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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penman outdoes herself in this one
I don't think it's any secret that I'm a huge Penman fan (or Penmenian as my good friend J calls it), and I was thrilled to spot this on the Vine newsletter and get an early shot at it.

This is a difficult book to review, since those who are familiar with Richard's history don't need another rehash, and those fresh to the story don't need me spilling the beans...
Published 7 months ago by Misfit

versus
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Typos galore in Kindle edition
I always like Sharon Penman books so the printed version would earn 5 stars. But if you buy the Kindle edition be prepared for loads of infuriating typos, e.g. 'asking' instead of 'as king' or 'he in rich' instead of 'Heinrich' which you won't expect in the printed version. I say don't buy it until they either drop the price to 50 p or they sort out their proof...
Published 6 months ago by Prof Toby J Sherwin


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penman outdoes herself in this one, 18 Mar 2014
By 
Misfit (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A King's Ransom (Hardcover)
I don't think it's any secret that I'm a huge Penman fan (or Penmenian as my good friend J calls it), and I was thrilled to spot this on the Vine newsletter and get an early shot at it.

This is a difficult book to review, since those who are familiar with Richard's history don't need another rehash, and those fresh to the story don't need me spilling the beans. And trust me, there are plenty of surprises to be had, even for those who think they know about Richard being held hostage and his troubles with the French king and his younger brother John.

That pretty much leaves me to discussing MY reading experience, and all I can say is WOW. I was gripped on the first pages with the cat and mouse came of getting home from crusade and trying to avoid the snares set to capture him. While I was aware that Richard had spent time in Germany as a hostage, there was much more to the story, and I was fascinated watching how that experience changed him and how he interacted with others in his life, especially his marriage to Berengeria. I loved his sarcastic nature (he gets some of the best dialogue!) when it was directed towards younger brother John and Philippe Capet (the French king). And speaking of Richard's younger brother John, some of my favorite moments were the family Christmas celebrations and watching him trolling the room for gossip and mischief. I so wish I could quote some of it. It doesn't get better than that.

While this book is a follow up to Lionheart, IMHO it can be read as a stand-alone, and another thumbs up to the author for getting the reader up to speed on previous events without the use of tedious info dumps. I also appreciated how Raimond was used to get the reader up to speed with the Cathar religion, and why the Catholic church was so set against it. There is a fairly large cast of characters (my copy had a reference sheet at the front), and I recommend using it. My knowledge of the Holy Roman Empire is pretty poor, and I did need some help trying to keep track of some of the minor players, especially when the names were similar. Once things moved back to Normandy and Richard's efforts to regain the lands he'd lost, I was hooked until the very last pages. These are strictly my opinions I'm expressing, but I didn't see Richard as a glorified, romantic hero. I found this to be a very well-rounded, fair look at a very complicated man and king.

As for the ending? Knowing Richard's history there were things I knew would happen and was prepared for - and I can't say more - but I will say that I have not had to put a book down and have a good cry since I read The Reckoning, the last in her Welsh trilogy.

It may be only early February, but I'm still willing to call this one of the best reads I'll have all year. One final note, if you are torn between purchasing the physical book over a digital version, I'd recommend the latter. The book is a huge doorstopper, and my dodgy elbow took a beating trying to hold it up. Plus the cat was a bit put out - book and cat could not fit on the lap at the same time, and the little darling does so like her lap time.

