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Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
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I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates extensive details of dates and names of this period. She includes much helpful info at the end under Authors Notes, even apologizes for previous mistakes. ( )
  CathyWacksman | Apr 24, 2016 |
A quote from Carlos Ruiz Zafón: "I think you have to be careful with research in fiction. I believe the best way to use it is to learn a lot yourself about what you're going to write, and then don't really use more than 1% of all the research you've done, at least visibly. ... the effective way to use research in fiction is to internalize it and embed its essence in the narrative fabric of the tale. Information only works in fiction when it plays a dramatic role. Often you read novels in which the author includes much of the research he's done... It could work in a journalistic context or in a nonfiction book, but in literature you need to find a way to incorporate it in the texture, the aesthetics, and the fabric of the world you're building for the reader from a purely narrative point, never as window dressing or as a display of erudition."

Sharon Kay Penman (and her fans) would doubtless disagree with everything Zafón says.
By her own admission, she loves adding "random details straight from the pages of [historical] chronicles" and she says "I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about research!"

The book is indeed excellently researched - but it feels more like reading a history text about Richard the Lionheart than a novel. It relates historic events in detail, even quoting from historical sources within the text. It frequently lists names of people who were present at certain occasions, for no dramatic reason, just because it's known, and one might find it interesting. It IS interesting. It's just not exciting.
I read all near-600 pages of this book, and didn't want to stop part-way through - but neither did I have any trouble putting the book down and doing something else for a while, at any point. I read a bunch of other books before getting around to finishing it.
It will definitely educate you on the circumstances surrounding the Third Crusade, and details of twelfth-century history. But the narrative lacks dramatic tension, even when the events being described are chock-full of drama! The characters didn't really come to life for me, as people. I feel that this is because Penman makes a conscious decision not to 'make up' too much stuff. But it also means that this isn't the sort of book I really prefer.

I got the book as part of the First Reads giveaway. I entered because I'd heard a lot of good things about Penman's books, and even actually own two of them that I'd been 'getting-around-to' reading. I'm sure there are many people out there who love her style of writing, but it's just not the style I most prefer. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This book lacked the high stakes and compelling characters that I loved in the Here Be Dragons series. I had a hard time getting interested in the plot lines or really getting into the life of Richard the way I did with Llewelyn ap Griffyth or Simone de Montfert. I thought the author's note at the end was more interesting than the novel. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This book lacked the high stakes and compelling characters that I loved in the Here Be Dragons series. I had a hard time getting interested in the plot lines or really getting into the life of Richard the way I did with Llewelyn ap Griffyth or Simone de Montfert. I thought the author's note at the end was more interesting than the novel. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
When I learned earlier this year that Sharon Kay Penman's latest effort, Lionheart, was to be released in October, it became one of my most anticipated reads of the year. While I've never been a fan of the title character, Richard I, the fact that the story picks up where Penman's wonderful Devil's Brood left off meant that it was a novel not to be missed.

Having had such high hopes for this novel -- Penman's books have never let me down -- I was surprised to find my early impressions of it weren't overly positive. While Penman's writing and historical detail are, as usual, top notch, I was more than a little bored by the start of the story. I even set the book aside for a short while in the hopes my indifference to it was a result of my reading mood, but when I picked it back up again I still didn't connect with either the story or the characters. Nevertheless, I stuck with the book in the hopes my initial impressions would change. It wasn't until the 200 page mark, when the setting started to shift away from Europe and towards the Holy Land, that I became interested in the novel. By the time Richard and his entourage were settled in the Holy Land I was hooked, and from that point forward did not want to put the book down.

Despite its slow start, Lionheart provides yet another example of why Penman is considered a master within the historical fiction genre. Penman's attention to historical detail and her commitment to sticking as close to known fact as possible -- her author's note indicates she only took a few minor liberties in Lionheart -- continues to amaze me. This novel is not only entertaining, it is also highly informative. The Third Crusade is not a period in history I'm overly familiar with, but Penman brings it to life for me in Lionheart. The politics of the Third Crusade are at the forefront of this novel. I hadn't realized the depth of enmity between Richard I and Philip II of France, and how their antagonistic relationship had such a profound effect on the Crusade.

While regarded as one of history's greatest battle commanders, I've never much cared for Richard I since he is always characterized as having little interest in the welfare of England. Penman's characterization of the monarch not only humanizes him, but also brings to light some of his possible motivations for remaining in the Holy Land whilst England was in crisis. Although still not one of my favourite historical figures, Penman's view of Richard I has left me with a better understanding of him. He is a figure I'd now like to learn more about.

Overall a great novel, Lionheart is sure to appeal to Penman's fan base, as well as readers of historical fiction interested in the Crusades.

Richard I's story will continue in A King's Ransom, which will hopefully be released in 2012. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
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To Jill Davies
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Theirs was a story that would rival the legend of King Arthur and Guinevere, his faithless queen.
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Book description
They were called "The Devil's Brood," though never to their faces. They were the four surviving sons of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. With two such extraordinary parents, much was expected of them.

But the eldest-charming yet mercurial-would turn on his father and, like his brother Geoffrey, meet an early death. When Henry died, Richard would take the throne and, almost immediately, set off for the Holy Land. This was the Third Crusade, and it would be characterized by internecine warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. And, back in England, by the conniving of Richard's youngest brother, John, to steal his crown.

In Lionheart, Sharon Kay Penman displays her remarkable mastery of historical detail and her acute understanding of human foibles. The result is a powerful story of intrigue, war, and- surprisingly-effective diplomacy, played out against the roiling conflicts of love and loyalty, passion and treachery, all set against the rich textures of the Holy Land.
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Richard, the second surviving son of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine, inherits the throne from his brother, before embarking on the Third Crusade, a conflict that is complicated by the schemes of his usurping brother, John.

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