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Literature / Richard III in the 21st Century

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Richard III in the 21st Century is a series of historical science-fiction novels by Joan Szechtman, about... well, guess.

The first book, This Time, begins with Richard III making his final charge at Bosworth Field. He is felled by his own treasonous forces, succumbs to death...

...and wakes up in Portland, Oregon, in the year 2004, surrounded by oddly dressed strangers. It turns out Richard was successfully retrieved from the past by a research team who substituted a similar-looking already-dead man in the right armor in his place to avoid changing history, and grizzled project leader Evan Hosgrove is eager to get to speak to his favorite historical monarch.


When an increasingly complicated series of events traps Richard in this unfamiliar time, he is forced to adapt to this new world. He soon discovers that while there is no way to rescue his beloved wife Anne from the past as well without changing history, he can bring his late son Edward to safety and becomes obsessed with figuring out how to do so. Along the way, he befriends the researchers who brought him there, learns to outgrow some of his old beliefs, and finds himself falling for a beautiful single mom, Sarah Levine.

The second book, Loyalty Binds Me, picks up a year after the conclusion of This Time and finds Richard contending with the head of MI5, who wants Sarah's time-travel invention and is willing to legally entrap Richard in order to obtain it.

Has no relation to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Or Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century. Or Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century.



Richard III in the 21st Century provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actionized Sequel: While This Time has a couple of action scenes, it's primarily a drama about Richard settling in to 2004. Loyalty Binds Me escalates into a full-blown political thriller.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: All this time-traveling-medieval-monarch business centers around laid-back, folksy Portland, Oregon, with a foray into Rochester, New York for good measure. The plot also stops by the Big Applesauce, but not nearly for as long as it spends in lesser-known spots.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Richard tells Sarah's daughters, Emma and Mary, the story of how he and Anne met and married using nicknames and third-person narration. They're delighted to later find out he was the man in the story.
  • Author Appeal: Not only is Richard the main character, but the Richard III Society (and the Ricardian school of historical revisionism in general) is an actual part of the story, with Evan Hosgrove and Henry Stafford as members of the society. However, Richard is actually greatly assisted by some Tudor enthusiasts- at a reenactment of the Battle of Bosworth!- toward the end of Loyalty Binds Me, and he agrees to put in a good word for them to his Ricardian friends.
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  • Babies Ever After: Sarah is expecting again by the end of Loyalty Binds Me.
  • Badass Beard: Richard briefly sports one after his transportation to 2004, though he dislikes it and gets rid of it the first chance he gets.
  • Better as Friends: Richard has rather desperate sex with Katarina Parvic only a few days into his time in 2004, mostly out of missing his wife and being extremely disoriented by this new time period. They quickly realize they fit this trope instead.
  • Big Applesauce: The location of part of the latter half of the first book, with some excellent accuracy regarding the New York City Subway.
  • Blood Knight: Richard would "rather be fighting than talking about fighting."
  • Brick Joke: After being shot, Richard is extremely freaked out by waking up in a hospital with a catheter. Toward the end of the book, Edward has the same reaction.
    "I AM OKAY."
  • Brought Down to Badass: Without his royal title and class privilege to fall back on in confrontational situations, Richard becomes quite the brawler if pressed hard enough.
  • Character Tics:
    • Richard pinches the bridge of his nose when frustrated. (He's frustrated a lot.) When Sarah calls him out on it, he mentions that he used to fiddle with a dagger instead.
    • Sarah herself bites her nails.
  • Clear My Name: Richard's main goal in Loyalty Binds Me.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Used in quite a bit of Richard's initial inner monologue, in ways ranging from his classification of Katarina Parvic as a "heretic" for wearing trousers and a black man as a Saracen, to his internal agony over whether or not he can consider marrying an unconverted Jew, to even mild things like initially considering his own initially collarbone-length hair short already. He proves willing to learn about and accept the viewpoints of his new time, though.
  • Dewey Defeats Truman: The series itself becomes Alternate History to the 2000s as well in Loyalty Binds Me- large parts of the exposition are devoted to discussing John Ashdown-Hill's research into Richard III's genes, including mention of a female relative living in Canada in 2004, and this genetic information's importance to proving Richard is Richard. This was the same information used in the real world to identify Richard's remains in 2012- remains which, in the book, aren't Richard's at all, but a predeceased Identical Stranger's.
  • Disappeared Dad: Emma and Mary's father. This makes their later acceptance of Richard as their new daddy that much sweeter.
  • Equivalent Exchange
  • Facepalm: A gesture Richard rapidly acquires and uses with amusing frequency.
  • Fake American: Richard, after two years in 2004.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Richard, of course. He eventually adapts magnificently.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: What Richard intends to do with Sarah. The nearly universal reaction from his modern friends is "slooooow doooooown".
  • The Future Is Shocking: Though in more mundane ways than the trope usually involves.
  • Happily Adopted: Richard adopts Emma and Mary as his own daughters. Sarah returns the favor by adopting Edward as her son.
