Sharon Kay Penman is a master at historical fiction, and this latest book shows her at the pinnacle of her talent. Although this could be read as a stand alone work, it's really the fourth book in a series about the Angevins, and will conclude, apparently, with the next book "A King's Ransom". I'll be quite sorry to see the saga end.
This work concentrates on the very beginning of the reign of Richard I ("the lionheart"), specifically his involvement in what later came to be called the Third Crusade. There's so much action and adventure in it that it's almost difficult to believe that the book is securely based on historical events. When Ms. Penman writes about the climate in the Holy Land, and the dangers that were faced, you almost begin to sweat with the heat (as I did when watching "Lawrence of Arabia"). The political factions and the arguments, distrust and outright betrayals reveal why the crusaders were unable to recapture Jerusalem, despite Richard's best efforts.
Richard had to keep pushing for an ultimate victory even though he knew that, two thousand miles away, his feckless brother John was conspiring with the King of France to deprive Richard of his kingdom, and tear apart the empire that the Angevins had built. Despite all of these distractions, Richard was determined to fulfill his crusader's vow. He is shown as a military leader of uncommon tactical sense, with a streak of ruthlessness that was all too necessary in those times.
The book ends with Richard taking his leave of the Holy Land, and hoping to return quickly to England to preserve his kingship. Of course, those of us who are conversant with English history know that there are twists and turns in this attempt, which the author will set out in the next book. I'm quite anxious to read it, although I will be reluctant to say goodbye to these fascinating characters when it ends,
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About the reviewer
Frank J. Konopka (frankiethek)
I'm a small town general practice attorney in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. Books are my passion, andI read as many of them asI can. Being the President of the local library board for over … more
"The great Crusader king Richard the Lionheart comes alive in all his complex splendor in this masterpiece of a medieval tapestry by Sharon Kay Penman. She brings him and his legendary enemy, Saladin, before us, both on the battlefield for Jerusalem and in the quiet of their private chambers. It''s as if you were there, in this strange, beguiling, vanished time that haunts the Middle East even today. Penman has triumphed in capturing its elusive essence and the blazing glory of the English king called Lionheart."
(-Margaret George, author ofElizabeth I: A Novel)--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.