PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Cover design: Marie Lane
'Robert Irwin’s latest novel has much in common with Game of Thrones. Both are based on the gory struggle of the Wars of the Roses, both inject large amounts of magic and the occult into their narratives, and both are hugely enjoyable, fast-moving and filled with dark humour. Though Irwin uses the actual events of York versus Lancaster in 15th-century England, he is happy to change things to make a better story—and how stories are created, recycled, embellished and interact with reality is at the heart of the book. It comprises a palimpsest of fables, myths, legends, romances, chronicles and sagas.
His hero is Anthony, Lord Scales, brother to the beautiful Elizabeth who becomes Edward IV’s queen, and one of the Woodville clan whose rapid and resented rise is one motor of the mayhem unleashed by these titled gangsters. We meet him first at the battle of Towton, the bloodiest in English history, where he is apparently killed. After three days of strange encounters in a limbo landscape he returns to life and continues on picaresque adventures of chivalry and horror. Often bewildered, often slipping into occult spaces, he meets people like Sir Thomas Malory, author of Le Morte d’Arthur, and the alchemist Ripley (believe it or not) who turns Anthony’s life into a legend. As one character observes: “The real world is a poor thing compared to the stories that are told about it.”
Ian Irvine in Prospect Magazine