Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.
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The Claimant is a story of the Wars of Roses that does not involve the royalty of the day. Instead, the author chooses to demonstrate the effect of the infighting between nobility upon a fictional family that chooses early in the game to back the Duke of York.
The Wardlows have even more to concern them than the fact that the head of their household has gone forth to back his friend against the anointed king. Unknown to them until it is too late, Geoffrey Wardlow has secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him and terrorize his family. These secrets take the bodily form of Edmund of Calais.
The story flits back and forth between characters with choppy chapters (there are 87!) that focus on one of the Wardlows or Edmund, making Edmund seem like the closest thing there is to a main character. Unfortunately, he is the antagonist, and not even one that the reader can love to hate. He's just kind of a nasty, vengeful guy with odd moments of politeness.
Kate Wardlow also doesn't seem to know what to make of Edmund. He is her half brother and has performed numerable atrocities that would be spoilers to list here, but then she spends time thinking about how attractive he is.
The Wardlows garner a little more of the reader's sympathy as they are under Edmund's attack, which seems to be better funded than any forces the king himself can raise. Maybe it's the switching POVs or maybe the characters are too shallow, but I didn't have much emotion for any of the Wardlows, even if they were clearly the victims.
Character development was a bit of an issue with each person demonstrating contradictory attitudes at different times, but the more significant issue was the storyline that simply seemed implausible. I don't believe, even in the lawless time of civil war, that a foreign bastard would be very successful in gaining ownership of his father's estates, especially not the way Edmund goes about it.
The writing was unpolished, leading me to spend some time skimming. Edmund is rarely simply Edmund. He is "Edmund of Calais," or "Edmund our father's bastard," or some other overly descriptive and unnecessary title. Adjectives abound and dialogue is somewhat forced. It was sort of like reading a first draft. The story has potential, but it hasn't reached it.
With the competition that exists for Wars of the Roses novels, this one needs a little bit more work to be one that I would recommend.