17 June, 2014

Book Review: A King's Ransom

From Goodreads:
This long-anticipated sequel to the national bestseller Lionheart is a vivid and heart-wrenching story of the last event-filled years in the life of Richard, Coeur de Lion. Taken captive by the Holy Roman Emperor while en route home—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—he was to spend fifteen months chained in a dungeon while Eleanor of Aquitaine moved heaven and earth to raise the exorbitant ransom. But a further humiliation awaited him: he was forced to kneel and swear fealty to his bitter enemy.
For the five years remaining to him, betrayals, intrigues, wars, and illness were ever present. So were his infidelities, perhaps a pattern set by his father’s faithlessness to Eleanor. But the courage, compassion, and intelligence of this warrior king became the stuff of legend, and A King’s Ransom brings the man and his world fully and powerfully alive.

Thoughts: It's a bit difficult being a Penman fan - it's a long time between books. But they are worth waiting for. A King's Ransom follows on from Lionheart, following King Richard through his captivity in Germany and his bitter feud with the French King. There really were some not nice people around in the 1100's! It can be hard to review historical novels. Those who know the story don't need a rehash and those who don't won't want it spoiled. So, all I will say is that Penman writes brilliant, well researched, entertaining books. If you are after historical fiction that sticks close to the facts, but is easy to read, Penman is the author for you. Her characters come alive for the reader and her depth of knowledge is incredible. They are not short books (Ransom runs to 700+ pages) but they are compelling.
Penman also writes good, strong female characters. In this, history is on her side as she is able to take a few more liberties with the women than with the men as there is often not many records pertaining to the women. A brief glance a history is enough to tell you  Eleanor of Aquitaine was a formidable woman and not one to be messed with. Ransom sees the end of Eleanor's story, that Penman started with When Christ and His Saints Slept. I will freely admit I cried when she died. I'm not sure I would have liked her in real life, but my goodness you have to admire her.
After every read of a new Penman book I contemplate the rereading of all of her stuff. I strongly urge anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially involving the kings and queens of England, to give her a go. I promise you won't be disappointed.