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I finished book number two! Book number three is on order....
Who is Sharon Penman?
Sharon Penman is a wonderful historical fiction writer who seems to have a particular penchant for medieval history. Which is fabulous, as that is my favorite period too. To have a peak at what else she has written, take a gander at the extra info at the bottom of my review.
Its very hard to review a book like this. Firstly, because it is so incredibly long. its like a doorstop. There is so much included that its very very hard to pull a description and recommendation down to something that wont bore you all to tears.
Secondly, its rather hard to describe it, without a bit of backstory.
"Time and Chance" is about Henry the 2nd, his Kingdom at the time (England mostly, and bits and bobs of what we now call france).
"Time and Chance" is the second novel in the trilogy focusing on th Plantaganets. The first novel is "When Christ and his Saints slept", and the third is the newly released "Devils Brood".
Who was Henry the 2nd?
Well....he was the second Henry to be on the throne of course! That doesnt help? No?
Back in 1066 (yes, we all know that date) William the Conqueror (or bastard...depending on how well aquainted you were with him) took the throne.
Two of Williams sons were King after him. Firstly, William Rufus, and then Henry the 1st.
Henry the 1sts daughter was heir to the throne once Henry died, but (as she was a lady) she didnt quite manage to take it. Her cousin Stephen pilfered it instead.
Fortunatly, Matildas son (Henry the 2nd) did get the crown. Thats who we are talking about. Grandchild of William the conquerer.
I shall set the scene for you.
Henry the 2nd has the Crown of England, something that his mother fought all of her life for, but never caught.
With the Crown firmly on his craftly little head, and Eleanor of Aquitaine as his wife (Eleanor used to be married to the King of France, but managed to wriggle her way to an annullment, jumping to a much comfier throne)everything in Henrys life should be peachy.
When Henry makes his chancellor, Thomas Becket, into the Archbishop of Canterbury, other people were cynical. Henry was a bit too headstrong to heed their advice though, so, when Thomas Becket began to get a little above his station, causing problems for Henry, he had no one to blame but himself.
Actually, thats not true. He blamed Thomas Becket.
With Becket causing problems between the Church and the Crown, his marriage becoming more and more distant as himself and Eleanor are seperated by miles and opinion, and his wandering eye getting a little distracted by a pretty blonde, Henrys life is anything but simple.
What did I think?
I thought it was bloody marvellous. I was riveted from page one. Even though its a massive book, I found it was just as pacey and page turnerey (yes, it is a word) as thinner more popular books.
The characters are incredible. Penman has a wonderful way of making her characters utterly human, ie, ou can see both the good and bad in them, without them turning into a pantomime villian or a saint.
Henry is portrayed beautifully, as a headstrong intelligent and ruthless king, but also as a stroppy and somewhat spoilt child, regardless of his age.
Eleanor is an absolutely fascinating character. So clever and fiesty. After reading the book, I googled her extensively, just to learn more. Yes, I am a geek.
With this novel, unlike other Sharon Penman novels, I struggled less with keeping track of peoples names. This could be because most of the characters were the same as in the first in the trilogy "When Christ and his saints slept" or it could be because there were fewer characters to focus on.
I found the plot of this novel very tight. Very focused on a set amount of characters, rather than little bits here there and everyhwere about dozens and dozens of different people.
The dialogue, as usual, is fast paced, witty and sharp. The characters come alive when they interact with each other, and the dialogue moves the plot along beautifully.
I didnt find "Time and Chance" slow at all, and pretty much whizzed through it in two weeks.
Dont laugh at two weeks. Its not so long reading a book this big.
All in all, a highly enjoyable read. I would recommend reading the first installment of the trilogy to begin with.
Who will this appeal to?
This, beyond anything else, is a fantastic story. Its so fantastic, in parts, that its incredibly hard to believe that it isnt fiction.
The relationship between Henry and Eleanor, and later the relationship between Henry and Rosamund (his mistress), is enough to keep any die hard romance (or failed romance) fan happy.
There are battle and fight scenes aplenty for the action oriented people out there.
History buffs will love how accurate and interesting most of the story is.
Its a long long book, so that should keep fast paced readers (like me) content.
Extra Info/other books.
Welsh Princes series.
-Here be Dragons-1985.
-Falls the Shadow-1988.
The Plantagenets series.
-When Christ and his saints slept-1995.
-Time and chance-2002.
-The devils brood-2008.
Justin de Quincy, mystery series.
-The Queens man-1996.
-Cruel as the grave-1998.
-Prince of darkness-2005.
-The Sunne in splendour-1982.
To visit Sharon Penmans website, go here.