WON­DERS WILL NEVER CEASE

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight History/Historical -

Robert Ir­win, Ar­cade Pub­lish­ing (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $25.99 (392pp), 978-1-62872-863-7

A lit­er­ary fan­tasy, Robert Ir­win’s Won­ders Will Never Cease delves into the War of the Roses and en­ters a world where “ge­neal­ogy and her­aldry are the only two sciences worth know­ing.” Chivalry and po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency co­ex­ist with dreams and vi­sions, and the strug­gle for life is a bat­tle waged wak­ing or sleep­ing. As one young knight soon dis­cov­ers, in this his­toric game of thrones, for­tunes are made and lost on a per­son’s abil­ity to sur­vive his own leg­end.

York­ist An­thony Woodville, Lord Scales, emerges from the Palm Sun­day Bat­tle of Tow­ton as a lat­ter-day Lazarus. Pre­sumed dead for three days, he wakes in a dank church, hav­ing nar­rowly es­caped burial alive due to the frozen ground. Thus, he dis­cov­ers a Lan­cas­trian on the throne and the York­ist claim lost. Sur­vival means af­fil­i­a­tion with the Lan­cas­tri­ans, and naive, brawny An­thony is soon in over his head as bat­tle­fields are traded for ban­quets and blades ex­changed for back­room deals.

Poised be­tween art and sci­ence, the nar­ra­tive is al­chem­i­cal in its con­struc­tion, with mean­ing ar­riv­ing through a series of le­gends, a story-within-a-story struc­ture, that shapes the larger world and re­fuses to be­have as sto­ries should. Full of dark hu­mor, magic, and mys­tery, the ac­tion is in­ternecine and rarely straight­for­ward. As An­thony finds out, “de­spite be­ing in the story too, he has not un­der­stood it at all, but he fears that he will not like its mes­sage when he does seize upon it.”

Ir­win knows, “Most of our history is in­vented and it is bet­ter that way. History is noth­ing but the lies we tell about our an­ces­tors.” Us­ing historical facts and fig­ures, Won­ders Will Never Cease cap­tures English me­dieval life like never be­fore in a nar­ra­tive of harsh con­se­quences, re­li­gious rit­ual, oral tra­di­tion, and dream logic both alien and fa­mil­iar.

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