My copy obtained via Amazon Vine, US.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another chronicle: admirable, but a bit of a slog, 3 April 2014
By 
Bookwoman - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A King's Ransom (Kindle Edition)
Every reviewer so far has given this latest instalment in Sharon Penman's mighty Plantagenet saga five stars, and I can understand why. This is an author in a league of her own.
She's been my favourite historical novelist from the moment I came across Here be Dragons in the library and raced through it over a lost weekend. But ever since the follow-up to the magnificent When Christ and His Saints Slept (Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy 1), she's been writing a different sort of book. In previous reviews I've called them fictional chronicles, and I have to admit that I find them a bit of a slog.
Her novels were always weighty but never dull. She managed to re-create and interpret historical events intelligently and in meticulous detail, while telling a hugely entertaining tale: the backgrounds may have been sweeping, but the individual stories were personal and touching. The icing on the cake was her creation of some of the most vivid characters in historical fiction - a romantic view of their emotions and relationships, perhaps, but always believable, and totally compelling.
Nowadays, her determination to give us an exhaustive account of every event is admirable, but it's at the expense of things like structure, drama and empathy. Although she still rises to the occasion when necessary - Richard's trial at Speyer is a dramatic highlight, and her deathbed scenes rarely leave me dry-eyed - there's far too much clunky and repetitive exposition.
In order to complete Richard's story she's had to double back on herself and repeat some scenes from Here Be Dragons, and comparing the two serves to highlight how her priorities have changed. You can even see the difference if you flip through the two books: all that dense prose - where has all the dialogue gone?
There's far too much of this sort of thing:
"Leopold's younger brother Heinrich was introduced to Richard as the Duke of Modling, a duchy he'd not even heard of, but Leopold's teenage nephew Ulrich stirred some unpleasant memories of Freisach, for he was the Duke of Carinthia, a region Richard hoped never to have to see again. The other guests included Leopold's cousin Adalbert, the Archbishop of Salzburg, Dietrich, the bishop of Gurk, and the Cistercian abbots of Stift Zwettl, which had been founded by Hadmar's father, and Stift Heiligenkreuz ... "
Maybe I could have forgiven her for such dogged thoroughness, if only she'd brought Richard I to life for me like she did the soldier kings in her previous books, from his father Henry to Richard III. She tells us everything he did and it all makes perfect sense, but, like his relationships with his wife, friends and mother, it's all rather repetitive and perfunctory. The minor characters fare even less well: it's hard to distinguish between all those German knights, for example, and her neglect of the fictional Morgan, son of our old friend Ranulf, borders on the criminal. (Though the fleeting glimpse of two characters from her 'Queen's Man' mystery series is rather neat).
What drama the book contains is over by the time Richard is freed from his imprisonment: for me, the following five years of endless sieges and peace talks all started to merge into one. Granted, his deathbed scene is done very well, but then the book peters out like a Hollywood film with several false endings - and what a mawkish final scene for the great Eleanor of Aquitaine!
All this reads as if I didn't enjoy this book, and I did, though admired is probably a better word. I can't give it less than four stars, but once again I'm left feeling disappointed - I just can't forget her earlier work, which set the bar so highly. I'll probably continue to buy her books as soon as they come out, but I don't think I'll be wearing them to shreds like I did The Sunne in Splendour.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Sequel to Lionheart, 14 May 2014
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A King's Ransom (Hardcover)
A book by Sharon Penman is always eagerly looked forward to, at least by me and a myriad of other readers. The author's books are up there with the best historical fiction writers of today. If however, you are expecting a couple of hundred pages and a lightweight or easy reading storyline then Sharon Penman is probably not the author for you. Most of her books are heavyweight (in volume, not in content), as in this book, that runs to several hundred pages and is the sequel to the excellent Lionheart

Sharon Penman's attention, not only to detail, but also to historical accuracy is as good as anyone writing today. She has the ability to bring the period of history she is writing about to life for the reader. At the same time she writes in a style that is never boring. No long passages, or chapters that could safely be left out of the book without the story suffering. Everything in the book is there for a reason, to add to the enjoyment of the reader. A style that some lesser author's could learn from.

This book concentrates on the protracted return of the Lionheart from the Holy Land, becoming shipwrecked in the Mediterranean and his subsequent capture by the Duke of Austria. Further to his incarceration his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine begins to raise the ransom needed for Richard's release, with little or no help from her younger son, the infamous John. The English people in general are loathe to part with the taxes being raised to free a King who has barely set foot on English soil during his reign. Eleanor will not be denied and moves heaven and earth to free her favourite son.

