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Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London Hardcover – October 2, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Begun by William the Conqueror and finished by Edward I to the general outlines tourists see today, the Tower of London has a 1,000-year history that Jones jauntily presents. A royal fortress, the Tower and its tales reflect struggles for the crown, which was not always safely stored there; indeed, it was smashed flat in a bungled robbery in which Charles II may have connived. Such mysteries echo within the Tower’s thick walls, including Richard III’s likely murder of Edward V, which so fascinates English-history buffs. Jones entertains that audience well. He recounts the Tower’s functions as a zoo, palace, mint, armory, and, most indelibly, as a prison and place of execution. Heads roll throughout Jones’ pages, frequently under the dynasty that endowed the Tower with its most sinister associations, the Tudors. The final moments of recipients of royal wrath during the 1500s––Anne Boleyn, Thomas More, and Jane Grey––dramatically unfold, and when the headsman’s reign wanes, Jones adopts a more amusing subject, escapes from the Tower. This is popular history well arranged and well written. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“Heads roll throughout Jones' pages, frequently under the dynasty that endowed the Tower with its most sinister associations, the Tudors. . . . This is popular history well arranged and well written.” ―Booklist

“Historian and journalist Jones enlightens and delights in this history of the London Tower. A historian's history that deserves pride of place in every library.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A marvelous, authoritative, and entertaining history of England, tightly focused and richly detailed.” ―Publishers Weekly

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1St Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312622961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312622961
  • ASIN: 0312622961
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,022,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There's a great story here. Too bad the author keeps getting in the way.

We start innocuously enough, with a brief chapter on the Tower's construction and first 120-ish years. A straight chronological approach to the subject, you might think. Well, no. Chapter 2, "The Menagerie and the Mint", veers off into two topics that have nothing to do with Chapter 1, Chapter 3, or each other. The main narrative rights itself for a while thereafter, only to founder on the rocks of the Wars of the Roses, where Nigel Jones gets himself thoroughly lost in a welter of Georges, Richards, earls, dukes, battles, betrayals, bishops, archbishops, castles ... Every so often he remembers that he's supposed to be writing about the Tower of London, and rushes back there, but he never stays long.

Some order returns with the Tudors and early Stuarts, but it doesn't last. The latter half of the book is a series of interconnected chapters, organized thematically rather than chronologically, about what Jones clearly regards as the book's raison d'etre: torture, suffering, and death. Finally we return briefly to the timeline, skimming over the last quarter-millennium in a few pages--I suppose because things have been insufficiently lurid of late to keep Jones interested.

That brings us to Tower's second major failing, which is the writing. "Lurid", did I say? By the time of Richard III the prose has gone positively purple. Jones, in his fervor to uphold the traditional portrait of the black-hearted Richard, loses control of his adjectives, his adverbs, and his judgment. Richard's cohorts are "peculiarly nasty". He's a "monster" and a "gangster". He speaks "silkily". (How Jones knows this, I have no idea.) He's "poisonous", "hideous", "unsavoury", "hysterical".
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By Edie on February 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was excited to order this book and started it the minute I pulled it from the packaging. And then bit by bit I began finding things that just bothered me. Mr. Jones tends to relate how a person of the time felt and how they said things. It was a minor annoyance at first until I hit the chapter "The Princes, The Protector and The Pretenders". Not only does he goes into more detail about Richard III then needed in order to drive home what a bloodthirsty "little" king he was, he also threw in sentences containing words such as Buckingham "silkily" said, "greasy" Lovell, Catesby and Ratcliffe...ugh... Oh and how Thomas More related that Edward V basically said that he hoped his uncle wouldn't kill him. Where in the history books does THAT statement appear? Only in Thomas More's material found after his death, that was written during the Tudor era. I'm not one of those who blindly believes that Richard had nothing to do with the death of his nephews but no proof has been given that he DID or that he ordered it OR that Henry VII didn't order it. Could Richard have done it? Yes! But don't state it as FACT.

And then the absolute killer for me was this: "Katherine herself, 'beautiful and godly to behold', was dressed in white satin with her dark hair hanging lose down her back..." So he's talking about Katherine of Aragon...who had RED hair. OR possibly golden red. She did NOT have dark hair. SO what else is going to be incorrect if something so well known is incorrect? I have no idea. I stopped reading the book and it goes into my "give away" pile.

All in all this is probably a nice read for someone wanting a REAL broad overview of the Tower and the chance to relate some juicy stories about it...with unnecessary embellishments.
5 Comments 33 of 40 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book the day I visited the Tower complex for the first time last week. I was so fascinated by the buildings and their history that I wanted to know more. That is NOT what this book is about. This is a history of England that uses the Tower as a kind of linchpin to tell the stories of the times and the people. Which is not a bad device. But I wanted to know more about the structures: their construction, little known facts, how they evolved over time, stories about the builders, etc. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book. But it told the history of England I'm already familiar with and didn't tell me much about what I wanted to know. So before you buy, decide what you're craving to discover and then make a decision whether to purchase THIS book versus another.

Still looking for a good book on the history of the Tower of London complex...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London was loaded interesting facts. The only thing missing was MAPS & DIAGRAMS of the Tower. Jones discusses various buildings, wall and courtyards but fails to provide maps and diagrams of the locations. Instead he provides some pretty lame photos that are actually useless. Jones could have made the book much greater with just a view maps and diagrams, an easy remedy.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I had high hopes for this book ever since I first saw it on the shelves of our local Barnes and Noble for $35. This being out of my price range, I frequently waited a while to get a more economical option . . . . my annual Christmas list.

Unfortunately, this book was not what I had built it up to be. I was envisioning a detailed description from beginning to end of the Tower of London with each renovation and royal use described. I thought that it would fill in gaps in my knowledge of British history because I figured little has taken place in which the Tower has not been somehow involved.

One era that this held true for was the Civil War (1640-1660). This is not a time period that I have not read extensively about, so Jones' coverage of it was interesting. He also seemed to give information from the point of view of both Parliament and Royal followers of this time. (If someone knows more about these events and felt differently, please let me know. As I said, this is not an area of expertise for me.)

This unbiased reporting did not hold true for most of the book. Though the title is Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London, it possibly should be Tower: This Author's Opinion on Events Taking Place There. For the Plantagenet and Tudor reigns, Jones states what happened definitively with little reference to any other theories that may be held. For example, Richard III murdered not only his innocent little nephews but also Henry VI in true Shakespearean style. For any offended Plantagenet fans, he is just as ruthless and one-sided in his telling of Henry VII's & Henry VIII's tales. Jones' sources include several that I have read and I don't remember anyone having such certain information on these mysteries that have been made unsolvable by time.
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