I was delighted to see the following post yesterday on the Facebook page of the Richard III Society: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=4653844354632351&id=114452911904874
This week, in our latest Friday book review, we have our first fiction book – with many thanks to Brianna McPherson for sending her review in.
The King’s Man by Alex Marchant
The King’s Man continues the story of Matthew, a young once-Pageboy to Duke Richard, now of necessity turned merchant’s apprentice in London. As in the first novel, we, the readers, see events play out from Matthew’s point of view – which becomes particularly interesting once he is no longer in Duke Richard’s (later King Richard’s) service: it means that apart from the events he manages to witness firsthand, Matt receives all his information secondhand – and, in turn, so do we. At first I found this quite disappointing – devastating, even – but as the story unfolded, I noticed how clever and wise a move it was.
On the one hand, I wish we’d gotten to remain close beside Richard, Anne, and little Ed throughout the book and see every minuscule detail of their goings-on, and see all their actions and responses as events occurred. On the other hand, so much of what went on, and what the family experienced as a result, is unknown or uncertain: upon reflection, it was a good idea to keep the readers at something of a distance by keeping Matt at a distance. Those tumultuous days were so confusing, and Matt’s experience reflects that very well. Many authors invent and speculate rather than remain silent, which is all well and good – so too does Marchant in places – but there are times for sticking to what is known beyond reasonable doubt, and leaving the ambiguous ambiguous. Marchant does some of both, and uses good discernment just when to do which.
Where certain or near-certain facts were available, they were employed superbly. Where they were not available, the reader either, like Matt, is left to puzzle over what was true (as so many folk were in those days) or was treated to one of the possible scenarios. I was shocked (afterwards very pleasantly so) that Marchant dared to put forth a possible scenario regarding the brothers in the Tower, Edward and Richard. Funny, so many authors will speculate wildly on this or that regarding Richard personally or the situation in general – but often are afraid to touch on the boys themselves, remaining silent about what happened, and allowing them simply to disappear from the story altogether whilst the adults argue “whodunnit.” But something happened to them, and Marchant had the backbone to take a guess at what that something may have been. The scenario put forward in The King’s Man warms my heart, for lack of a better expression. I do like to think that King Richard had a plan of protection in place for his nephews, whether or not it worked. It has also caused me to begin wildly speculating already – shall we be hearing more from little Richard of York in the future? Or will it be left unknown?
In sum, I couldn’t be more pleased and amazed. This book brought laughter, tears (mostly tears, I admit), and a wonderful story that I devoured in just over a day.
I look forward to finding out what adventures the next installment holds.
My thanks to Brianna for writing and submitting this fantastic review, and to the Society for spotlighting it.
Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, two anthologies of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK). A third book in the ‘White Boar’ sequence, King in Waiting, will be published in 2021, as will Alex’s forthcoming timeslip novel Time out of Time.
Alex’s books can be found on Amazon at: