Devil’s Brood – Book Review

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.

Buy this book on Amazon.

17 comments to Devil’s Brood – Book Review

  • Thanks for the review!

  • Oh, you should go back and read the first two. They add a layer of depth to this one you wouldn’t experience otherwise, in my opinion. The first one, When Christ and His Saints Slept, is the better one; great historical fiction focusing on a crazy but little-fictionalized period of English history.

    This one also felt much slower than either of the previous two books. I didn’t mind, but it felt significantly longer.

  • Meghan, I definitely plan on it. I’m glad I had already read “Courts of Love” by Plaidy, which is all from Eleanor’s perspective, from her childhood in Aquitaine to Richard’s capture as king, so I had a good background for everything that happened, but I’m sure reading Penman’s own books would bring this book together more, especially around many of Henry’s ‘friends’ and relatives.

  • I’m about 2/3 of the way through it and, like most of Penman’s books, it’s very good.

  • tracy

    I have it but didn’t pick it up because I thought I would have to read the others first, but I’m glad to see your review and the fact you can read it without reading the others. It’s so long though:)

  • I’ve heard such great things about Penman, and I love that kind of historical fiction. I really should pick her stuff up soon. Great review!

  • I really want to read this. But it sounds as if I should start from the beginning!

  • Nicole,
    If you don’t know any of the history, it definitely might help to start from the beginning, but you could possibly get enough to just read Devil’s Brood with a look through wikipedia and perhaps a short summary history of Henry II’s rule.

  • lindymc

    I’ve ordered this book and am impatiently awaiting its arrival. I always appreciate an author’s note at the end of a book, to know what’s really what, and who was real, who was fictional. Having already read the first two books of the trilogy, I’m more than ready for Devil’s Brood.

  • I love historical fiction especially when it is set in England. This sounds good. :)

  • I’ve never been a big fan of historical fiction but lately I’ve been reading some for book clubs and I’ve enjoyed them all. I was pleasantly surprised! This book sounds like one of those surprises. Usually with a series I try to start from the beginning so I will have to check into the other two as well. This is a great site and I’ve been looking at it for inspiration as I set up my new blog (that I have no clue how to do). You have such good reviews and fun contests. Thanks for your help!


  • I can’t read books out of order, so even though I am mega excited to have a new Penman book I won’t be reading it for a while! I still have to read Time and Chance. The irony of that is, I didn’t read Time and Chance when I first got it because I wanted to save it until closer the release date of Devil’s Brood!!

    Sometimes my logic (or lack of) astounds me!

  • michelle

    I am a huge fan of Sharon Penman and have read all her books. Devil’s Brood is fantastic, and I hated for it to end. This is one writer who really makes history come alive. She makes me believe that it really could have been like this, and these are real flesh and blood people. It doesn’t matter that they lived and died 800 years ago! Now we have to patiently wait for the next book from this gifted writer. Sigh…..

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  • […] loved “The Sunne in Splendor” and Ms. Penman is now 2 for 2 with me (”The Devil’s Brood” was also fantastic), so I will be actively seeking out basically everything else she’s […]

  • […] This is the fourth book in the Devil’s Brood series. This review does not contain spoilers for the previous book, beyond the actual history. I have previously reviewed the third book, The Devil’s Brood. […]