Within the Fetterlock
The year is 1396, and King Richard II is without an heir. Suspicious of those around him, he sees plots to steal the throne everywhere. When the exiled rebel Henry of Lancaster lands in England, it seems that Richard’s worst fears have come true. Constance of York, cousin to both the King and the rebellious Henry, is thrown into the fray. The two men she loves most, her husband and her brother, are often on opposite sides in the struggle, and they inexorably pull her into conspiracies that threaten all she holds dear.
Although his mastery of the complicated myriad of events that began the Wars of the Roses is impressive, Wainwright’s true forte lies in his vivid characterization. All the characters in the novel, including the minor players, are richly illustrated. Constance is a passionate woman, intelligent, brave, forthright, and tenaciously loyal to those she loves. And though she loves and ultimately obeys her husband, she is also capable of a degree of independent thought and action that does not at all conform to the ideology of the age.
Wainwright wisely avoids the stereotypes of hero and villain – his characters are refreshingly three-dimensional, and he examines the hopes, fears, and passions that drive them to the courses they pursue. Although the novel’s intrigue, love, hate, and war give it a gripping pace, it is the depth of the storytelling that transports the reader to medieval England and makes this book such a good read. Wainwright brings the novel to a compelling conclusion, although after the nonstop twists and turns, the end of the novel feels almost abrupt. Nevertheless, Within the Fetterlock is an exciting and historically detailed account that brings to life the politics and people who populated 14th Century England. Highly recommended.