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Carpe Librum

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Historical Novel Society

Review: Blood Divide by John Sadler

Blood Divide - John Sadler

The cover of this book immediately captured my attention, and I was drawn in by the promise of a detailed look at an often overlooked bit of Tudor history: the Battle of Flodden Field.

In 1513, while Henry VIII had his eyes on France, he sent trusted, if slightly aged, Thomas Howard to deal with their northern neighbors. As part of the centuries old debate of whether Scotland's king, at this point Henry's brother-in-law, owed allegiance to England. James IV answered a firm "no" by siding with French allies and preparing to attack his wife's homeland.

The Tudors applied their propagandist skill to these events and aimed to focus on Henry's lackluster French campaign because he is too vain to admit that Howard has compellingly outperformed him by wiping out most of the Scottish nobility, including king James IV, at Flodden Field.

This novel tells the story leading up to the battle and follows through to its aftermath. By using several points of view on both sides, as well as letters to and from those who are not present, the author gives the reader glimpses of each historical figure's intimate thoughts and fears throughout this bloody event. While this method achieved the objective of exposing the varied motivations and ambitions of those in charge, it also gave the novel a choppy feeling and made it difficult to become close to any of the individual characters. I especially dislike the use of letters as a form of storytelling; it just seems lazy.

By including Abbess Elizabeth as one of the points of view that we are introduced to, the author exposes the wonders of modern Tudor era medicine. Attempting to save those she can and ease the pain of the many that she cannot, Elizabeth's character demonstrates the burden of those who must clean up after the noblemen who decide to go to war.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lion Hudson Publishing for my copy of this book. Opinions expressed are my own.