Nothing causes me more happy excitement than a fat historical novel by Sharon K.Penman. She has the gift of narrative. She feeds her readers a ton of...moreNothing causes me more happy excitement than a fat historical novel by Sharon K.Penman. She has the gift of narrative. She feeds her readers a ton of background, deftly mixed with the action of her story. The unsuspecting reader learns all this Medieval History without noticing, because they are so enthralled by the pace of her tale's events. Sneaky, sneaky writer!
This particular book tells us of the original "return of the King", the homeward journey, capture, captivity and ransom of Richard the Lionheart following the sad and barren end of his Crusade. It is a sequel to her previous novel Lionheart, which tells the tale of Richard's adventures on Crusade. Perhaps it would be better to call it a companion book, as it has the strength to stand on its own even if you have not read the first book. It is a hefty 600+ pages and is not a book you can gulp in one bite. That is alright with me, as Penman's prose is best taken in bites small enough to savor. We are treated to Richard's perilous sea journey, brought to a change of plan by the news that shifting European alliances have blocked his intended ports to him. Storms force his ship ashore in territory claimed by Leopold of Austria, a prince who fancies his honor has been slighted by Richard in the Holy Land. A series of mishaps land Richard and his men in captivity, transferred from the relatively straight forward and benign kidnap by Leopold into the clutches of Heinrich, the Holy Roman Emperor. Heinrich is here portrayed as a ruthless and cold blooded prince, obsessed with his own dynastic goals and desperate for money to pursue them. He is no friend to the Angevin King and is actually allied with Philippe of France, Richard's worst enemy. Richard's greatest fear is that Heinrich will sell him to Philippe.
Our viewpoint is then turned to Richard's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she struggles to keep his son on his throne and to raise the insanely large ransom demanded for the king's release. We also learn of Richard's sister Joanna, the widowed Queen of Sicily, his wife Berengaria of Navarre and a host of others whose lives are interwoven into Richard's tale. Here we have the clash of religions, the lust for power, the love of a mother, the desires of lovers and loyalty and betrayal; all of these mixed into a tasty treat for the lucky reader.
If you are fond of adventure, this has it in the large economy size. If you love suspense, this tale has a boatload. If you are a history lover, this is your meat and drink. Don't dawdle. Get this book and read it!(less)
I was very pleasantly surprised by this alternate world. I was not familiar with the author but he turned out an excellent yarn in his tale of Heron o...moreI was very pleasantly surprised by this alternate world. I was not familiar with the author but he turned out an excellent yarn in his tale of Heron of Alexandria. In this world. Heron is really a woman, Ada, making her way in the world through talents no woman is allowed to display. To be able to practice the engineering and mathematics she loves, she masquerades as her deceased brother, Heron. Unfortunately, to be Heron means that she must pay Heron's debts, which are enormous, so although she is renowned for her creations, she is entangled in debts to Lysimachus, the Alabarch.(Official Tax Collector, Guys, this fella is a Revenouer, and a totally bad man.) Lysimachus wants her to pay her debts by selling him her pubescent niece. Needless to say, Ada doesn't want to do that.
Her workshop has been assailed by a series of "accidents" which have eaten away at her reputation and her funds. She takes on two troubling clients. One is an anonymous benefactor who wants her to discover who set the calamitous fire that burned the famous Library of Alexandria. Heron discovered that too many stories existed and too little evidence, AND that someone was impeding her efforts. Who was behind this?
Her second commission was from a Northerner, a fur wearing barbarian who desired an army of mechanical soldiers and weapons. He has a lot of coin, and a lot of secrets. What did he really want? Could she trust him?
