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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
The Boy King’s Tale: True Adventure of the Young Life of England’s King Edward III by Michael January takes us back on a journey to medieval England at the beginning of the fourteenth century, told through the narrative of the eminent Royal Court Poet, none other than Geoffrey Chaucer. When Edward II is accused of unnatural acts by Queen Isobel, she, in concert with her lover, Mortimer, move against the king and seek his removal. The teenage Edward III is appointed as the “boy king”, with his mother as the Regent and the true power behind the throne, the evil Mortimer who has plans and designs on the throne for his own family. Forced to grow up quickly and accept the mantle thrust upon him from an early age, Edward III is determined to rule justly, honestly and with honor, adhering to the tenets of the great Charter signed by King John. In a country wracked by wars and division between the nobles, steering his own path with his limited powers as a minor will be a difficult task for the young king. Unusually for the time, Edward manages to make a love match for his marriage to the beautiful Philippa, cousin of the French king. Despite this being a marriage of love, it still gives Edward the opportunity to strive for the French crown to add to that of England’s. But he will soon discover he has enough battles to fight at home. Between fending off the evil intent of Mortimer and the acquiescence of his beloved mother, it will be a battle just to maintain the crown of England until he reaches his majority and outright rule.
I am a gigantic fan of historical novels deeply rooted in factual history and The Boy King’s Tale is certainly that. Author Michael January made an exceptional choice to tell the tale through the eyes of Geoffrey Chaucer, as this lent some real gravitas to the story and one could be forgiven for thinking one was reading a history book. The story is redolent with the intrigues, battles, and psychological warfare that was so typical of the day. Beautifully written and easy to read, the story flows easily from one drama to the next. The two main characters, in my opinion, were Edward III and Philippa, and both were drawn superbly by the author. In an era known for arranged marriages aimed at shoring up existing alliances and forging new ones, it was so refreshing to see two young people so in love and so devoted to each other. Edward’s morality and sense of honor, despite the betrayal and wickedness that surrounded him, shone through and it was enlightening for the time and allowed the reader to deeply empathize with his turmoil. His relationship with his mother, whom he loved dearly, would be deeply tested by the travails that would assail the king as he fought to maintain his crown against all the odds. For anyone that loves tales of knights, derring-do, and chivalry, this is a fantastic read but for anyone who just enjoys a rollicking good story, this is a book I can highly recommend.