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The Brothers York

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Member Reviews

English history will fascinate me for my entire life and this book was thoroughly enjoyable and a welcome break from fictitious lives and problems.  Real life intrigue and drama is always so much more compelling to read, and the York's had far more drama and intrigue than most families.
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The brothers York, Edward, George and Richard have always been a passion so happily received this from NetGalley to review.  Penn has done an admiral job of taking a non-fiction account and making it come alive. This is a long narrative often of the day to day machinations of the political events of the time and it takes a while to sort through. The War of the Roses between the  cousins of York and Lancaster culminated with the reign of Edward IV, although it’s not a happy ending. Quite a brutal period in English history fraught with unbelievable treachery between brothers, even having the treasonous George killed. We have to wait until near the end of this book to get to the story of the much maligned Richard III.  No surprises here, Penn takes a pretty traditional view of Richard and this is one area I would have liked a little more insight. All in all if you want to read one book to get a concise picture of this era you can’t go wrong here.
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Thomas Penn has once again upped the game in medieval British history with this biography of THE BROTHERS YORK. Rich in detail and easy to become immersed, definitely a five star book.
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I really like that this book was written for both regular people and academics. The language wasn’t too complicated and it kept things interesting.
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For history lovers looking to read a definitive book on an English monarch or their era (such as Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him), in my opinion the book to read for King Edward IV's reign is The Brothers York: A Royal Tragedy by Thomas Penn.  Encompassing not only Edward IV's life and times, The Brothers York weaves together the stories of the battles between the Lancasters and the Yorks, Nevilles, Percys, Woodvilles, Rivers, and more.  More importantly, it also puts into context the lives of Edward's brothers George, the Duke of Clarence, and Richard, who would become King Richard III.  

What the average person knows of this family is probably little to nothing, and then their 'knowledge' is based on Shakespeare's evil King Richard destroying his family.  In Penn's Brothers York we meet the ambitious Edward and his advisor Warwick "the Kingmaker", the fascinating politics behind how Edward rewarded his favorites, and his unusual (and questionable) ways of constantly increasing the royal coffers.  Edward focused on the image of the royal family as a united front, heads above everyone else, and Penn argues that if Edward and his brothers had been able to remain united, there is probably little they couldn't have done.  But politics and personalities interfere and jealousy and the lures of ever increasing power were too much to keep the brothers united.  But the fractures didn't occur the way you think they did.

This is not your Shakespearean family, but a well-researched, well-written, neutral, and detailed account of Edward IV's reign, the multiple betrayals by the spoiled Clarence, and the warrior brother Richard, who was loyal to his elder brother until Edward's death- but not beyond.  The Brothers York is a fascinating history of brothers seeking to end conclusively the "Wars of the Roses", written in a casual, story-telling style that, combined with the drama and larger than life personalities involved, makes the pages fly by. An absolute must read for history lovers!       


