Lionheart: A Novel

Lionheart: A Novel

by Sharon Kay Penman


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“The great Crusader king Richard the Lionheart comes alive in all his complex splendor in this masterpiece of medieval tapestry.”—Margaret George
A.D. 1189. After the death of his father, Henry II, and the early demise of two of his brothers, Richard is crowned King of England and immediately sets off for the Holy Land. This is the Third Crusade, marked by internecine warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. Richard’s surviving brother, the younger John, is left behind—and conspires with the French king to steal his brother’s throne. Only their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, now freed from decades of captivity, remains to protect Richard’s interests and secure his destiny.
In this engrossing saga, Sharon Kay Penman delivers a novel of passion, intrigue, battle, and deceit. Lionheart is a sweeping tale of a heroic figure—feared by his enemies and beloved by those he commanded—who became a legend in his own lifetime.
“[Sharon Kay] Penman displays her usual grasp of sweeping historical events as well as an uncanny ability to get inside the hearts and minds of her real-life characters. Her reputation for character-driven, solidly detailed historicals is richly deserved.”—Booklist
“The beautifully described settings and the characters’ interactions are simply outstanding.”—The Historical Novels Review
“Penman takes historical writing to a whole new level.”—The Sacramento Bee
“[A] gritty, unsentimental, and richly detailed epic.”—Publishers Weekly

Don’t miss the exclusive conversation between Sharon Kay Penman and Margaret George at the back of the book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345517562
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/2013
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 142,724
Product dimensions: 5.66(w) x 8.04(h) x 1.36(d)

About the Author

Sharon Kay Penman is the author of seven previous historical novels: When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, Devil’s Brood, and four medieval mysteries set during the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine. She lives in Mays Landing, New Jersey, and is working on A King’s Ransom, which will complete the story of Richard I.

Reading Group Guide

A Conversation Between Sharon Kay Penman and Margaret George

Sharon Kay Penman: Not long after my first novel, The Sunne in Splendour, was published, my British editor asked me to read a novel they were publishing by a new novelist, Margaret George. When I learned that it was about my least favorite English king, Henry VIII, and told from Henry’s viewpoint, I confess that I was dubious. But I was drawn in from the first page of The Autobiography of Henry VIII, and what I expected to be a favor to my editor turned into a memorable reading experience. I had not changed my mind about Henry by the time I finished the book, but that was never Margaret’s intent. She wanted to create a flesh-and-blood man, to strip away the myths, to make him live again, and at that, she succeeded admirably. I came away from her book with a greater understanding of Henry, and because I’d just attempted to do as much for my own controversial king, Richard III, I knew how difficult a task this was. I could appreciate what she’d been able to do, and I was very grateful to my editor for introducing me to the writing of such a gifted novelist. Since then, Margaret and I have gone on to write other novels about bygone times and men and women long dead. Now whenever I hear a new Margaret George novel is on the way, it is a cause for celebration—for me and for all those who enjoy well-written and well-researched historical fiction. So I am delighted to be able to discuss Lionheart with Margaret for the Random House Reader’s Circle.

Margaret George: It is a pleasure for me, too, Sharon. I thought we could begin with the basics. Could you tell us about your background and how you came to write historical fiction?

SKP: I was born in New York City and grew up in Atlantic City in its pre--gambling days. I have a B.A. in history from the University of Texas at Austin, and in my misspent youth, I earned a J.D. degree from Rutgers School of Law. For several years I practiced tax and corporate law, which I considered penance for my sins. But my life took a dramatic turn for the better with the publication of The Sunne in Splendour, for after that I was fortunate enough to be able to write full time. Lionheart is my eighth historical novel. I have also written four medieval mysteries about the queen’s man, the queen in question being Eleanor of Aquitaine, then in what I think of as her Katharine Hepburn mode; I always assume everyone has seen The Lion in Winter! To me, writing historical fiction is the next best thing to time travel. Now it is your turn, Margaret.

