Book review: Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman

Devil's Brood (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #3)Devil’s Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sharon Penman is one of my favorite authors (she ranks up there with Jane Austen and J.R.R. Tolkien) and certainly my favorite author of historical fiction. Devil’s Brood describes the internecine warfare and deteriorating family relationships of the sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. (The Plantagenets make the Kardashians look like a stable and wholesome family.)
Every good historical fiction author does impeccable research and brings to life real life characters. What this author does that is head and shoulders above the rest is to imbue each character–whether primary, secondary, or tertiary–with a sense of believability and humanity. The characters are accessible, heroic, and flawed. You come away from reading this book knowing this version of events is how history actually unfolded and that truth has emerged from the author’s pen.
For those interested in medieval British history or historical fiction in general, check out Sharon Penman’s works. The Plantagenet saga is best read in order.

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Book review: Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman

Time and Chance (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #2)Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely give 5 star ratings, but Sharon Penman’s novel on Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitane, and Thomas Becket deserves the rating and more. This is the second in the author’s Angevin series. And while I think no writer or historian can ever completely understand how the marriage between Henry and Eleanor unraveled and how the deep friendship between Henry and Thomas Becket disintegrated, Ms. Penman comes as close as possible to doing so. Her Henry is a complex man–brilliant, determined, and unable to part with any degree of power. Eleanor is equally brilliant and stubborn, but she is constrained by the medieval role for women and chafes at those bonds. Thomas Becket is a man whom Henry elevated from humble beginnings who turns his allegiance from king to God after being appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.
The backdrop is the middle ages–a time of savagery and violence but also a time of deep faith and loyalty. The author depicts the historic events in the context of its time, portraying all of her characters with clarity and yet at the same time, with understanding.
The research is impeccable (with a comprehensive Author’s Note with additional information), the characters vibrant and realistic , and throughout the book, you sense a deep understanding by the author of the subject material and fondness for the people she touches.
The only critique I can give of this book is that it ended, but I reassure myself that there are still more of her books to read!

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