(Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the post-apocalyptic Land of Tomorrow Trilogy)
I’ve always been a huge fan of history and historical fiction. I’ve probably read hundreds of books in the genre, but my favorite is hands down Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendor. This is a story about the War of the Roses in Fifteenth Century England where the Houses of York and Lancaster fought for the throne.
The book is also about Richard III who has been vilified by history. Penman actually conducted a great deal of research on this period before writing the book and determined that Richard III was the victim of history being written by the victors. He is most famously portrayed as an evil hunchback by Shakespeare in the play that bears his name. Most of Shakespeare’s material was obtained from Lancaster writers after the war. Penman’s portrayal of the man as noble, wise and courageous is generally accepted by historians as the more accurate and actually spawned greater interest in the period. Fans of actor Richard Armitage (recently in The Hobbit) know he has long wanted to do a mini-series based on Penman’s history, and Armitage was actually born on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard III was killed.
The background of the book itself is also interesting. Penman supposedly wrote the original manuscript for the book while researching Richard III as a student. When the 400 page original manuscript was stolen from her car (before the age of computers or backup copies), she was devastated and didn’t write for five years. She eventually returned to the story and wrote it again from scratch over the next twelve years while working as a lawyer. The 936 page The Sunne in Splendor was eventually completed and published in 1982 and birthed a wonderful and successful writing career in English historical fiction for Penman (her other works are also excellent).
The Sunne in Splendor is one of those rare historical fiction books that is based on accurate historical background and evidence, yet reads like a novel. Penman has a knack for fleshing out real-life historical characters so that they nearly leap off the page and make it difficult to stop reading.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is a must read and once you have read it, I believe, like me you will read it again and again.
Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.