The story is a well documented one, and has been told many times, but rarely with the aplomb shown by the author. A terrific read, and one that should not be missed by all those who love historical fiction.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Typos galore in Kindle edition, 13 April 2014
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This review is from: A King's Ransom (Kindle Edition)
I always like Sharon Penman books so the printed version would earn 5 stars. But if you buy the Kindle edition be prepared for loads of infuriating typos, e.g. 'asking' instead of 'as king' or 'he in rich' instead of 'Heinrich' which you won't expect in the printed version. I say don't buy it until they either drop the price to 50 p or they sort out their proof reading. This experience has put me off high price Kindle books.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful piece of historical fiction, 28 Jun 2014
By 
This review is from: A King's Ransom (Hardcover)
This is an astounding piece of historical fiction that tells the story of Richard the Lionheart's later life. Well known for his prowess on the battlefield and his exceptional command of his men during the Third Crusade, this novel however is the portrait of the man himself and not a glorified heroic tale. Sharon Kay Penman's extensive research gives the reader a chance to meet Richard the living, breathing man--as human as any one of us--and not the Crusader King. I think in many ways this is the pinpointed reason as to why I loved this novel so much.
Richard's character portrayal allows the reader to see what kind of man the Lionheart was in his personal life as well as his public life. His time spent as a captive in Germany drastically changed him and this theme plays throughout the novel. The reader is taken on a journey through the last seven years of Richard's life and we are shown how he dealt with rebel uprisings and political maneuvering whilst exploring his relationships with those around him. The dynamic between him and his mother Eleanor was particularly interesting, as was his willingness to forgive his brother John for his disloyalty during his captivity. The relationship with his wife is generally well-known to have been an estranged one and yet Ms. Penman delves even further into it than this by highlighting the plausible reasons behind such estrangement. She is an impeccable historical novelist in both her research and her writing abilities.
Never before have I read an author's note that demonstrated as much extensive research as the one following this novel. Almost every character is accounted for in her afterword and every iota of information whose historical accuracy could be challenged is discussed in detail by the author. She gives her reasoning behind each decision she made and her arguments are sound. There is no doubt that Ms. Penman takes the factual accuracy of her work very seriously.
This is not to say that the story-telling aspect of her novel has been sacrificed in order to stay factually sound. Not at all. Firstly, Richard's life itself is full of dramatic events that warrant reading about and secondly Ms. Penman is a master wordsmith. Her ability to depict sights, smells and sounds is wonderful, as is her attention to the minute details that take a character from flat on the page to an actual person that can be related to and cared for. Testament to this is how I felt when I finished the book. A sense of loss for the people that I had come to know so well, and yet glad that I was given the opportunity to know them. How wonderful that they will always be right there on my bookshelf waiting for me to approach them again.
Thank-you Ms. Penman for a wonderful reading experience!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dieu et mon droit!, 28 May 2014
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A King's Ransom (Hardcover)
"Dieu et mon droit!" ‒ battle cry of Richard I at the Battle of Gisors (God and My Right!)

Several weeks ago, I finished Sharon Penman's Lionheart, the first of a pair of historical novels about King Richard I of England, at 577 pages. Now, here's A KING'S RANSOM at 665 pages. And the author originally intended it to be a single volume! Could there be a Cliff Notes edition, I wonder?

But, it's all good stuff, especially if you're a student of Henry II and his family by Eleanor of Aquitaine.

LIONHEART follows Richard as he battles Saladin along the length of the Holy Land during the Third Crusade. Despite the English king's failure to recapture Jerusalem, I have to conclude after finishing both books ‒ as perhaps did Penman ‒ that LIONHEART was Richard's finest hour. In A KING'S RANSOM, the Lionheart returns to his kingdom to continue his ongoing territorial battles with King Philip II of France, but not until after having been captured and held for an enormous ransom by the not-so-holy Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VI, during which time the opportunistic French monarch repossessed many of Richard's continental holdings.

In short, the fun was over for Richard upon embarking on the boat home from the Holy Land (if "fun" is defined as earning a lasting glory while fighting a gallant and noble foe). Richard spent the rest of his life, before dying a miserable and needless death in April 1199, having to constantly cope with treacherous and ignoble adversaries; he knew no peace, apparently.

Perhaps the main task for the author, as part of writing a historically accurate account of Richard's last years, was how to depict Berengaria of Navarre, the Spanish princess Richard married on his way to the Holy Land. The marriage, as portrayed in LIONHEART, started off well enough. But, once Richard returned to England in March 1194, the match deteriorated for no reasons known to historians. (See my review of Berengaria : In Search of Richard the Lionheart's Queen.) Certainly, the two had no children. But, beyond that obvious fact, Penman had to write ... well, something. As I stated in my review of LIONHEART, the author's restraint in not unduly embellishing Berengaria's character ‒ a restraint carried over into A KING'S RANSOM ‒ established for me the apparent accuracy of her portrayal of Berengaria's husband as based on contemporary sources. (See the Author's Note at the end of both volumes.) Berengaria was my mine canary for detecting fictional nonsense.

Reluctantly, I must award only 4 stars to A KING'S RANSOM. It's lengthened with a lot of filler about the fortunes of Richard's sister, Queen Joanna of Sicily, who, in the first book, becomes widowed from her husband, the King of Sicily, and is then held hostage by a usurper successor. Richard, of course, rescues her on his way to the Holy Land. As a student of Henry II and his family by Eleanor ‒ five sons and three daughters, I suppose I shouldn't complain by the inclusion of anything about Joanna, but it was just too much in a book ostensibly about Richard; at some point it became ever so slightly tedious. Joanna deserved a book of her own, but it's too late now as the spoilers in her story have already been shared.