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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At first glance, it might seem that it’s impossible to say anything new about the Wars of the Roses, England’s infamous and destructive civil conflict between the rival houses of Lancaster and York. However, Thomas Penn’s The Brothers York: A Royal Tragedy comes as close as I’ve seen in recent years. In contrast to other accounts of the period, which tend to focus on the battles or on the minutiae of dynastic relations — which are, of course, vital to understanding the period — Penn focuses on the strife within the House of York itself, as well as on its relationships with the other great powers of Europe, particularly the Duchy of Burgundy and the Kingdom of France. In that sense, it is much more of a biography of the three royal brothers at the center of that house — Edward, George, and Richard — than it is a chronicle of the Wars.
The book follows the fortunes of the House of York as it slowly finds itself drawn into a conflict with that of Lancaster, particularly the woefully ineffectual (and eventually rather mad) King Henry VI and his belligerent and ruthless queen Margaret of Anjou. The bulk of the book is devoted to the reign of Edward IV, who emerges as a vibrant yet contradictory figure. He was an oft-affable monarch who could also be incredibly spiteful and destructive when the mood struck him (a trait that was clearly inherited by his grandson, Henry VIII). He was a brilliant military leader who, time and again, managed to claw victory out of the jaw of defeat. Edward was, in Penn’s telling, a bit of a glutton, a man clearly stricken by an almost pathological desire to control every aspect of his personal body, even while sometimes becoming quite lazy and dilatory in the maintenance of his kingdom.
Throughout the book, Penn gives us a detailed look at the ways in which Edward’s rule took shape. Though I’m fairly knowledgeable about this particular period of English history, I have to admit that prior to reading this book I didn’t know a lot about the inner workings of royal administration. While it would be very easy for these parts of the book to get dragged down in the granular detail of the household accounts (I’m looking at you, Alison Weir), Penn keeps it moving quickly, never losing sight of the larger story that he’s trying to tell.
What is especially notable about this book is that it focuses less on battle and more on the many twists and turns that Yorkist diplomacy took as first Edward and then his brother Richard sought to keep England in the main current of European events. Louis XI of France looms especially large here, as he was to prove a thorn in the side of Edward for most of his reign. As Penn reminds us, the Wars of the Roses emerged in the shadow of the Hundred Years War and the efforts of several English monarchs — most notably Edward III and Henry V — to seize control of the French crown.
Anyone who is familiar with the Wars of the Roses knows that this was a period in which first one side and then the other managed to rise to prominence, only to plunge downward once again (the wheel of fortune is an apt metaphor). When one reads accounts of this period, it is very easy to lose track of events and characters, but that isn’t the case with The Brothers York. Penn has a strong grasp of the story that he’s trying to tell and, while he devotes a lot of attention to Edward, George also gets his fair shake. Unfortunately for George, he’s not a very easy person to like. Lacking either his elder brother’s innate charm and charisma nor his brother’s political skill and ruthlessness, he seems to swing somewhere in the middle. Small wonder that, inept plotter that he was, he ultimately ended up being executed on his elder brother’s orders (supposedly by being drowned in a vat of wine).
Now, on to Richard. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Penn is an anti-Riccardian, his analysis doesn’t shed a very positive light on the last ruling member of the House of York. In Penn’s telling, Richard was a bit of an arrogant man, always determined to hold people up to rigorous moral standards, even if he wasn’t able (or willing) to adhere to them himself. While he doesn’t go so far as to assert that Richard murdered the famous Princes in the Tower (his two nephews that he had declared illegitimate), he doesn’t make any secret of the fact that Richard had both motive and opportunity to order the deed done.
However, Penn also makes it clear that Richard was, in some ways, a master politician and stood poised to become a strong king, had he not met with disastrous defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The unfortunate thing about Richard was that he was more than a little ruthless. He wasn’t afraid to destroy those that he felt had betrayed him, no matter the political consequences of such an action (his summary execution of William Hastings is a case in point). Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have his elder brother’s charisma. While Edward could also be vicious in reprisal, he had the sort of charm that could work magic. People might have respected Richard, in Penn’s telling, but they rarely truly loved him.
Still, it’s hard not to feel a bit of sadness at the fall of this dynasty at Bosworth. In the end, the House of York was unable to really overcome its own squabbles and internecine conflicts to focus on the bigger picture. And, unfortunately, none of them really planned well enough for the future to allow their dynasty to survive. Though Edward’s sons might not have inherited the throne, he could at least take comfort that his line continued through his daughter Elizabeth who, as we all know, married Henry Tudor and was the mother of Henry VIII.
The Brothers York is a fascinating and gripping narrative history one of the bloodiest and most compelling periods of English history. Those who loved Game of Thrones will find much to enjoy here, as well those who love to learn about the backroom dealings and political machinations of royal dynasties.
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This was a difficult book to get through. I was intrigued by the other's argument- that the War of the Roses was less a war between two rival houses and more a war between rival brothers within the same house. However, the argument was lost in the minutae presented in the book. It is a rare scholar who needs to know the name and life story of the bankers lending money to the Kings of England. For some scholars, this book will be extremely helpful. But for those looking for an introduction to the War of the Roses, or the House of York, this book will be beyond their grasp.
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My thanks to Simon and Schuster, and Netgalley.
I nearly didn't leave a review for this. I will confess that I hate when I do that! 
Truth is that I  had a difficult time with this. It's not the author, nor the editing. 
Maybe I'm too full of myself. Surely after all the fantasy I've read, I can keep up with this!
Nope! I'm always honest to myself. Myself has kept track of The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan. That's hundreds of character's. I knew them all.
This? I think they are all crazy. I lost track of them a hundred or more page's in. In most fantasy books I'd have kept reading. But, this was the truth. At least as it's seen today. I hate it.
I'm not a fan of Royalty. Ever. In any time. I think they are just crazy. Who in the hell would ever, and I really mean ever...want to rule is a nut job. Also, it's a given that whomever it is doesn't care about any one but themselves. 
These crazy Dukes, and what have you and blah de 
blah..switching sides. Raping, pillaging, plundering. You know, all that fun stuff that men like to do to  women and children.. Because they have to prove to god how loyal they are. And it's always easier to butcher the women and children, than to take on an equal. 
This was too much for me. I'll admit to it. I don't like royalty. I don't like what they stood for in the past, and I especially don't like them now. 
I think that I really got tired of Edward? I was ready for Richard to come in and save the day, then "because royalty" Richard also stunk! Yay! Welcome to the Kingdom! 
We'll get you in the end my pretty!
Good book. Too much for me.
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I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

This was a fantastic read, although it covered area that I'm very familiar with. Instead of balancing the Lancastrian kings like most books in this period do, it was basically all about the three brothers and what happened to them. I thought it was pretty fair and balanced, honestly. I wish there had been more about Richard III's reign since, honestly, Penn wasn't maligning him like most books do. I also agree with the conclusion that Henry VIII was basically Edward IV reborn... but worse. All in all, a fantastic read. It was very easy to get into and, despite this being familiar ground, I didn't get bored.
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The Brothers York by Thomas Penn is an excellent historical piece that has been meticulously researched to cover one of my most favorite moments in history: The War of the Roses. The action, the intrigue, the deception, the two-timing and backstabbing, the romance, the calculations, the battles, family sacking family....it is all there and it is fabulous. I have always loved reading as much as I can about the York family and the Lancaster crew.  I have read a great many fictional and nonfiction pieces in regards to this time in history, and this gem did not disappoint. Did I learn anything new? No, not really. But that doesn’t matter. I loved every page that covered the York trio and that like a quickly-fed fire with fuel, each brother’s star burned fast, bright, and was snuffled quickly. To read more about how Edward, George, and Richard were their own strengths, and unfortunately, also became each other’s final demise. 

This book has an incredible amount of research and sources that are stunning. The book has a ton of information, and I loved every moment of it.

Excellent. 5/5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication.
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