Desire the Kingdom

Written by Paula Simonds Zabka
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Subtitled “A Story of the Last Plantagenets,” this is a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of Edward IV, the rise of Richard III and his ultimate defeat at Bosworth Field. Simply put, it is just terrific and I’m happy to see that Zabka’s husband and daughter saw fit to bring her life’s work to us posthumously. The author has an intensely personal way of developing each of the characters, and she particularly paints a human, heartwarming portrait of Anne Neville, a woman who I came to know well and respect in this novel.

Authors of Ricardian fiction have typically focused on those they consider the “strong” female personalities – Elizabeth Woodville and Cecily Neville especially. Also, we probably know as much as can be said about Warwick the Kingmaker. I have not had occasion to read much about how devastating Warwick’s choices to conspire against Edward were on his wife and children. Here, it is clear how much of a pawn Anne was in her father’s insatiable political desires, and how, ultimately, it was Anne’s strength of character and fortitude that enabled her to survive her father’s machinations.

The love of Richard and Anne is the stuff of fancy, but in Desire the Kingdom, the sense that they had a true political and emotional partnership is concrete. It seems clear that in Anne’s few years as Richard’s Queen, she offered him not merely emotional support but wise and pragmatic guidance about how to govern. Anne’s death at age 28 was a blow from which Richard never recovered, and he died at Bosworth Field but a few months later.

This is a highly recommended read.