After returning home from my holiday at the end of August I finished the French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. After I was still in the mood for something historical and epic in which case I decided to throw myself into the political and power struggles of The War of the Roses in Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements.
In Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims we join Katherine and Thomas a nun and monk who find themselves forced to flee their abbey to save their lives. England is in turmoil. War has broken out between the two lines of the Plantagenet royal family; Lancaster and York. King Henry VI from the Lancaster line is seen as weak and senile, and rumours spread that his French queen Margaret of Anjou is the one really ruling the country. This sees the rise of Richard the Duke of York and his army to fight Margaret of Anjou and free the king however Richard also has his eyes on the throne for himself. The naïve Katherine and Thomas find themselves in a new and dangerous world. After follow the flow of people they find themselves in Calais, Thomas as a trainee archer and Katherine dressed as a boy named Kit, where they fall in with Yorkist supporters.
I found myself drawn to the protagonists of Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims Katherine and Thomas. It was excellent to see history from the perspective of the common people rather than from the elite. We first meet Katherine and Thomas in their structured and hard life in the abbey. They are brought together when Katherine, another sister and Thomas find themselves outside the walls of the abbey prey for the local Lord’s son and his men as they ride by. Thomas a kind, meticulous and artistic man turns out to also be a fair fighter saving himself and Katherine but after the death of a man they both must flee. While Thomas had felt some content in the abbey Katherine had led a cruel life of servitude. Katherine is kind but has had to become tough and there is a fierce fire within her; once free of the abbey Katherine really grows as a person. Thomas also grows but he is much more a reluctant convert as he misses the quiet life of the abbey. As Thomas and Katherine find themselves plunged into the world of blood, death and fighting their faith begins to change. Thomas’s gets stronger while Katherine begins to lose hers. I enjoyed reading about both Katherine and Thomas, and found their physical, emotional and spiritual journeys fascinating.
Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims is the first novel I have read by Toby Clements and it is also the first book in Clements’s new historical adventure series. Historical adventure definitely describes Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims well; this is a bloody and gripping historical adventure. I have read many historical novels this year full of detail and drama however this is the first historical novel this year that has really immersed me into the action of the time. Clements describes intimately how Thomas feels, what he sees and what he does in battle. This detail might not be for everyone and isn’t what I usually go for but Clements has done it very well and clearly knows what he is writing about. The bloodshed and detail for the novel is why I think it took me the whole month to read this novel. I felt I needed to take my time and I also needed to be in the right mood. Rushing or forcing myself to read when not in the mood could have ruined my enjoyment. As it was though I took my time and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims is a bloody, gripping and highly detailed historical adventure. I highly recommend to those interested in adventure, history and war. I hope to read more from Clements and this series in the future.
Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Or anything else by Clements?