The Beggar’s Throne has fine moments of excitement and energy, the vitality of fighting for a cause, even if it is on opposite sides and divides the family. The infamous Hundred Years War devastates medieval England, pulling desperately needed resources and men into a vortex of war that is insatiable. As the House of York and The House of Lancaster continue their Machiavellian scheming for dominance, the needs of the country are secondary to the struggle for the throne.
Author David Falconieri includes the story of a family of millers in the context of the great drama, as two brothers find themselves on opposite sides, an untenable situation in their close-knit family. The younger brother, Samuel, is trained as an archer, originally for the House of Lancaster like his elder brother. However, once engaged in battle, Samuel is disenchanted with the Queen’s attempt to put her young son on the throne. At that point, Samuel changes his allegiance to The House of York. The result is a rift between Samuel and his brother, Christopher. Samuel resigns himself to the loss of emotional support from his family of origin.
While behind-the-scenes intrigues abound, Samuel’s more simple life as a soldier is constructed around the loyalties that bind men-at-arms. One of his comrades even marries Samuel’s younger sister, Sally. Inevitably, Samuel falls in love with a serving maid who is actually a well-bred lady in disguise, in hiding from the Queen. Kate is in sole possession of a secret document that will render the Queen’s claims to the throne worthless. Unable to confide her history to Samuel and his family, Kate haplessly drags them into a series of events, including murder and kidnapping, placing them all in immediate danger.
The first half of the book sets the stage for the denouement of the Hundred Years War, or The War of the Roses; the second half picks up the pace as the stakes are raised for King and commoners alike. The author addresses the historic and complicated details of conflated loyalties to assessing the cost of nobility and greed. Meanwhile the Miller’s are motivated by their need to repair familial connections and live free of strife. To this extent, Falconieri cannot quite get his footing, but his knowledge of subject is impressive. His challenge is the melding of the commoner’s concerns, as they suffer through the royal wranglin, and the eventual termination of the war with the king on the throne intact.
In this novel, the tedium of the world grinds on beneath great historical events. Those who rule reap the benefits of power, and those who fight the battles on foot lose their lives in scenes of carnage. The Miller family is exemplary, the real people behind the throne, struggling to survive daily needs and to improve their lot. The soldiers left lying on the fields of war, strewn across history, leave wives and children, dreams and ambitions behind as well. Power, treachery, and intrigue are the issues that form the crux of The Beggar’s Throne, a medieval look at the nature of war and its victims.