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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 October 2008
Sharoan Kay Penman is an iconic writer and has a huge fan community. I am one of them ever since I read "The Sun in Splendour".

This is the long awaited third volume of Mrs. Penman's series on King Henry II and his Queen Elenor of Aquitaine. It is the last chapter when the family collapses and the family feud starts. Henry II and his consort Eleanor and their sons Young King Henry, Geoffrey of Brittany, Richard the Lion Heart and John Lackland are stuff for legends and endless books. On top the cousin of France poisons the atmosphere further. The struggle for power and crowns, greet, jealousy, hate and sexual lust are a powerful mixture which creates a most explosive atmosphere. It is a monumental struggle with large than life personalities.

Mrs. Penman again presents a masterful picture of the times and the personalities. She writes as if she was there. History and fiction are bound together in historcial novels might cause some upsets but not in a Penman novel. Her command of history is simply too good to cause resentment or commit mistakes. The fiction parts just help to accentuate the messages and the real events. She simply has an unique gift to portrait humans and their feeling that they seem to breath on the page. It is a remarkably detailed - at times maybe even too detailed - look on this long lost time. She opens with her vivid portrait the door to this world and one gets hooked. Pageantry and grandeur, war and peace, conflict and treachery, human fraity and loyalty are brought alive. This is historic novel writing at its finest.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2009
Sharon Penman has again managed to truly bring the pages of her novel to life. The trials and tribulations of Henry and Eleanor, the scheming of their children, and the brutality of medieval life, are all played out to tremendous effect. Whoever said that fact is more interesting than fiction would be blown away with Penman's novels. I can highly recommend them all. In fact do not start with this book, but with its predecessors, When Christ and His Saints Slept and the brilliant Time and Chance. All Penman novels are five star winners...
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 October 2008
Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine thought they had it all - the greatest empire since Charlemagne, healthy children including the heir and several to spare - so how did it all go so wrong? The Devil's Brood takes up the story where Time and Chance left off with the murder of Thomas Becket, as Henry returns from his self imposed exile to Ireland. Henry's three eldest sons are chafing at the bit to have lands and power of their own and egged on by Louis of France they join with their mother Eleanor in rebellion against their father. In time Henry quells the rebellion and forgives his sons, but he cannot forgive his wife and queen and he imprisons her. Even though Henry forgave his sons, they are still not happy with his generosity and it eventually leads to more power struggles and back-biting amongst the brothers, particularly young Hal, who suffers the ultimate punishment for his reckless deeds.

This was a fascinating story of a brilliant, powerful king whose blind love and trust in his sons lead him to making mistakes in judgment that eventually lead to his downfall. I also loved seeing a different side of the haughty, queenly Eleanor we saw in Time and Chance, as unlike her sons she does come to recognize the wrongness (well sometimes) of her actions and the cataclysmic effects those actions had on her family. Some readers may find the first part of this book a bit slow paced as Penman does spend time setting up the back history of Henry, Eleanor and the Becket murder, but hang in there as about half way through when the boys start turning on each other the pages literally started flying. Penman's dialogue was exceptional, although I couldn't decide who got the best lines, Henry or Richard - they just smoked off the page!

One of Penman's great strengths is to take the most complex political situations and put them into a story that not only entertains the reader but educates at the same time. Five stars and it appears from the author's notes and a recent blog interview that this will not be a trilogy, she will continue the story of Eleanor, Richard and John in one more book. Hurray!

For those of you coming away from this book wanting to know about William Marshal, I highly recommend Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight: The Story of William Marshal and The Scarlet Lion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 June 2015
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

I'm seeing Richard I of England in whole new light and it's as dim as a gutting candle . . . but I digress. Richard is a product of his time and that time was dark and disturbing.

Ms. Penman once again makes medieval life and history as palpable as what we see on the news today, the persons as real, whole and flawed as ourselves - separated by a thousand years. "Devil's Brood" concludes the story of Henry II of England and his queen Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine and concentrates on the ill-fated rebellions of Henry and Eleanor's sons, The young king Hal, crowned during his father's lifetime as a surety of succession, Richard, Geoffrey and John. The rebellion is sanctioned by Eleanor who is tired of being seen as merely Henry's queen and not as a duchess in her own right with power and intellect in a man's world. A few of the mythic causes of that rebellion are swept away in Ms. Penman's meticulously researched book, leaning on fact.

Henry is arguably one of England's greatest rulers but he failed miserably as a father to his children, especially his boys - four spoiled, willful and vengeful brats in my opinion, Geoffrey being the most sympathetic. Hal, the eldest, is a 'celebutante' of his day - handsome, popular, free with favor and money, but weak as a commander and ruler, easily swayed by hangers-on. Geoffrey is the son in the middle: overlooked, underappreciated but cold and calculating and turning when the wind blows in his favor. John is a boy learning from his older brothers and gets a lesson in mistrust and treachery. Richard is just downright scary. Sorry if you, dear Reader, hold the historical legend that he was a champion of the weak, poor, downtrodden - nope, that was Robin Hood.