MG: How did I get to be an historical novelist? My father was in the foreign service and my earliest years were spent abroad, where I lived what I call a -nineteenth-century existence: no TV, no radio, and only the books we brought with us. So no wonder I started writing for my own entertainment, and continued to do so all through high school and college. Later, like you, Sharon, I earned my living doing something more prosaic: I was a science writer for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. But I had always loved history, and the places I had grown up in, especially Israel, made me feel that history was very accessible and close, and that I could almost touch it if I tried.
When I first got the idea of writing about Henry VIII I did not envision a career exclusively as an historical novelist. My goal then was to write a “psycho-biography” of the king. Everyone knew what he did, but what were his motivations? That was what fascinated me. However, since he didn’t live in a vacuum, the finished product was indeed a historical novel. And the rest, as they say . . .

SKP: I hadn’t known how you came to write your novel about Henry. I am so glad I asked!

MG: What motivated you to write Lionheart?

SKP: I fully expected that the third book in my trilogy about Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine would be my final novel about the Angevins. But they had other ideas, and were not ready to go quietly into that good night. In the course of writing Devil’s Brood, I began to realize that there was so much of their story still to be told. For years I’d had a rather negative view of Richard I, and I would have been astonished had I been told I’d eventually be writing not one but two books about him. But once I began doing serious research for Devil’s Brood, I found a very different Richard than the one I’d been expecting. The more I thought about the eventful and dramatic years of Richard’s reign, the more I realized that I wanted to write about him. And of course that would give me another opportunity to write about his extraordinary mother, Eleanor, and what writer could resist a temptation like that?

MG: I know that your research for Lionheart differed in some ways from the research you’ve done in the past. Can you tell us about that?

SKP: I worry that Lionheart has spoiled me for future books, as I never had such a treasure trove of contemporary sources to draw upon, and will likely never find such research riches to plunder again. My favorite resources were the chronicles. They are not always totally accurate, for they sometimes report rumors as fact. And they often have their own bias: Lancastrians versus Yorkists, English versus Welsh, English versus French, etc. Because the chronicles were written by monks, they tend to cast a jaundiced eye upon women, reflecting the teachings of the Church that they were “daughters of Eve” and therefore suspect. But the chronicles are also invaluable, for they open a window to a far-distant time and offer us personal glimpses of people dead for centuries. The Richard of legend smolders like a torch: glowering, dour, and dangerous. Yet the chroniclers who accompanied Richard to the Holy Land, and the Saracen chroniclers he encountered there, give us a very different man—sardonic, playful, unpredictable. I had eyewitness accounts of the events I dramatize in Lionheart, battles described by men who actually fought in them. Saladin’s chronicler Baha al-Din watched as Richard stormed ashore at Jaffa, vividly describing his red galley, red tunic, red hair, and red banner. If not for the Saracen chroniclers, we would never have known about Richard’s imaginative proposal to make peace by wedding his sister Joanna to Saladin’s brother, for Richard somehow managed to keep this secret from his own men. Both sides recorded the names of the Mamluks and knights struck down in battle, conferring a bit of immortality upon men who’d otherwise have been long forgotten.
So Margaret, several of your novels have been set in very remote times—even remoter than medieval times! Were they more challenging to research than your novels about the Tudors?

MG: Each book seems to bring forth its own research mandates. For me, English history has fairly straightforward paths to unearthing facts. But the ancient world is not so cooperative. So, among the more unusual research routes I have taken, I embarked on a seven-year Bible study course in preparation for writing about Mary Magdalene. I realized I would be scrutinized by very knowledgeable biblical readers and did not want to disappoint or offend them by ignorance of the subject. The journey was a very rewarding one for me.
For Helen of Troy, I donned a tunic and raced in an ancient stadium in a reenactment of the Nemean Games in Greece in 2004. That was the closest I could come to being back in Helen’s time, where there was a special women’s race, dedicated to Hera, at the Olympics. The fact that the modern Olympics were being held in Athens at about the same time, with that excitement in the air, made it all the more real.
For Nero, I found a gladiator training school in Rome and attended a session, although there’s no evidence that Nero himself ever fought! As we know, he preferred playing his lyre.

SKP: A gladiator training school? Wow!

MG: You mentioned that your research revealed a very different Richard than you anticipated. Were there misconceptions about Richard you hoped to dispel in Lionheart?

