Lionheart (Richard the Lionheart)
I know Ben Kane as a writer in the Roman era, where his fast-paced, impeccably researched books are a joy to read – especially if you don’t mind a bit of blood! I was very interested to see what he’d make of the 12th century, an era I know well myself; the executive summary is that I wanted to read the next book immediately! And it’s going to be ages yet! The book opens in 1179; Henry II is at the height of his power, and in Ireland, a young lad pays the price of his father’s rebellion by being taken as hostage. Ferdia ends up in the castle of Striguil, first as a prisoner, then as a page. Then by great good luck he saves the life of Duke Richard, the future king, and the wider stage opens to him…
The book is set amongst the noble cast of the period, and the Young King, William Marshal, John, and a glorious panoply of strong female characters appear. The terrible conflicts between Henry’s children and with France form the background as Ferdia struggles to find a place in the squire hierarchy despite his tainted heritage, and a nasty set of bullies. He’s a thoroughly believable character, with a very satisfying story arc.
If you’re a fan of Ben Kane’s Roman work, and/or of the Plantagenets themselves, you’ll love this book; the history is just as solid, the storyline and characters as engaging, the action as fast-paced. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about the wait time for the sequel!