Richard is portrayed here as cold, calculating, mean, bloodless while suffering bloodlust as he hacks and stabs his way through Normandy, Poitou, Anjou, Maine and Aquitaine. All of the sons have plenty considering the times, it's just that they want their father's trust and attention and more lands and castles, but everyone goes after that trust and attention in all the wrong way. If you're expecting the witty banter and political savvy of that outstanding play, "The Lion in Winter," you're in for a surprise. This is real, gritty, poignant and outstanding. This is a medieval reality show, Plotting with the Plantagenets - a family that put the capital 'D' in Dysfunctional.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2009
I've read all of Sharon Penman's books, and think she is a superb writer. I think reading her novels is the closest anyone will ever come to time travel, it honestly makes you feel your back in the same period as all the people you're reading about. The conversations are very natural, the characters realistic and always believable and you can usually rely on the historical content to be fact, rather than a figment of the author's imagination.
The Devil's Brood is a sad tale in many ways, as this is where Henry II's family starts to disintegrate and his wife and sons turn against him, for what they considered to be very good reasons. This isn't my favourite Penman novel and I feel it was bit too long, but it was still an excellent read and I came away a lot more knowledgeable about the life and times of Henry and his family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2009
I've been a huge Penman fan since my teens and my first encounter with "The Sunne in Splendour" - this latest novel does not disappoint.

Penman brings the latter stages of the turbulent marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine to life with vigour and sensitivity. Penman's characterisiation of Eleanor is fascinating. Eleanor is evoked as an imperious queen and duchess, a passionate wife and mother, and a complex woman. I'm intrigued to know what a real Medieval scholar would make of Penman's Eleanor but for me she stands out as the most interesting woman ever to be a Queen of England.

I've always enjoyed Penman's historical novels far more than the medieval mysteries. If you've ever lost quite a few hours of your life with Jean Plaidy, Anya Seton, C.J. Sansom or Patricia Finney then you will love "Devil's Brood".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2009
An outstanding finale to the story of Henry II, his queen, the (in)famous Eleanor of Aquataine and their offspring. This was a long awaited novel, which in my opinion far outweighs in terms of quality and readability, Mrs Penmans tudor murder mystery novels, enjoyable though they were.

For those readers where history is not their main joy this novel may still be enjoyed for the romance, intrigue and drama that unfolds within in it. Whilst a superb novel in its own right, it may be best enjoyed as the finale to Penman's Eleanor trilogy.

I can only hope that this story may be continued as Mrs Penman has indicated she might through the lives of Richard and John.
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on 24 October 2013
No-one is better than Penman for bringing history vividly to life. The brutal, alien landscape of the twelfth century has never seemed so real. The hopes, dreams, fears and beliefs which held medieval people in their thrall - alien to us - are captured brilliantly in the pages of a Penman novel.

Devil's Brood tells the story of the aging King Henry II through the latter years of his reign.

The most powerful ruler in Christendom, Henry - a classic tragic hero - is doomed to fall when his four discontented sons - the Devil's Brood of the title - turn against him. Such wonderful characters - the irresponsible heir, Hal, humorless, bloodthirsty Richard, Geoffrey - scheming, clever and calculating - and the silent Johnny whom everyone overlooks. And what of Henry's formidable wife Eleanor of Aquitaine? Who will she side with - unfaithful husband or ambitious sons? The Windsors, with their sordid infighting, could learn a thing or two from their Plantagenet forebears!

The book has too many flaws to be worth more than three stars: far too many minor characters, unnecessary backstory and overly detailed and repetitive. I also felt it lacked the passion of Penman's greatest novels, so not her best by any means. But a decent read nevertheless. I particularly applaud the way Penman has shattered the many myths surrounding Henry and Eleanor - these are very, very different characters from the ones you usually meet in film and book. They're almost cuddly!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2009
Having begun reading Sharon Penman books long ago with Here Be Dragons, I have been eagerly awaiting the book to tie her series together. It was quite a wait, but I wasn't disappointed! Completely up to her usual excellent standards, Devil's Brood is replete with accurate historical detail, fantastic action and compelling characters. I was relieved to find that this won't be her last book on the Plantagenet dynasty.
Recommended for anyone interested in this period of history or anyone who likes their historical romance to have an authentic flavour.
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on 25 February 2014
The Devil's Brood is the last in the trilogy of Eleanor of Aquitaine and as usual I hated getting to the last page. Sharon Penman brings the Plantagenet's to life and I love the way she always stick very closely to the facts that are known. It ends with Richard becomes King and Eleanor is once again free after 16 years. Although it does show her 'imprisonment' wasn't all 'water and dry bread'. The first two years were not pleasant but after that it seems that Eleanor and Henry became friends again, but he could never completely trust her again for turning his sons against him, but he could never see that it was his fault. Towards the end of the book Eleanor says that people will never forget either of them and it is so true. Here we are all these hundreds of years later, and people are still fascinated by them. The natural next book is 'Lionheart' which I have read three times already, but am reading it again so that I can read 'Ransom' with all the Angevins clear in my head. Sharon Penman has said that is her final book about this very dysfunctional family and I, for one, will miss her - but with five books, I can always relive the experience time and time again
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