Lionheart Hardcover – 29 Mar 2012
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"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 of "Elizabeth I: A Novel"
The epic story of heroic yet controversial Richard the Lionheart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Instead this is a comprehensive re-telling of the manipulations, negotiations, scheming and terrible rivalries of primarily the crusaders' side, most tellingly the conflict between Richard and Philippe of France, and the more fuzzy tensions between the Christian rulers of Outremer and their western co-religionists. At the heart of the book is Richard I: audacious, brutal when necessary, but also a gifted and charismatic leader of men.
I have to admit that Penman's Angevin series has been my least favourite of her books to date but this one is almost as good as her novel of Richard III (The Sunne in Splendour). There are some awkward quirks of narrative where big scenes are given as off-stage `messenger speeches' rather than happening in the present moment, but Penman pays so much intelligent and detailed attention to the historical sources that I can forgive this.
So this is very different from the more usual bodice-ripper form of historical fiction à la Philippa Gregory: it's dense, it's unforgivingly detailed, it makes demands on its readers - and is all the more satisfying precisely for those reasons.
This being the case, although the novel is well written as is all Penman's material, it is not up there with her best. She clearly has no great love for her leading man, and although she has tried very hard to make the reader care, it is a bit of a chore to make it through to the end without racing to the last chapter and thinking "phew, thank goodness that's over".
Diehard Penman fans will love it, but there is still a hollowness at its heart. That hollowness is Richard himself. I just didn't like him and thus didn't care. The female characters are more engaging, but overall I can recommend it only as an average read, and sadly not vintage Penman.
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Okay, it took me 4-5 months to read this but that's what happens when you have a job, a family and you try to write your own stuff too!Read more
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