With all the fun of putting together the Grant Me the Carving of My Name anthology, I’ve been somewhat neglecting my own authored works (well, not entirely, as I have been hiding away to revisit the fifteenth century occasionally, and am pleased to say I’m about a quarter of the way through book 3 of The Order of the White Boar… and very much enjoying being back in the company of my young characters – most of them, anyway!)
And as other self-published authors know full well, books don’t market and sell themselves! Time to get all that back into focus perhaps…. though the actual writing is so much more fun!
But just as I was thinking about returning to all that promotional stuff, along came something that made it all seem worth while: a fabulous new review of The King’s Man. And this from Looking for Richard Project member Wendy Johnson, who was kind enough also to review The Order for The Court Journal, the publication of the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society earlier this year (see Another fantastic review….6 April).
Thank you so much to Wendy (who is also a contributor to Grant Me the Carving…) and to the editor of The Court Journal for allowing it to be reproduced here in advance of publication.
Book Review: The King’s Man: Alex Marchant
Readers of Alex Marchant’s Order of the White Boar will be pleased to know that its sequel, The King’s Man, is now available. This excellent series of Ricardian novels was initially intended for younger readers, but the skill and knowledge of the author means that these books can be read and enjoyed by any age group.
The Order of the White Boar introduced readers to Matthew Wansford, son of a prosperous York merchant, and an aspiring squire, whose unparalleled singing voice has earned him a place in the household chapel of Richard duke of Gloucester, at Middleham Castle. The first book in the series concluded with the untimely death of Edward IV: Matthew and his faithful hound, Murrey, being last seen accompanying the duke on his doleful journey south towards London.
Book Two opens at a vital point on the journey: Duke Richard’s arrival in Northampton. Along with Matthew, and his master, Duke Richard, the reader is instantly sucked into a dangerous vortex of Woodville intrigue. It is clear that Matt’s life in Yorkshire has not prepared him for the vicious world of power and politics in which he now finds himself. And the boy witnesses another facet to his master’s character, as Duke Richard’s acumen and agility of mind show him to be more than a match for Queen Elizabeth’s family, as he manages to evade their unscrupulous attempts on his life.
As the party continues towards the capital, Matthew is required to provide company for the youthful Edward V. Whilst Matthew hopes to rekindle his former friendship with the young king, the arrest of the boy’s uncle, Earl Rivers, has left Edward guarded and unhappy.
The author skilfully interweaves the tumultuous events of 1483 into the story of Matthew’s departure from the duke’s household and his apprenticeship with printer Master Ashley. Life in London allows the boy to hear, at first hand, the news that explodes throughout the capital as the young king is declared illegitimate and Duke Richard is offered the crown. Matt also learns of events through letters sent to him by his former friends, Alys Langdown and Roger de Kynton, with whom he founded the Order of the White Boar. The fourth member of the Order, King Richard’s son, Prince Edward, continues to write to Matthew from his home at Middleham, each of the young people employing the cipher they invented together in happier times. As can be imagined, this code is to come in extremely useful, on more than one occasion, as danger looms for both Matthew, and his former master, the king.
Once again, characterisations are expertly drawn, and the reader learns to love and hate the many figures, real and imaginary, who populate Matthew’s life experiences. Affection is felt for the honest and reliable protagonist, sympathy and concern for the eager Edward of Middleham and admiration for the loyal and dutiful King Richard.
Matthew’s nemesis, Hugh Soulsby, also returns to the story, offering us more than one reason to despise him, as his family throws in their lot with Lord Stanley.
Unlike Matt, the reader knows which way events are set to turn, and it is difficult to remain impassive as the day of Bosworth dawns and Matthew is entrusted with a final duty for King Richard: a vitally important letter, which must be delivered at all costs should the battle go awry. Alex Marchant holds the reader’s heart in her hands as she describes the sorrowful events leading up to and following the battle, as Matthew witnesses the arrival of the king’s corpse into the town of Leicester.
Loyal to the end, Matthew soon finds himself pursued by those eager to take possession of King Richard’s sealed letter. The story builds into a crescendo as Matthew, Alys and Roger are reunited in a bid to execute King Richard’s final plans.
As the reader approaches the climax, it is clear that Matthew Wansford is now a young man of destiny, who, like King Richard, seems pre-ordained to follow a fated life of danger and upheaval. However, his noble master has left an indelible imprint, and loyalty beyond the call of duty now draws Matthew on towards an indefatigable service for what remains of the House of York.
A well-researched and cleverly wrought sequel, The King’s Man continues the story of a brave and loyal youth, whose trials and tribulations are set to lead us into the third volume of this excellent trilogy.
What will the future hold for the Order of the White Boar? The only thing we can be sure of is that it will be an exciting ride.