Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
This is the third book in Penman’s series of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. “Devil’s Brood” picks up shortly after the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett. At this point, Henry and Eleanor’s four sons are beginning to near adulthood and they want to begin to wield power of their own over the lands of their inheritance. Henry’s reluctance to allow his boys any freedom would lead to unceasing family strife.
For those of you asking ‘Henry and Ele-who?,’ two of the four sons are King Richard the Lionheart and Prince John, of Robin Hood fame. The title “Devil’s Brood” comes both from the terrible time Henry had with his sons, as well as the Angevin origins myth that one of the Angevin ancestors married and had children with a devil-woman.
“Devil’s Brood” is really a sweeping epic of a book. With an omniscient narrator, the reader gets an almost overwhelming amount of knowledge about what is going on where and with whom, little ever comes as a surprise. While the book was extremely long, it didn’t seem over-written or boring. Really, how can such a dramatic (and true!) tale of betrayal, attempted fratricide, kidnap, war, and more be boring? I appreciate that Penman doesn’t try to ‘spice up’ the story but instead stays true to the research she finds most credible. I also love the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end, both explaining her research and clarifying some points that might surprise those who read stories of Henry II and Richard I from the middle of last century.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction of English Kings and Queens, I would guess that you will like this book. Now I’m looking forward to going back and reading the earlier two books in the series.