gloucester is sent to stabilize the north. While the two lords butt heads at first, they eventually build a friendship based on mutual respect, and Harry swears fealty to Richard as his overlord. When Edward IV dies, Richard’s ambitious nature comes to the fore, heads start rolling and let’s just say that Harry’s faith and loyalty to Richard is sorely tested, particularly when the young princes go missing (and what an interesting little twist on who suggested that foul deed).

“Yet the accusation that Richard had murdered his nephews had raised enough smoke to choke all Christendom and still Richard did nothing.”

Henry Tudor finally makes his bid for England’s throne and Harry is commanded to bring out the north, but is he able to keep his oath of loyalty after Richard’s recent actions?

“But I did warn you, my lord, that if you ever break faith, I would not lift a hand to save you from all the fires of Hell.”

Fires of hell indeed, but you’ll have to read it for yourself. This was great reading, and fascinating getting a look at this conflict from the Percy point of view and I found the author’s theory as to why Harry held back at the battle of Bosworth field a credible one, as well as events that happened afterward. Wensby-Scott excels at taking an extremely complicated bit of history and puts it into novel format that is both educational and entertaining. The characters are well drawn with plentiful shades of gray – no Richard-Sue to be found here. This book is the third in a trilogy the author wrote on the Percys of Northumberland, the first two being The Lion of Alnwick and Lion Dormant. They’re getting a bit hard to find, so if you’re interested I’d recommend snapping them up sooner rather than later. 4/5 stars.

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