Newest Review: ... the crown. Penman paints a picture of Henry as being a King who is continuing to struggling with both the personal and political componen... more
Broken promises, shattered dreams.
Devil's Brood - Sharon Kay Penman
Member Name: Larachristina
Devil's Brood - Sharon Kay Penman
Advantages: Beautifully written, very exciting, amazing characters.
Disadvantages: I want more!
Sometimes I imagine my house is a castle. My neighbours are subjected to my tough, but fair rule. I give out alms to the poor, and i have even founded a leper hospital, over in the village beyond the playground.
Sometimes, people try to attack my castle. Fortunately, I have fantastic military skills. I usually send my Welsh long-bowers out before me, and they usually thin the numbers of the opposition. If that fails, I climb upon my trusty steed, and advance, with my sword in one hand, and my shield on the other.
On the field, I am a fair opponent. I only kill if needs must. Otherwise I capture my opponents, and hostage them, picking up a hefty ransom for their safety.
Well. All of that would be true, if I lived in 12Th century England.
Although, actually, I live just over the border in Wales, so I would in all probability wield a longbow myself, and live in a tree.
Who is Sharon Penman?
Sharon Penman is, in my humble opinion, is the most exciting, most entertaining and the most descriptive historical fiction writer I have ever stumbled upon.
Until I picked up her book "Here Be Dragons" a couple of years ago, I had absolutely no interest in history whatsoever. That all changed when I read about her beautiful characters, and exciting battles. Most wonderful of all, all of the things she wrote about were real.
What is the Devils Brood?
The Devil's brood is the third in the series of Penmans books primary concerning Henry the 2ND.
The first in the series (When Christ and his saints slept) concerned the civil war between Henry's Mother (the Empress Matilda), and her cousin Stephen (who naughtily sneaked the crown from Matilda). The second book, "Time and Chance" recounts Henry's rise to power, and the beginning of his rocky and passionate love affair with Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the third "Devils Brood" chronicles the animosity and struggles between Henry and Eleanor, and Henry and his sons.
The Devils Brood was released in Hardback this year.
"Devils Brood" begins with Henry returning to England, after a self imposed exile, because of the (albeit small) part he played in Thomas Becket (the archbishop of Canterbury's) murder.
Things have generally become a bit rocky for Henry. First his wife betrayed him, and then his sons, one by one.
Henry struggles to be a good King, a good father, and a good husband, and in other peoples eyes, cannot meld the three successfully.
With danger coming from all sides, and his sons increasingly pushing the boundaries, Henry has to find a way to secure his empire.
What i thought.
I blood love Henry the second. I truly do. He was a fantastic character. This is such a fantastic period of history, and Penman captures it beautifully.
The characters are brought perfectly to life. As in reality, no one is perfect.Henry the second very firmly has his head up his own arse as far as the feelings of his wife and sons are concerned, but this is understandable, considering his wife and his sons really don't seem to give two hoots about Henry's feelings.
Henry was a fantastic King, and in this book, he comes across as a fantastic man, although at the same time a flawed man. he had very definite ideas about how to rule his kingdom, and mostly, they were good ideas. his own problem was, that regardless how old his children got, he never believed they were ready to share his power.
Eleanor is one of the most wonderful female characters I have ever read about. she is strong, and feisty, and completely unwilling to lose her composure, or her power. When Henry imprisons her (although very comfortably) for plotting against him, she doesn't crumble. She waits out her imprisonment in dignity, never giving an inch.
Henry's sons are brilliantly brought to life. We learn about the more famous Richard (Richard the lion heart), and John (the bad one from Robin Hood), but we also learn of the lesser known sons Henry and Geoffrey.
The book is so immersed in the period that its easy to believe that Penman has actually experienced it herself. The way that she puts together fact and evidence, and sews it all together beautifully with wonderful characterisation and storytelling is magical.
The plot is enthralling, and made all the more magical because its mostly factual. Sharon Penman tries very hard to keep her novels accurate, and always writes a foreword or afterword notifying the reader of what events were accurate, and which were fabricated. The most amazing situations however, are always real, and Sharon Penman often comments that sometimes these situations are so fantastic, that you just couldn't make them up.
"The Devils Brood" is a long book, but I found it very easy to get through, as the subject matter was so engrossing. Despite the length, the book is pacy, exciting and consistent. There are no lulls that you sometimes experience in historical fiction. The action is constant.
I came away from the novel with a far wider knowledge of that particular period in history than I ever knew before, so not only did I enjoy the book, I learned something at the same time.
Anything bad about it?
As with all historical fiction, sometimes the characters can be a little hard to keep track of. People are called by their given names, but also called by the name of the place they own or govern over, for instance, someone could be called "Fred", but they could also be called "Chester" if that's where he governed over. It takes a little concentration to keep all of these characters in line, and to remember who is who, but its fairly easy to do once you are into the book.
The only other failing that I can think of, is that it is currently the last in the series. I believe Penman plans to write more concerning that period, but I don't think she will be able to write fast enough to satisfy my curiosity.
If anyone can point me in the direction of other fiction novels featuring this period, I would be very grateful.
All in all.
A thrilling, engrossing, beautifully written book, filled with amazing action, battles and characters.
...read more about Sharon Penman and her work here,
..and buy the book in Hardback for just £11.99 here.
(link is split in two to keep it under 80 characters. Just paste it back together).
Summary: A fantastic historical fiction novel.