SKP: I did not really expect to change the public perception of Richard. But I would be happy if readers come away from Lionheart thinking that the real man was far more complex than the Richard of legend, and therefore more interesting. The legend is not entirely wrong; he was a brilliant battle commander and almost invincible in hand-to-hand combat, quick-tempered, prideful, insanely reckless with his own safety, and ruthless when need be. But he was also intelligent, very well educated, imaginative, pragmatic, eloquent, and capable of magnanimity. Because he’d been one of the first princes to take the cross, I’d assumed he was a religious zealot. He was not; his attitude was that of a soldier, not a crusader. He sought a negotiated settlement with Saladin, and formed surprising friendships with Saladin’s brother and some of his emirs. He even knighted several of them—in the midst of a holy war!
Another misconception about Richard is one enshrined in a marvelous film, The Lion in Winter. When I did an interview recently for Lionheart, someone asked why I’d never addressed the rumors about Richard’s sexuality during his lifetime. The answer is simple: There were no such rumors. People are always surprised to learn that the first time it was suggested Richard preferred men to women as bedmates was in J. H. Harvey’s The Plantagenets, published in 1948. Contemporary chroniclers certainly seemed to have assumed that his sexuality was, in the words of his primary biographer, Dr. John Gillingham, “conventional.” But the suggestion of J. H. Harvey took root with startling speed, and by the time I wrote Here Be Dragons in 1985, I did my own small part to contribute to this new legend. Richard appeared in only two scenes in Here Be Dragons and so I did not bother to do serious research about him, simply accepting the belief then in vogue. I learned a lesson from this and would become much more obsessive about my research, even for minor characters! I discussed this in some depth in the Author’s Note to Devil’s Brood, so will not repeat it here. I see the question as irrelevant to any historical evaluation of Richard’s kingship, for it has never been alleged that he was influenced in any way by favorites, and why else would it matter?
But as a novelist, sexuality is always in play! I’d become a skeptic about this claim once I began to do research about Richard, and that skepticism was -strengthened by what I learned while researching and writing Lionheart. I had not realized the full extent of the embittered enmity between the English and French kings. The French chroniclers accused Richard of arranging the murder of Conrad of Montferrat, of poisoning the Duke of Burgundy, of sending -Saracen assassins to Paris to kill King Philippe, and even of betraying Christendom to the infidels by making peace with Saladin. If they could have accused Richard of sodomy, a mortal sin in the twelfth century, surely they’d have done so with great glee. To me, the fact that they did not speaks volumes in itself. Can I say with absolute certainty that I am correct? Of course not. The only man who could tell us that has been dead for eight hundred years. All I can do, all any novelist can do, is draw conclusions based upon what a friend of mine called “reasoned speculation.”
Like me, most of the people you’ve written about, Margaret, have a “public persona” like the Lionheart. What misconceptions did you have to contend with?

MG: One of my goals in choosing my characters is to clear their names of popular misconceptions about them. For Henry VIII, of course, it was that he was a combination of Old King Cole and Bluebeard; for Cleopatra, that she was the “serpent of the Nile” who lived only to seduce Roman generals and lead them to their ruin (never mind that her home, Alexandria, isn’t on the Nile at all); for Elizabeth Tudor, that she was a lovelorn loon over Robert Dudley, and/or an embittered virgin; and for Mary Magdalene, that she was a prostitute. For the first three people, the historical facts are there and I could rely on them to support my case because it is often a matter of interpretation of motivation, why someone did something rather than what they did, that is in question. But for Mary Magdalene, it was more difficult, because she belongs as much to legend as to history. If the search for the historical Jesus has proved him elusive, how much more so for the search for his followers.
Luckily for you, Richard was not so elusive, but I wondered, Sharon, what you most admire about Richard now that you see him as a more complex figure? What were his less admirable traits in your opinion?

SKP: I think I was most impressed by the responsibility he clearly felt for the welfare of his soldiers. He was a fascinating paradox: a man shockingly careless with his own life, but careful with the lives of the men under his command. As I already mentioned, I was very surprised by the cordial relations he forged with some of his Saracen foes, and I admire him for refusing to waste lives in a bloody, futile assault upon Jerusalem, even though he knew the French would turn that refusal into a weapon to use against him
Among his less admirable traits was the fiery temper he’d inherited from his father, so white-hot that it gave rise to the legend that the Angevins traced their descent from the Demon Countess of Anjou, a legend that greatly amused Richard and his brothers. He was capable of being quite arrogant at times, and he could also be very ruthless, at least by our standards. Ruthlessness seems to have been an occupational hazard of medieval kings, and as a woman of the twenty-first century, I admit that I find it hard to appreciate the undeniable fact that Richard gloried in war. I understand that war was the vocation of kings in the Middle Ages, and a king who did not excel at it was harshly judged by his contemporaries. We need only consider the different epithets bestowed upon Richard and John: Lionheart and Soft-sword. But as an instinctive pacifist, I confess that it was not always easy for me to wade through so much blood in Lionheart.