Carpenter lays out his clues smoothly and keeps his reader guessing as he immerses us in the sights and smells of Roman Alexandria. This was an exciting and entertaining read. I'll be looking for more of this author's works! (less)
Jaquetta of St. Pol, the viewpoint character of Lady of the Rivers, was up to her elegant eyebrows in most of the main events of the late 1400's. Some...moreJaquetta of St. Pol, the viewpoint character of Lady of the Rivers, was up to her elegant eyebrows in most of the main events of the late 1400's. Somewhat inexplicably, there is little written about her, and she does not always appear well in what sources we do have. Therefore, I was intrigued to see that Phillipa Gregory had chosen her as her narrator. I was pleased by her characterization of this interesting woman in interesting times. I spent a happy evening and afternoon with Jaquetta and her numerous relatives and was pleasantly entertained by their company. Therefore I was a little taken aback when I read several reviews of this book that were rather nasty. Don't get me wrong, I can and will nasty all over books that disappoint or anger me. But this was a harmless piece of romantic fiction, cotton candy for the reader who has enough gritty reality in her daily life. It was not entirely accurate but after all, fiction is by definition, NOT REAL. I don't think that I am a devoted fan of Phillipa Gregory, as I have only read three of her novels, but I do stoutly maintain that I liked this book and I think that most people who like historical romance will enjoy this.(less)
This is the eleventh adventure of Sano Ichiro and his wife Reiko. Sano is an official in the administration of the Shogun and his controlling cousin L...moreThis is the eleventh adventure of Sano Ichiro and his wife Reiko. Sano is an official in the administration of the Shogun and his controlling cousin Lord Matsudairo. Sano has the misfortune to be second only to Lord Matsudairo and this is both the source of his power and his jeopardy. Medieval Japan was a time of despots and wannabes, all ruthless, all jealous and all suspicious of their underlings. In this twisty tale, Reiko is found naked in the bedroom of perverted Lord Mori, asleep next to his mutilated corpse. Reiko denies murdering Lord Mori, but she cannot remember what really happened. Sano believes his wife and is sure that the whole thing can be traced to his political enemies, but is hampered at every step by politics, treachery and suspicion. Even his own life may be forfeit if the Shogun begins to suspect him of treason, despite his innocence. Sano and Reiko must reason and detect their way to safety by locating the real murderer. This series has immense appeal for me because of its setting in Medieval Japan. Rowland has really done her homework and her city and its officials ring true. The whole society operated as a complex set of rules, with roles for each tier of its multi-classed populace. Rowland steers us through the world of court politics, through the pleasure palaces of the entertainment quarter and in the homes of Edo's rich and poor. It is a painless history lesson along with an entertaining mystery. I heartily recommend this whole series to lovers of Japanese culture and history. All of us uppity women will love the adventures of Reiko, who refuses to accept her appointed role as a docile female. It invariably lands her in hot water, but hey, where would we get our story without her?(less)
The court of Elizabeth I was a dazzling place to be in a Europe that valued razzle-dazzle. This novel, the second in a series, features Giordano Bruno...moreThe court of Elizabeth I was a dazzling place to be in a Europe that valued razzle-dazzle. This novel, the second in a series, features Giordano Bruno as a sleuth who will discover a conspiracy to oust Elizabeth from the throne and seize power in the name of Mary Stuart. His involvement begins when he is asked by Francis Walsingham, the queen's spymaster, to investigate the death of one of the Queen's ladies. Bruno discovers that the young lady had become involved with a handsome nobleman who drew her into the plot. Clues from astrology and heraldry deepen Bruno's apprehension, but do not seem to lead him to a conclusion. He consults with his friend, Dr. John Dee, the queen's astrologer, and discovers that prophecy is almost a national sport in an England fearful of foreign invasion, and still in the throes of religious upheaval. He learns that no one and nothing is as it seems, and that if he cannot penetrate the illusions and identify the conspirators, many more will die. This is a good read, romantic, authentic and suspenseful. However, I found the exposition in the beginning to be slow and less interesting than the bulk of the book. I might have quit in the first three chapters,BUT, I'm glad I didn't. This novel stands well alone despite being part of a series. I haven't read the first one, but I will. A novel that contains Dr. Dee and Francis Walsingham, Sir Philip Sidney, Robert Leicester, Mary Queen of Scots and Gloriana has to rivet your attention.(less)
Richard Couer de Lion is probably the most awesomely romantic figure of an awesomely romantic age. The ablest commander of medieval armies, a poet, an...moreRichard Couer de Lion is probably the most awesomely romantic figure of an awesomely romantic age. The ablest commander of medieval armies, a poet, an athlete, golden in oh so many ways, he still trails cloud of glory more than 800 years later. Perhaps only a novelist as skilled as Sharon Kay Penman should be allowed to treat with his life and legend. Penman is tremendously skilled at getting to a believable portrayal of medieval figures. She makes them credible to a modern reader without falling into the error of giving them a modern world view or motivation.She has performed this magical feat in Lionheart, taking us almost bodily to Sicily, Navarre, Rome, Cyprus, and Outremer. She puts us in the company of Richard, his beautiful sister Joanna, the widowed queen of Sicily; his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine; his rival Phillipe of France; and his bride Berengaria of Navarre. We follow Richard's exploits from Sicily through the Third Crusade. Penman has done extremely thorough research and her narrative rings true. Her descriptions of battles, castles, journeys and political jockeying are well researched and well described. This is not, however, a dry historical recitation. Penman's narrative throbs with vitality. We feel the characters' hopeless loves, acid jealousy, religious longings and uncomprehending confusions. This is the juicy,chewy, real deal meal. This book is a banquet for hungry lovers of history and romance. I knew I would like it when I found it under the Christmas tree. Now that I've read it. I know that Santa loves me best.(less)