This is the third of Venning's alternative histories that I've read, after volumes on Ancient Rome and the Anglo-Saxon Age. The format is similar, looking at a wide range of possibilities, in this case over a shorter period of time than in the previous volumes. Much of the book looks at the course of the Hundred Years War, although there is also significant coverage of English domestic politics, especially during the weaker reigns of Richard II and Henry IV.
One of the nicest elements of this book are the regular 'resets'. Instead of picking a single alternative line of events and following it in great detail Venning has chosen to examine a large number of alternatives, starting from reality on a regular basis. As a result the speculation never gets too extreme (some alternative histories tend to build one set of alternatives on the outcome of a previous set, getting ever further away from reality). This can meant that the book feels a bit scattergun in places, with alternatives suggested as an impressive pace, but I prefer that to the chain of speculations.
The alternatives tend to fall into two general camps. The first looks at the reigns of the historical monarchs, searching for moments where events could have taken a different course (such as the outcome of battles or different diplomatic choices). The second looks at alternative monarchs or extensions to reigns - what might have happened if the Black Prince had become Edward IV (and tied to that how might Richard II have ruled if he had come to the throne as an adult), events if Richard II hadn't been deposed and longer reigns for Henry IV or Henry V.
This is an entertaining read, providing a wide range of alternative scenarios, backed up by good knowledge of the period. As with any good entry in this genre the main value of the book is the light it shines on the real course of events and how easily they could have changed.
1 - Edward III and Edward 'IV', the 'Black Prince'
2 - Richard II
3 - Henry IV
4 - Henry V
5 - Henry VI
Author: Timothy Venning
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military