Rachael Pruitt's Reviews > Lionheart

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
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Aug 16, 13

Read from March 02, 2012 to August 16, 2013

Sharon Kay Penman's "Lionheart" has already received numerous 4 & 5 star reviews. I will add to the chorus only because I simply believe Ms. Penman deserves recognition not only for illuminating a complex and brutal time period but for truly breathing life into some of the most famous, confusing, and misunderstood medieval historical rulers under the European sun. Although "Lionheart" is specifically focused on the famous King Richard and although Penman does a masterful job of bringing him alive in all his complexity, I still adore her perception of Eleanor of Acquitaine most of all. Sharon's portrayal of this unique, shrewd, charismatic Queen always has me applauding! (For those of you as enthralled with Eleanor as I am, check out "Devil's Brood" and Sharon's other previous "Eleanor" novels.)

Likewise Penman's ability to bring the battles of Richard's crusade alive--without being redundant and/or tedious is excellent, as is her ability to capture soldier's dialogue & bitter humor.

To me, Penman also shares three additional key strengths with readers of "Lionheart". First, her wonderful portrayal of Saladin's brother--and of Saladin himself--enriches her novel greatly and sets it apart from many other medieval novels set in the same time period that give minimal or no attention whatsoever to the Arabic inhabitants of the so-called "Holy Land" that European Christians were so busy invading. Second, in "Lionheart" as well as in Sharon's other novels (including her wonderful medieval mystery series starring Justin de Quincy--hope I've got the name right!), Sharon really shines when she is creating fictional characters to offset historical ones. Her subplots in "Lionheart" are peopled with these characters from her own imagination &, it is often they, and not the ones who made the history books that engage my emotions most deeply. Third, Penman's sensitivity to the anti-Semitism of the time period, including the horror of the pogroms in York, is neatly woven into the opening of "Lionheart". Again this awareness enriches "Lionheart's" narrative--and is often overlooked by other authors.

So, all in all, kudos to Ms. Penman! I look forward to her next novel which will follow Richard into his kidnapping and captivity in Europe...a humbling experience for such a proud king...

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Reading Progress

08/16/2013 marked as: read

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