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Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
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Lionheart (edition 2011)

by Sharon Kay Penman

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Eleanor of Aquitaine, a "barren queen" for Louis of France bore 4 sons for Henry II. The most notable and her favorite was Richard known as the Lionheart. After his older brother Hal's and his father's deaths, Richard became the King of the England and ruled Normandy, Aquitaine, and all the other little duchies that Henry had amassed as well but Richard was a warrior and had pledged to take the Cross and liberate Jerusalem.

Shortly after he was crowned, Richard, along with Phillipe of France, headed toward the Holy Land. He stopped in Sicily, liberated his widowed sister, married his bride from Navarre, captured Cyprus, and freed Acre once in the Holy Land. Single-minded in his quest, this skilled battle commander recklessly endangered himself to protect his own forces throughout numerous battles.

However, Richard was no diplomat and quickly alienated not only his ally, Phillipe of France, but also Conrad of Montferrat (new King of Jerusalem) and Hugh Duke of Burgundy.

Unfortunately, without the complete support of the other Christian commanders, Richard was unable to fully liberate Jerusalem from he Muslim control and was forced to a peace where the Holy Land was open to Christians but still occupied by Muslims.

This was a fascinating story filing in the portion of Richard's life that was engrossed by his quest to free the Holy Land. Very few books that I have read deal with this time in his life and I was completely engrossed. ( )
  cyderry | Dec 12, 2013 |
Richard I, or Lionheart, has inherited the throne of England. But he is a warrior king, and almost immediately he sets off on the Third Crusade to face off with Saladin and attempt to retake Jerusalem. Along the way he marries Berengaria, is reunited with his sister Joanna, and squabbles with co-crusader Philippe Capet of France. Meanwhile, little brother John is getting restive in England. Even the warrior king has a tough time fighting battles on multiple fronts.

Given that most of my knowledge of Richard comes from "the ransom years", or "the Ivanhoe/Robin Hood years", this was a very interesting book, showing the king during the Crusade itself. Life as a Crusader is captured very vividly here, and Penman does a good job of showing the complexity of life for those who live in the area full-time and who have adopted some of the local customs. Richard is given a very nuanced portrait; indeed, Penman herself notes in the author's note that the research for this book dramatically changed her view of him from single-minded, arrogant warrior to a skilled battle commander who cared deeply for the welfare of his soldiers, but was reckless about his own safety, and a man who fought his enemies but still respected their courage (and was not averse to adopting some of their more effective battle techniques).

While the battle scenes and campaigning were interesting, I was less interested in the scenes involving the women of the court, or at least some of them. The women-centred scenes focused more on their sex lives than I would have liked, and some scenes I actually skipped over (like Richard and Berengaria's wedding night). Fortunately the scenes are fairly short and lend themselves well to skimming if you'd rather get back to the battles. And the female characters themselves are interesting, especially Joanna.

This book is worth reading if you've been following the Plantagenets from the beginning, or if you're interested in just Richard and the Crusades. (The prologue summarizes the events of the previous couple of books, so if you haven't read Penman's other books you will still receive sufficient context to bring you up to speed.) ( )
  rabbitprincess | Nov 17, 2013 |
Lionheart is the fourth of Sharon Penman’s books focusing on the Angevins: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their ambitious children. Henry II is now dead and Richard is king, but he has scarcely consolidated his rule before he decides to take the cross and embark on the Third Crusade against Saladin. That crusade, and Richard’s other adventures in the Holy Land, form the heart of this novel.

Although I much enjoyed the earlier books in the series, I found this one rather heavy-going and stilted, and the characterisation (with the key exception of Richard) feels rather underdeveloped. Penman has clearly put a great deal of effort into her research, in order to make the book as accurate as it can be, but the sheer weight of historical detail stifles the story and prevents it from being the exciting, breathless adventure that it could have been. This is especially the case in the Holy Land, where dramatic events are too often reported second-hand rather than allowing the reader to get caught up in the immediacy of the moment.

Nevertheless I enjoyed her appealing portrait of a flawed but charismatic Richard, whose martial glamour draws admiration from his men and envious contempt from his rivals – one of whom, unfortunately, is Philippe of France, Richard’s fellow commander in the Crusade. The novel also does a good job of emphasising the debilitating tensions within the Christian forces – whether that’s between Richard and Philippe, or between the would-be kings of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan and Conrad of Montferrat. As I've said, the novel simply didn’t have enough verve and energy to capture my imagination, but I’m aware that many other people have enjoyed it immensely.

You can read my full review on my blog here:
http://theidlewoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/lionheart-sharon-penman.html ( )
1 vote Leander2010 | Nov 17, 2013 |
I admit to being mildly disappointed in this. I was a massive fan of Sharon Penman's Welsh trilogy, but the last few have been a bit patchy. I know it is impossible to write historical fiction and not know what the ending will be - we all do. But this seemed to be written from a more obvious posiiton of foreknowledge than usual. Too often a chapter would end with a short section "and chroniclers wrote..." Occasionally it works as a tool, to reinforce that this is a momumentous evemt, but it felt like this was happening too often. I also found the continual battles to be a bit wearing. OK, so Richard and the third Cruade is going to be a bit battle heavy, but it go a bit repetitive and, if I'm honest, a little stereotypically cardboard cut out. To sumarise, French bad; Saladin honourable but going to hell anyway; Richard - well the sun may as well shine out of his arse from this account. He's not maybe as bad a king as reputation may have made him, but this felt a bit too much like trying to repaint his reputation in a single volume - and it therefore felt unbalanced and biased.
As usual, I like the interplay of charcters and the addition of a few minor characters close to the main protagonists to advance the story and provide some colour. But the whole was somewhat unsatisfactory. ( )
  Helenliz | Oct 27, 2013 |
Another beautifully written novel by this author. Covering the first three years of Richard the Lionheart's reign, this is in effect the fourth book in a series starting with her trilogy on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The sights, sounds and smells of the Crusade and of the Holy Land itself are vividly described. Richard comes across as almost an action superhero though the author's historical note makes clear that if anything she has downplayed the sources in this respect (both Christian and Islamic sources). Some character traits are repeated rather tediously, though, such as the famed Angevin temper and Richard's recklessness for his own safety, while being concerned nevertheless for the safety of his men. It's refreshing to see his wife Berengaria of Navarre portrayed as a character in her own right as she is generally outshone by the King's sister Joanna and indeed is probably the most obscure medieval Queen, often relegated to being merely the answer to the quiz question of who was only Queen of England who didn't set foot in the country during her husband's reign. Saladin and his brother Adil (Saphadin) are also well depicted as the honourable opponents they seem to have been. Richard is the great strategist as which he was almost universally depicted in the sources on all sides, the massacre of the Acre garrison being depicted in the light of contemporary concerns, horrific though it was. The leading French crusaders come across very poorly here, as obstructive cowards constantly trying to outwit Richard and this does seem a little simplistic.Overall, this is a brilliant read, well up to Penman's high standards. 5/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 20, 2013 |
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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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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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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.… (more)

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