MG: Even though you have shown all these traits, good and bad, Richard still has that star quality that makes everyone else on the page dim when he walks in. Scenes with him crackle. The Richard of legend you quote—smolders like a torch, glowering, dour, and dangerous—is still partly there, although he doesn’t seem dour or glowering in this version, more Olympian and detached. He’s still dangerous, though—but not to people he loves. And in him, the smoldering is heroic and attractive. No doubt that was part of what drew Richard’s queen, Berengaria of Navarre, to him. Yet so little is known about her. Did you find this lack of knowledge more of a challenge in creating her character? Or was it actually easier to work with a blank slate?

SKP: Initially, it was somewhat daunting, but it soon became liberating. It is surprising how little we know of this young woman who became the queen-consort of the most celebrated king in Christendom. We cannot be sure of her birth date or what she looked like, and we know even less about her inner life. Berengaria was not even her real name; it was Berenguela, which was then translated into French as Berengere and eventually into English as Berengaria. She is the only English queen who never set foot on English soil, the only one to be married and crowned in Cyprus, and the only royal bride to spend her honeymoon in a war zone. But she has glided through history like a sad ghost, leaving few footprints behind.
We do know that she was very pious, founding an abbey during her long widowhood. We know that she came from a close-knit family. And we know she had courage, enduring real dangers and hardships on the crusade. She would later show her mettle again by fighting her brother-in-law John for her dower rights. Her courage was the quiet kind, though. She made no scenes, certainly not in public and probably not in private either. She was not a royal rebel like her formidable mother-in-law, Eleanor, and I think she has been penalized for that.
With one exception, the chroniclers described her in glowing terms. William of Newburgh called her “a virgin of famous beauty and prudence.” Ambroise, who accompanied Richard on crusade, described her as “beautiful, with a bright countenance, a wise maiden.” Only Richard of Devizes cast aspersions on her appearance, saying she was “a maid more accomplished than beautiful,” but he never laid eyes upon her. Yet his snarky description is the one that historians usually quote, ignoring the verdict of Ambroise, who did see her.
Because I knew that her marriage to Richard ended badly, I’d assumed that they’d been incompatible from the beginning. I was surprised, therefore, to discover that their marriage seemed to have gotten off to a promising start. In fact, both of the chroniclers who were present for the wedding believed that Richard was smitten with his bride. Ambroise called her Richard’s “beloved” and contended that “the king loved her greatly. Since the time when he was count of Poitiers, she had been his heart’s desire.” The author of the Itinerarium echoed this: “Attracted by her graceful manner and high birth, he had desired her very much for a long time—since he was first count of Poitou.” I tend to be somewhat skeptical about that, for royal marriages were matters of state, not love matches; moreover, I doubt that Richard had a romantic bone in his body. Yet their comments do show us what Richard’s contemporaries believed about his marriage at its outset. And Richard’s own actions prove that he was content with his new wife; he went to some trouble to have her with him in the Holy Land when possible, bringing her from Acre to join him in Jaffa even though she was surely more comfortable and safer in a royal palace than in an army encampment, and then doing it again at Latrun. So based upon what little evidence there is, I concluded that the problems in their marriage did not surface until after his return from his German captivity, which I shall address in the sequel to Lionheart, A King’s Ransom.
We can say, therefore, that Richard wanted Berengaria with him in the Holy Land, but that changed in the last years of their marriage. What of Berengaria’s feelings? We do not know how she felt about marrying Richard, although by medieval standards, she’d hit the marital jackpot. She was very devout, so she would have been proud of Richard’s exploits in the Holy Land. Their later estrangement must have been difficult for her. By then, she’d have been aware of the gossip, the whispers that she was “barren,” a devastating indictment for any queen. Since Richard’s adulteries were flagrant enough to warrant a lecture from the bishop of Lincoln, she probably knew about the gossip, and at the very least, his infidelities must have wounded her pride. Only once is the veil lifted, giving us a glimpse of the woman, not the queen. According to St. Hugh of Lincoln, he’d gone to Berengaria upon learning of Richard’s unexpected death at Chalus, where he “calmed the grief” of the “sorrowing and almost broken-hearted widow.” Was she grieving for Richard? For what might have been? For the precarious future she may have envisioned for herself without Richard’s protection? We have no way of knowing. She was a wife for only eight years, a widow for thirty-three, as she never remarried, unusual in itself, and when she was buried in the beautiful abbey she’d founded near Le Mans, she took her heart’s secrets to her grave. For myself, I see Berengaria as a young woman who was dealt a bad hand and played it as best and bravely as she could.
Were any of your characters as shadowy as Berengaria, Margaret?