  • Happily Married: Richard and Anne were. And Richard and Sarah, later on.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Richard, toward Sarah.
  • Hidden Depths: Loyalty Binds Me shows Sarah to be more than just Richard's Second Love.
  • Important Haircut: A necessary component in passing Richard off as a guy from 2004. He doesn't give it much thought once he gets used to how it feels.
  • Inspector Javert: MI5 agent Adrian Strange.
  • Irony: Richard ends up concealing himself from the by-now crazed Strange at a reenactment of the Battle of Bosworth. In the armor of one of Henry Tudor's archers.
  • Jerkass: John Fortas. Overlaps with The Neidermeyer.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Evan Hosgrove.
  • Kick the Dog: John Fortas sends plenty of puppies flying as he goes about his daily routine.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Fiona Gray's articles for the Star point out, in-universe, the absurdity of an American tourist in his mid-thirties in 2006 being arrested on suspicion of being King Richard III, with MI5 and the FBI throwing their support into the effort. (Not that they're wrong about his identity, but still.)
  • The Lost Lenore: Anne, somewhat. Realizing that he can't bring her to 2004 as well feels like losing her all over again to Richard. While he and Sarah eventually marry, he never fully gets over Anne. Sarah doesn't pressure him to.
  • Matzo Fever: Richard is seriously thrown once he discovers Sarah is Jewish. While he's not violently anti-Semitic, he was raised with bad attitudes about Jews, and it takes quite a lot of effort for him to accept that these views were wrong. His love for Sarah and her little daughters eventually trumps them, and by Loyalty Binds Me he's not bothered by it at all.
  • McGuffin: Sarah's time machine in Loyalty Binds Me.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: No one can use the Q Trip technology for over 30 seconds without disintegrating due to this trope. Michael Fairchild suffers fatal neurological damage in ensuring Edward's safe transfer to 2004 thanks to staying for 63 seconds.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. In This Time, Elaine Parvic names her robot after herself simply to confuse people. In Loyalty Binds Me, Richard is discomfited to discover his solicitor is named Henry Stafford, the same as his traitorous onetime friend the Duke of Buckingham. This turns out to be a Nonindicative Name, thankfully.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Don't mess with Edward, Mary, or Emma on Richard's watch.
    • Ira Levine is still this way about his adult daughter Sarah.
  • Parental Abandonment: A common theme; Richard's father died when Richard was 8, and he only occasionally saw his mother until he was an adult. Elaine and Emma and Mary's fathers are nowhere in sight, either. Richard also realizes, rather ruefully, that he accidentally favored his legitimate son Edward over his bastards John and Katherine.
  • Post-Historical Trauma: Richard is horrified by discovering the Holocaust, and while his own attitude toward Jews is fair for the time period he just left, this is a huge step toward his complete reevaluation of what he was taught.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Richard, in comparison to his modern companions.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Richard. Sort of.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Richard claims to be "Eric Wilde", after finding a plausible birth certificate with that name to appropriate as his own, but has his documentation legally changed to "Richard Gloucestre" as soon as the Wilde alias is accepted. (The real-life Richard signed his letters as "R. Gloucestre" or "Richard Gloucestre" in life, as "Richard Plantagenet" wasn't a distinctive enough name to indicate which one he was.)
  • Red Herring: In Loyalty Binds Me, there are claims that the murder case against Richard will be backed up by DNA testing on the child skeletons found in the Tower. Richard reveals that the skeletons couldn't be the princes — he secretly sent them out of England and substituted two boys who resembled them to take their place in the Tower. But those boys resembled them so much because they were a result of their father's philandering... They never get to test the skeletons.
  • Second Love: Sarah, for Richard.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: In a manner of speaking- while England is Richard's original country, he's come to consider America home, and finds England as foreign now as he first found America.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
    • How Katarina views rescuing Richard from his doom.
    • This is also why MI5 wants Sarah's time machine.
  • San Dimas Time: Used to extraordinarily tense effect when it comes to fetching Edward out of 1484.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Richard eventually becomes one of these in 2004 and beyond.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Szechtman clearly did a great deal of research.
  • Time and Relative Dimensions in Space: Discussed; it takes a great deal of practice to safely get to the exact right spot in the past.
  • Time Machine: Sarah invented one. In high school.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Richard, already a Warrior Prince in his own time, takes on outright action hero traits in Loyalty Binds Me.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: "Gray-Beard". He has nothing against Richard personally, he just sees him as a means of snaring Sarah's support in building a time machine for various Western governments.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: The general reaction most people have toward Richard's. It's described as sounding vaguely Appalachian, mixed with a vague Scottish lilt. Justified in that this is a decent approximation of an early modern English accent.
  • World of Snark
  • Worthy Opponent: Richard regards Hosgrove this way as he gets to know him. He has no doubt that Hosgrove merely wants to pump him for information and then send him back to Bosworth to die, but he has the utmost respect for his history as a soldier and his advanced age. Their relationship grows more friendly, bizarrely enough, after Hosgrove shoots Richard, and the extent to which he regrets this convinces Richard that Hosgrove isn't as utterly merciless as he thought.

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