Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review - War For the Throne

I have finished a number of medieval history books over the past few weeks. The first of the three was War For the Throne; The Battle of Shrewsbury 1403, by John Barratt (Pen and Sword, 2010). The subtitle is a little misleading, as it seems to be for the Campaign Chronicles series in general.

As the series title would indicate, the book is about more than the battle of Shrewsbury itself, and indeed about way more than even the campaign culminating in the battle. It is really a short history of the entire period in which this campaign and battle is a part. It begins with a brief overview of the reign of Richard II, continues into Henry Bolingbroke's coup of 1399, and his subsequent murder of Richard II and ascension to the throne as Henry IV. In a brief book of only 128 pages, this "Background" section goes all the way through page 56, or almost half the book.

The campaign itself, and Henry "Hotspur" Percy's rebellion, is set in the context of events in Wales and the Scottish marches, which are described in detail. Prince Henry (later Henry V) has his exploits covered as well. Lots of Henrys...There is more about Owain Glyn Dwr's Welsh rebellion than anything else. Shrewsbury itself takes a mere 12 pages, but given the lack of details on most medieval battles, this is to be expected.

Overall, this was a quick and informative read on a period that I did not know a whole lot about. As my  first reading of a book in this series, I expected a more narrow focus on the events of the title, but in retrospect I am glad that the book covered what it did. In the future I will have a better idea what to expect. If you are looking for a book on this battle and campaign in a narrower focus, you are likely to be disappointed. If you are content with a brief but effective overview of an 8-10 year period, then you will find this book worthwhile, as did I.

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