The war, and Richard of York’s life, are coming to a swift end. Richard has been captured by Queen Margaret, but he has hope in his sons to carry on for him. Until Margaret informs him that his favorite, young Richard (III), is dead. This drives the Duke to despair, and he dies in anguish at Margaret’s hands. Richard, of course, is not dead, and is rushing to his father’s side. Too late, he makes his way through enemy controlled territory to find his father’s head impaled on the gates of York. Mad with grief, the one person who lit up his life gone forever, Richard picks up a sword and begins cutting down every Lancaster he can find. Like a grotesque monster, he cuts a swath through the Lancaster’s back ranks, creating chaos as his brother Edward and the Earl of Warwick drive off the enemy. Lancaster retreats in defeat as York reinforcements arrives, leaving Edward the victor and declared King of England. A time of peace settles, at least for everyone besides Richard, who eschews all servants and companions for a life of solitude (or as much as he can get living in a castle). He is ever ready to become a shadow and strike down York’s enemies. During a celebratory ball, he finds himself face-to-face with Anne Neville, but pushes aside all thoughts of friendship. Meanwhile, while the York brothers celebrate, the gears of new betrayal are beginning to turn.
I still love this series, and most of my impressions and opinions haven’t changed. One negative comment I’ll make here, and get out of the way. The women in this series are all crazed madwomen. Cecily. Margaret. And now Elizabeth. Obsessive, mad, and vengeful, all three of them are depicted as strong women with madness in their eyes. (In contrast, Henry VI, who was documented as being insane, while appearing childlike, otherwise merely seems a victim of circumstances.) Cecily, who abhors her demonic son; Margaret, who longs to destroy everyone in her way and rule England; and now Elizabeth, who wants revenge for the death of her husband. They’re beautiful and bewitching. That said, the Neville sisters, Anne and Isabel, are gentle women. So far kind and loving. They’re also, at least in comparison to the other main women, rather plain looking. Cecily, Margaret, and Elizabeth have fair hair and delicate features. Anne and Isabel have dark hair and rounded features. Another volume or two and I’ll have a more solid opinion of these interpretations; right now it’s an observation. In my previous review, I commented on Richard’s perception of himself, wondering if he was meant to be a transgender character, or simply a hidden princess. In this volume, Richard very strongly rejects the idea of being female, pronounces multiple times he is a boy, and cites his father’s addressing him as his son. So, while he may have been raised as a boy for various reasons, Richard is regardless adamant about his own gender identity. This identity gives him strength. As a man, he can go on alone. As a man, he can cut through his father’s enemies. As a man, he can take revenge. And he does, viciously. Again, Kanno gets artistic with Richard’s depiction, turning him into a monstrous goblin, tearing through those who dared take his father away from him. Filled with a lust for blood, his guilt and the horror of taking a life vanishes. When peace returns, he is changed. He refuses the aid of servants, even turning away the loyal Catesby, desiring solitude. How this was created by the same writer of Otomen is almost unbelievable. They are such starkly different series, and if you’re looking for the bubbly cute style of Otomen, you definitely won’t find that here. What you will find is an incredible, unique interpretation of a tumultuous time in history.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.