Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman – Book Review

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
Published by Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin

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.

In her latest work of epic historical fiction, Lionheart, Sharon Kay Penman explores the reign of Richard I, Richard Coeur de Lion. In particular, Penman focuses on Richard as Crusader-King.

Penman is a true master of historical fiction. There is a lot of repetition in the story of the Third Crusade, falling back, advancing, gaining cities and losing them again, Richard riding out with seeming disregard for his personal safety. And yet, Lionheart is a book I didn’t want to stop reading, despite its being 600 pages long. Penman’s strength is in bringing her historical characters vividly to life, without changing their stories or personalities for dramatic effect.

Part of what makes Lionheart so compelling is Penman’s narrator, using the third personal intimate voice, switching not only between Richard and some of his men, but also between his sister Joanna and his wife Berengaria.  The women and their retinue – unconventionally following the men on the Crusade, as did Joanna and Richard’s mother Eleanor when she was married to the French king – lent some relief what might have otherwise been a bleak and seemingly endless campaign, bringing humanity to the proceedings in Richard’s camp.

Lionheart is another extremely strong showing from Sharon Kay Penman, and a fascinating look at Richard the Lionheart, Crusader King. The only real negative to reading something by Penman is that it reminds you that she has so many other fabulous (but long!) books that you haven’t read it, thereby stalling your entire TBR list. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes – Book Review

The Passionate Brood: A Novel of Richard the Lionheart and the Man Who Became Robin Hood by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Published by Sourcebooks

After Henry VIII, Richard I, otherwise known as Richard Coeur de Lion or Richard the Lionheart, is probably one of England’s best known kings. Perhaps this notoriety derives from his snappy nickname and his association with the Crusades, but I would argue that a large part as well comes from his reign being the background of the legend of Robin Hood. In “The Passionate Brood,” Campbell Barnes combines historical fiction of Richard’s life – from before the death of his older brother and father until his own death – with the the Robin Hood legend. In this version, Robin is the son of Hodierna, the Plantagenet nursemaid, and Richard’s own best friend and foster brother until he regretfully declines to join Richard on his crusade and is outlawed by the passionate king.

“You got legend in my historical fiction!”
“You got historical fiction in my legend!”
Two great genres, better together!

Sorry, that’s out of my system now.

Anyway, I really enjoyed how Barnes worked the legend of Robin Hood realistically into Richard’s reign. It all made sense and flowed completely naturally from both Richard and Robin’s characters. I think the historical legend/fantasy is always that which is well-integrated into solid history.

That being said, i was slightly disappointed to find that Robin was really just a supporting character to Richard’s story in “The Passionate Brood.” Considering that the second half of the subtitle is “…and the Man Who Became Robin Hood” I really expected to see more of Robin’s story once the two men part ways, perhaps cut between Richard on his crusade and Robin adjusting to life as an outlaw. Instead, “The Passionate Brood” dealt more with how the memory of Robin’s character and the guilt over the mens’ estrangement worked on Richard psyche, which was still very interesting, just different than I expected.

Well written an interesting, I can definitely recommend Margaret Campbell Barnes’ “The Passionate Brood.”

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.