Set during Henry Tudor’s tumultuous reign, Bogdan narrates the sporadic rises and falls of the Howard family, specifically Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard witnesses the rule of Henry VIII beginning with his father, Henry VII’s, literal snatch of the throne, to Mary Tudor’s eventual succession, in all a sixty-six year period. During this time, Norfolk schemes to raise his family ever-higher in royal favor, shrinking from no betrayal. Through first person narrative, Bogdan captures the intriguing world of Tudor England, where no one is ever truly safe.
For those of you familiar with Henry VIII’s reign (or perhaps the T.V. series The Tudors), the Duke of Norfolk is Anne Boleyn’s uncle. He makes for an interesting character in the all of the Tudor drama, as he constantly wants more power, and doesn’t care who he has to kill (literally) in order to get it. His wife and mistress (both named different versions of Elizabeth), are pushed aside and largely treated like property — not uncommon during this time period, but still disgusting. However, each finds a way to undermine the despicable Norfolk, eventually making him regret ever being so cruel.
If you don’t know much about the Tudors, I don’t know that I would start with this book. There’s not a lot of back-story, it’s easy to get lost in all the politics, and many characters share the same name or title. It can be confusing. However, if you’re interested in reading some Tudor fiction, I’d definitely recommend anything by Phillipa Gregory — she presents engaging plot lines and memorable characters. If you’ve already read all of Gregory (or if you hate her), this would be good next choice. Norfolk is a lesser character who has dealings with all the major players, so it’s interesting to see a behind-the-scenes look at how events unfolded.
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