Two murdered princes; a powerful queen betrayed; a nobleman riding towards his certain death...
The story of the Princes in the Tower has been one of the most fascinating - and most brutal - murder mysteries in history for more than five hundred years.
In a brilliant feat of historical daring, Emma Darwin has recreated the terrible, exhilarating world of the two youngest victims of the War of the Roses: the power struggles and passion that lay behind their birth, the danger into which they fell, the profoundly moving days before their imprisonment, and the ultimate betrayal of their innocence.
In A Secret Alchemy, three voices speak: that of Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful widow of King Edward IV; of her brother Anthony, surrogate father to the doomed Prince Edward and his brother Dickon; and that of present-day historian Una Pryor. Orphaned, and herself brought up in a family where secrets and rivalries threaten her world, Una's experience of tragedy, betrayal and lost love help her unlock the long-buried secrets that led to the princes' deaths.
Weaving their stories together, Emma Darwin brilliantly evokes how the violence and glamour of past ages live on within our present.
In this historical novel, Darwin (The Mathematics of Love) looks at the 15th century War of the Roses through the Woodville siblings, Anthony and Elizabeth (wife to Sir John Gray and later Edward IV). Trading off narrative duties, their stories alternate with that of a (fictional) present-day historian, Una Pryor, who is studying the two while visiting the U.K. to clear up some family business. Reuniting with the family estate's handyman, her unrequited love Mark Fisher, Una follows the path Anthony took trying to restore his nephew Ned, the rightful king of England. Historical sections, filled with allusion and mythology, make breathtaking drama for those in the know, but anyone without a background in the War of the Roses will be lost (and Darwin's quicksand pacing doesn't help). Court intrigue dominates the action, but Darwin's at her most powerful exploring Anthony's faith or Elizabeth's understanding of women, love and marriage in her time. Though the modern-day framing story isn't compelling enough to hold its own, a satisfying end ties the threads together nicely.