At the end of A KING'S RANSOM, Penman state's that she's done with the Angevins. That's too bad. As unlikable and incompetent a monarch as Richard's successor, his youngest brother John, proved to be, the latter's character was interesting enough to warrant the author's attention.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A King's Ransom by Sharon Penman, 24 May 2014
This review is from: A King's Ransom (Hardcover)
When read Sharon Penman’s Lionheart it was with the hope that Lionheart would grip me as much as The Sunne in Splendour. Unfortunately, due to the slow pace I had to force myself to finish reading Lionheart. Neverthless, although – in parts – Lionheart read like non-fiction I decided to read A King’s Ransom bedcause I am interested in Richard the Lionheart.

A King’s Ransom proceeds at a faster pace than A King’s Ransom in which Richard is more than a cardboard character than he was in Lionheart.

Sharon Penman is to be congratulated on her meticulous research but, in parts of the novel, less might make the book more interesting, after all, her readers chose to read fiction – not non-fiction.

One of the strengths in A King’s Ransom is the skilful depiction of Richard’s mother, the famous, Alienor of Aquitaine and his sister, Joanne and her marriage to Raimond, through whom we understand the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude toward Cathars.

Sharon Penman’s depiction of ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ is believable and the historical background is masterly or perhaps I should say ‘mistressly’.

The introduction of the ghost of Richard’s father and later Richard’s ghost, which I enjoyed, added a fictional, paranomal twist to the factual nature of the novel.

Berengaria, Richard’s neglected queen, is the character for whom I experienced the greatest sympathy, and can only speculate that Richard suffered from post traumatic syndrome after his captivity which made it impossible for him to resume normal marital relations.

I did not struggle as hard with A King’s Ransom as I did with Lionheart and admit the sentimental ending brought tears to my eyes.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful and unput downable, 5 May 2014
By 
Enid F. Jones - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A King's Ransom (Kindle Edition)
This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in Richard,Eleanor and the Angevins.
Ms Penman brings all her characters to life and her historical accuracy means that there are no irritating niggles. I had . Not realised just how bad Richard's confinement was and I think her explanation for the estrangement between Richard and Bavaria is a very likely one.
TO get maximum enjoyment read Lionheart first. Another wonderful book.
This is a fantastic book, long awaited. What a great shame it is the last in the series.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A King's Ransom, 17 April 2014
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This brilliant book is the follow up to ‘Lionheart ‘and it is compelling. I’m a fan of Ms Penman’s writing, have read all of her books but I was initially dubious about the two parter that is Lionheart and Kings Ransom because I didn’t think there was much more to say about Richard l. I was wrong, as Sharon Kay Penman transported me to the 12th century and, for me, the sequel to Lionheart is even better than Lionheart itself.
Perhaps that is because we get a real sense of Richard the man, because I didn't expect to be so emotionally invested in the book. The author has taken great care to ensure that the reader can identify with the leading characters, and she shows us the real Richard in all his complexity. All the scenes she creates are wide-ranging, full of detail, and they are believable. And the characters are likewise.
Richard's story from leaving the Holy Land until his death is action packed, but it is, too, emotional and this is brought out to fine effect. It’s been one of those rare books that I have found it difficult to put down. Even knowing the history, I have been eager to find out what happens to the characters, because- and this has been a surprise- I have come to care about them. There were things I knew would happen and was prepared for but Penman made me cry over her masterly handling of Richard’s death. I don;t cry over books- it showed me just how 'real' she had made this long dead King.

A magnificent book and a wonderful read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet again Sharon Penman has not disappointed, 28 Mar 2014
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This review is from: A King's Ransom (Kindle Edition)
Another excellent novel from Penman, bringing together so many characters we already know and love because of her wonderful writing. It's so hard to get on with daily activities when this book is was burning on my kindle, screaming out to 'read me'. I couldn't put it down, which has been the same with all her books previously. i cannot wait now till next week when the next in the series of 'The Queen's Man' is released and I can learn all about the story all over again from Justin's view point. Oh the joy of having two Sharon Penman releases within a month of each other. I'm so excited, I will not sleep.
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A King's Ransom
A King's Ransom by Sharon Penman
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