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It took me way too long to read this. A bit over two months, to be exact, with others in between. For a moment there I was afraid it’d be a just-ok 900-page mammoth, but it got me hooked after the first fifth or so. It’s my first Sharon Kay Penman, but I actually had this and two others by her in the TBR, just because she sounded like something I’d really enjoy (do you also do this?).

The Sunne in Splendour is an epic novel about Richard III, that most controversial of Kings, the last Plantagenet, from his early childhood to his death. His life is one of those stories that feels to dramatic to be true, just like Henry VIII. Richard didn’t have six wives, but had the War of the Roses, the Princes in the Tower, and other such delights.

Sharon Kay Penman does it all this great justice, and writes a really extraordinary book. Huge, but no word wasted, and with the perfect pacing, which is not to be taken lightly in such a complex story. Kay Penman has a great instinct for how long to spend on a battle and when to add a private scene to let us get closer to the characters. I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours she must have spent preparing for this, deciding what to focus on each chapter, what to add and leave out, not to mention the research. Good historical fiction authors are the best! By the end of the book, I felt I really understood this extremely complicated bit of English history. I’m now looking forward a War of Roses round on pub quiz 🙂

If not for Dorothy Dunnett, The Sunne in Splendour might have become a top-of-the-tops favorite,  but Dunnett ruined all historical fiction for me. Despite the careful characterization (except that Richard might had been a teensy-weensy idealized?), I never felt too emotionally involved with any of the characters, even with Anne Neville, that had everything to win me over completely. I cannot clearly articulate why, only that if feels different with Dunnett – yes, I know, it’s unfair, but inescapable!


Other thoughts: reading the end, Kristin King Author, Devourer of Books, Vulpes Libris, Semicolon, Pages of Julia (yours?)


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