'The Shadow Prince' is an imaginative, if unlikely, fictional biography of Richard Duke of York. He is known as the youngest of the Princes in the Tower, son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Little is known of Richard, and historians debate to this day when and where he actually died. This left Morgan with endless possibilities to write about without twisting truth. So, how does one go about writing the life story of someone who was born in 1473, married in 1478, and may or may not have died sometime in between 1483 and 1499?
This novel creates a life for Richard that lasts well beyond his boyhood, where most historians put his end. Without giving away too much, I will say that the author is creative in including many theories about Richard and Perkin Warbeck while pulling them together into a completely unique tale. Richard is portrayed in a realistic fashion with some skills but lack of forethought that might be expected in someone who was highly educated as a prince for 10 years and then left to his own devices.
Some of Richard's adventures are a little farfetched, but they are exciting and build his character in a compelling way. The author briefly explains in his notes what his assumptions and inventions were. Of course, there were many.
I most enjoyed the descriptions of Richard entering England with his wife and child. What led him to make inconceivably bad decisions? Rather than assuming that Perkin Warbeck was doomed to fail because he was a pretender, Morgan explains how the events could have occurred as they did even if the man leading really was Richard.
Through much of the story, Richard seems quite content to be unrecognized as a prince, but his ambition is slowly revealed.
"What kind of prince would I be if I abandoned my people to a cruel tyrant?" (Said to Richard not by him, but clearly sends him thinking.)
Then again, he has his doubts.
"Not for the first time at the court of Charles VIII did I begin to wonder if choosing a head of state by dint of his parentage is really the most efficient way of governing a country."
"Was it right? Was I making the challenge out of moral duty or out of personal vainglory?"
So, why does he do what he does?
"For the sake of the men who follow me... For the sake of my murdered brother and uncle... and above all for the sake of England, to free her from the tyrant."
'The Shadow Prince' is a quick and compelling read that does not require the reader to have previous knowledge of events surrounding Richard's life and is a satisfying what-if for those out there still rooting for uncle Richard.