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To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell

To the Tower Born

by Robin Maxwell

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288762,310 (3.41)8
"Debated for more than five centuries, the disappearance of the young princes Edward and Richard from the Tower of London in 1483 has stirred the imaginations of numerous writers from Shakespeare to Josephine Tey and posited the question: Was Richard III the boys' murderer, or was he not? In a novel rich in mystery, color, and historical lore, Robin Maxwell offers a new, controversial perspective on this enigma." "The events are witnessed through the eyes of quick-witted Nell Caxton, only daughter of the first English printer, William Caxton, and Nell's dearest friend, "Bessie," daughter of the King of England, sister to the little princes, and founding ancestress of the Tudor dynasty." "With great bravery and heart, the two friends navigate this dark and dangerous medieval landscape in which the king's death sets off a battle among the most scheming, ambitious, and murderous men and women of their age, who will stop at nothing to possess the throne of England."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)



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“To The Tower Born” is a retelling of the infamous story of King Richard III and the “princes in the Tower,” or the “lost princes.” It is told from the two point-of-views of Bessie (the sister to the princes, and who would later become Queen Elizabeth to Henry VII), and Nell Caxton, a friend to the royal family.

As this is one of my favorite time periods and cast of characters, I was really hoping that the book would be better. Maxwell’s style of writing is a lot of telling instead of showing, and indeed a lot of the time it felt more like a regurgitation of historical "facts" than of a flowing narrative. She is rather heavy-handed with her plot devices; the one she most commonly uses being over-heard conversations. Almost every major development in the plot comes from one of the characters being in the right place at the right time and overhearing the right conversation.

It also doesn’t feel like the characters are products of their time period, they are very two-dimensional and generic. There are some glaring anachronisms which further serve to take the reader out of the story. For example, at one point a character refers to the times they are living through as the “wars of the roses”- a term that was not coined for many centuries after the fact. Actually, the whole book is a mess of anachronisms and debunked myths and old information.

All in all, Maxwell’s imagining of what happened to the princes is kind of interesting, though executed very poorly. There are plenty of books out there that tell the same story but with better writing and character development. I’d recommend any number of them before “To the Tower Born.” ( )
  Tess_Elizabeth | Jan 26, 2015 |
In 1483, Edward and Richard of York—Edward already King of England—were placed, for their protection before Edward's coronation, in the Tower of London by their uncle Richard. Within months the boys disappeared without a trace, and for the next five hundred years the despised Richard III was suspected of their murders.

In To the Tower Born, Robin Maxwell ingeniously imagines what might have happened to the missing princes. The great and terrible events that shaped a kingdom are viewed through the eyes of quick-witted Nell Caxton, only daughter of the first English printer, and her dearest friend, "Bessie," sister to the lost boys and ultimate founder of the Tudor dynasty. ( )
  slvoight | Mar 31, 2013 |
The disappearance of the Princes in the Tower in 1483 has captured the attention of historians for hundreds of years, and the mystery has never been solved.

What we do know is that following the death of King Edward IV, his eldest son Edward was placed in The Tower of London (which were then luxurious royal apartments) for his own protection prior to his coronation. He was later joined by his younger brother, Prince Richard.

Whilst in the Tower it was discovered that the marriage of their parents - King Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville - was illegitimate; King Edward was already married at the time. This made the births of the Princes illegitimate, and their Uncle Richard (the late King's brother) was crowned King Richard III. The Princes then disappeared and it was long assumed King Richard III was responsible for having the young boys murdered and their remains disposed of within the Tower.

Robin Maxwell tackles this famous mystery in To The Tower Born - A Novel of the Lost Princes, and successfully manages to build on these historical facts, taking the reader back to the era and providing a convincing account of what 'could have happened'. An alternate outcome if you will.

Told in alternating chapters from two different narrators, we get to know the young Princes prior to the events leading to their demise. The novel is rich in history and exposes the plotting and politics of those hungry for power in England, and those who will do anything to lay claim to the throne.

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction novel, and am already a huge fan of Robin Maxwell's work, especially The Queen's Bastard, and The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn.

I would recommend this to any reader interested in delving into a well written novel featuring the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, or who is keen to learn more about the politics of the House of York in the period prior to the Tudors. ( )
  Carpe_Librum | Mar 8, 2011 |
Enjoyed this take on one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Though some of the adventures will a little far-fetched, it was a fun and imaginative read. I get the feeling the author really enjoyed writing the book... which I love. Would recommend it. Also, great alternative perspectives on some well known characters in history. ( )
  bridgetmarkwood | Feb 10, 2011 |
The thing that’s wrong with this book (among many things) is that it depends almost entirely on coincidence to advance its plot. There are too many times when we are expected to believe that Nell and or Bessie are in the right place at the right time and by pure chance happen to be standing by a window where important information is being divulged or in a room unnoticed by people plotting. You’d think the people hatching said plots (to overthrow the rulers of their country, of all things!) would be a little more careful about being overheard. I couldn’t keep from rolling my eyes at certain times.

That aside, there’s just too much that is ridiculous. The idea that when Prince Edward is in need of a Latin tutor there is no one else in all of England that can be found while the permanent tutors shows up from “the continent” is far-fetched, and while I’m all for women doing a “man’s” job, I don’t think it would have been much tolerated at that time. Or that Nell is offered what appears to be a Monday through Friday job and gets to go home on weekends. Highly unlikely (the job offer and the hours/days she was expected to work). That fact that Nell and Bessie who is a Princess of England and future Queen are traipsing about the place by themselves with no chaperones coming and going as they pleased was another point of contention and constant eye-rolling for me.

All in all, if you’re looking for a light fluff read and are a fan of chick-lit, you might not mind this book so much. If you prefer more well-written, accurate historical fiction, I don’t believe that this will do. ( )
  Dmatthewsgirl | Feb 28, 2009 |
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