A Trek to the Tudors with Tony Riches
The Tudor name has recently gained much recognition in popular culture, mostly due to the acclaimed television show which was way overdue considering how storied the family is. Thankfully, the world of literature isn’t too far behind and an increasing number of authors have begun to show interest for this time period, full of battles, political conflicts, secrecy and treachery. It’s a microcosm of history we can keep on revisiting time and time again, always finding a new take on things or something else to consider. Different authors have their own ways of going about historical fiction, and in my opinion the one used by Tony Riches in Owen, the first book in the Tudor Trilogy, is an example that should be studied by many.
Without getting too bogged down in the details, the story takes us to 1422 England, when a simple Welsh servant by the name of Owen Tudor makes the fated acquaintance of the Queen Catherine of Valois. Her infant son is, as rules dictate, crowned as the king of both England and France, naturally leading to a sore state of affairs that begins to boil over into a civil war. In these trying times Owen becomes Catherine’s protector, and eventually the unthinkable happens as they fall in love. At the time, it meant risking the Queen’s reputation, and the servant’s own life. Nevertheless, with seemingly the whole world against them, they went against the grain and managed to found one of the great eternal dynasties that will be taught about in schools around the world for generations upon generations. This is the story of how two people managed the impossible in times when a single mistake would lead to many heads rolling.
Faithful to the Times
To begin with, I’d like to address a gripe which I think many of you share in regards to historical fiction books. It feels like many authors don’t really take the time to do their research, and simply end up using a historical backdrop for whatever modern story they want to tell, which results in characters and dialogues that don’t feel authentic and make it difficult to take seriously. Of course, there is also the other extreme, where the author goes in uber-historian mode and writes the whole thing in ancient Latin, which of course makes it equally unreadable.
Tony Riches is a writer who managed to tow the fine line between the two ends of the spectrum. He gives us plenty of accurate and detailed descriptions of virtually anything you could ask for, so right away we’re drawn deep into a time far removed from our own. The details are so rich and numerous that in some regards you might treat this novel as a history book. The author without a doubt did all the necessary research and more to recreate a world we’ve long passed by.
As for the characters’ behaviors, while I myself am no expert in how people acted and spoke in those times, from a layman’s perspective it all felt very authentic. He was quite adept in his use of language, mimicking the syntax and sentence structure of the times without ever using words that are too complex or too ancient and obscure to decipher. The author truly managed to achieve something exceptional in regards to just how authentic everything feels.
The Threads of Intrigue
Putting the educational proficiency of this novel aside to look at the plot, I’m rather glad to say that it’s very much alive and full of intrigue. The time during which all of this takes place was complex and had many actors in it, each with their own agenda and fate to meet. As a matter of fact, if anything, I think that the number of captivating plot threads steals the show from Owen’s main storyline just a bit and it can get a tad confusing at times to jump back and forth between them. Nevertheless I wouldn’t say it’s a big issue, especially considering there is always something on the page to keep us busy.
As we jump from Windsor to France, from court battles to physical wars, we get to experience it all from Owen’s perspective, which in hindsight may not have been the best of choices. This book is more about going from one event to the next without much stop in-between, aiming to tell a story in its purest form. As a result, we don’t really get too deeply-acquainted with any of the characters or see them developed much beyond what the story necessitates, and that goes for Owen too. While it certainly doesn’t render the book non-enjoyable, it’s just something to take into account: this work of historical fiction is about what rather than who.
The Final Verdict
All in all, despite a few missed opportunities to reach perfection, Owen by Tony Riches is in my opinion one of the best works of historical fiction out there, especially in a technical sense. If the story behind the foundation of the Tudors is one you’d like to get better acquainted with through an entertaining story full of twists and intrigues, then I wholeheartedly recommend this book for you.