Roseblood, by Paul Doherty, is a tale of historical fiction that brought to mind the fantasy fiction of Game of Thrones. Written by a history scholar it exudes accuracy and detail, showing that George R.R. Martin did his research before embarking on that epic tale. This book seems even more shocking though, as the story has been woven around known facts. The intrigue, deception, cruelty and loss of life happened as depicted, even if many of the characters and their interactions have been created by the author. It is a fascinating insight into a time that we can all be glad has passed.
Set in the year 1455, with the Wars of the Roses imminent, we are introduced to the Roseblood family. At its head is Simon, a war veteran who has profited from his turbulent past and now enjoys the comforts and prestige of his position as a trusted lord, taverner and alderman, sworn to serve the King and the Red Rose of Lancaster. Into his life comes Amadeus Sevigny, asserting law and order at the Duke of York’s command, tasked with weakening Roseblood and thereby those the White Rose Duke regards as usurpers to a crown he believes is rightfully his.
The story introduces us to spies, double agents, family members with secrets, and a church that exerts power and fear whilst protecting its own web of intrigue. There is love and violence, gruesome deaths and betrayed trusts galore. We are teased with suspicions and then taken behind closed doors into hushed cells to learn the truth. It is rarely clear who can be trusted, who will be next to face death at the hands of a paid assassin or holder of a grudge that is yet to be fully explained.
The book is as entertaining as it is fascinating, disquietingly gruesome as escapades play out and vengeance for long past wrongs sought, satisfying as intricate plots and plans are revealed. The author takes the reader deep into this world of squalor and colour, stench and gore, death and deception, introducing characters whose strengths and weaknesses keep the tale alive and compelling.
With the history known the ending could be foretold, but not the victors and survivors amongst the fictional cast. I enjoyed the unremitting pace, the satisfying denouement which depicted the violence of the times unflinchingly. This is a story of a battle for power that is fought in the shadows as much as the field, a believable account of political intrigue, where those who play the game accept that they must win or they will die.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline.