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Monday, March 30, 2015

A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman



A Kings Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman















History and Historical Fiction

If you ever had the idea that history books (read textbooks & so on, thick tomes with lots of obtuse words and tons of footnotes) are invariably dull.... think again. Many of today’s great history writers be they professional historians or amateurs, write really good stuff. That are erudite and yet  fun to read. When they pack it into an exciting story like narrative, you really can’t go wrong. In my view there are two versions of this trend. Popular history and historical fiction.

Let’s start with straight history and biography. This is nonfiction based on accurate and well researched background material. The best ones tell a true story and bring  it to life. Think of authors like Steven Ambrose, David McCullough, William Manchester, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Shelby Foote and many others.

The other equally exciting development is the vast improvement in historical fiction writing. Here the authors knowledge of the subject combined with excellent writing/storytelling technique will surely get your attention. As long as the line between fiction and nonfiction is clear, I really don’t believe it to be a bad thing if that line narrows. That is IF the writing is honest and well done and IF it draws more interest in history. Check out British author Hillary Mantel for a good example.
Book Review:  A Kings Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman

.A good read I just finished was the final book A Kings Ransom  in Sharon Kay Penman’s magnificent series on the Plantagenet’s, the Norman rulers of England in the 12th to the 14th centuries. There were five books all ot them marvelous.

. When Christ And His Saints Slept (1995)

Time And Chance (2002)

Devil's Brood (2008)

Lionheart (2011)

A King's Ransom (2014)

  Penman is one the top writers of medieval historical fiction. In 
A King’s Ransom she takes us to the twelfth century and the reign of King Richard the Lionhearted. We first meet Richard, one of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s four sons, in Time and Chance.  If you’re a movie buff this the family of the classic Lion In Winter. In Lionheart, we follow the warrior King to the Holy Lands on Crusade. 

A King’s Ransom is the follow up to Lionheart and tells the story of King Richard I’s imprisonment in Germany at the hands of Duke Leopold of Austria and Emperor Heinrich VI and of his battle to win back his Kingdom from his rapacious brother John of Magna Carta fame.

Penman is both rigorous and meticulous in her research. Most importantly she brings her characters to life as few othes.  You’ll meet the real King in this book and not the historical cliché and stereotype.

  It is November 1192 when returning home from Crusade, Richard and his crew are overcome by a sudden storm, its fierce winds propelling the ship onto an unfriendly shore. Forced to make a dangerous choice, Richard finds himself in enemy territory, where he is captured—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—and handed over to the Duke of Austria. Imprisoned in the notorious fortress at Trifels, from which few ever leave alive, Richard, for the first time in his life, is helpless, while his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, moves heaven and earth to secure his release. Amid betrayals, intrigues, infidelities, wars, and illness, Richard’s courage and intelligence will become legend.  Indeed……

Perhaps one should start at the beginning in this magnificent series but then again each one can stand alone. In any case, I recommend them all.....

Since I've been invited to join the Book Review Club you're invited to stop in and take a look by clicking on the icon below....:)

 




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@Barrie Summy

7 comments:

Sarah Laurence said...

I appreciate your review since you know the genre well. My husband devoured the Mantel books so this series might appeal to him too. Thanks for the suggestion!

Barrie said...

I love all the detail in your review. You are truly an expert! Thank you for the tip that the books don't need to be read in order. That's great for people who want to focus on certain time periods. Thanks for reviewing!

Linda McLaughlin said...

One of my friends has enjoyed Penman's series as well, and another liked Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which btw is soon to hit the small screen on PBS.

Thanks for the wonderful detailed review.

Cloudbuster said...

This was such a fascinating period in British history and clearly rife for great historical investigation. I don't read enough history, sadly, but this sounds extremely appealing. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, my husband also likes historical fiction and loved the Mantel books. I will mention this.

Ellen Booraem said...

Love the Plantagenets (Lion in Winter's my all-time favorite movie), so this series seems like it's right up my alley. And I'm a big fan of the Mantel books (counting the days to the PBS series), so if these are at all similar they're definitely for me. Thanks for telling me about them!

Bubba Muntzer said...

Hmm, a basketball coach doing book reviews. Hmm.

But it piques my interest, too, and makes me wonder why I never had a history teacher assign this kind of reading.