MG: My most challenging “unknown” character was unfortunately the main character in one of my novels—Mary Magdalene. It did not help that the only thing most people thought that they knew about her was that she was a prostitute. I had very little material to go on, and what there is has been examined and debated by experts for decades. She is mentioned in all four canonical Gospels, but the material is tantalizingly short. Scholars have had to tease conclusions out of hints: She is always mentioned first in a list of women, signifying that she was either the most important, the oldest, or the wealthiest; she is identified only by a locale (“of Magdala”) rather than a relationship with a person (“mother of,” “wife of”), indicating that she must have been independent, possibly a widowed matron. Only the Gospel of John has her encounter with Jesus on Easter morning as she becomes the first person to see the risen Christ. There are other sources, such as the mentions of her in the gnostic Gospels (the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the Pistis Sophia). These give us hints that she was spiritually very important and was a cause of rivalry and jealousy within the disciples’ circle (was that because she had been the first to see Jesus on Easter morning?), but they are not narratives and do not give us a chronological storyline.
The part of her life before she met Jesus is a complete blank, except that she was beset by seven demons, who were driven out by Jesus when he cured her. I had to construct what I thought was a typical life for a woman of her time and locale—a Jewish family in Galilee in the early first century c.e. After she was cured by Jesus, she joined him, along with other women, who “supported him out of their means”—a very tantalizing sentence which has been analyzed and debated for a long time among scholars. This is mentioned only in one Gospel, Luke (Luke 8:3). But from this, people conjecture she had means enough that she and the others could “sponsor” Jesus and his work. Traveling with him, however, must have been scandalous, and probably helped fuel the idea that these women were immoral. Pope Gregory I sealed her fate when he preached a sermon in the late 500s saying she was the same woman as the one “taken in adultery” in the Gospel of John (John 8:1–11). It was not until 1969 that the Vatican reversed this and cleared her of that charge. The public, however, has been slow to change its mind.
SKP: I think yours was the more daunting task, Margaret. My readers knew very little about Berengaria, but many of your readers already had preconceived notions about Mary Magdalene, which you had to dispel.
MG: That was part of the challenge; but you faced another in the course of writing Lionheart when you discovered that Richard’s story was going to overflow the boundaries of one book. Can you tell us about the sequel, A King’s Ransom?
SKP: I confess I was beginning to panic, having realized I had not a prayer in hell of making the deadline for Lionheart—until a friend suggested I consider doing two novels about Richard. This made perfect sense, for the Third Crusade was the natural breaking point. In a way, Lionheart was Richard’s Iliad and A King’s Ransom will be his Odyssey. Lionheart ends with Richard about to sail for home after negotiating a truce with Saladin. Fortunately for him, he does not know the ordeal that lies ahead of him—two shipwrecks; an encounter with pirates; a wild dash through enemy territory with only a handful of men before falling into the hands of the Duke of Austria, who bore him a bitter grudge; and then being turned over to the mercies of a man who had none, the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich. A King’s Ransom will deal with that epic journey; his captivity in Germany; his return to his own domains, where he will fight fiercely to recover the lands he’d lost to the French king while he was a prisoner; his estrangement from Berengaria; his death at Chalus; and then the first year of the reign of his brother John. I will also be giving more time on center stage to the amazing Angevin women, the legendary Eleanor and the daughter most like her, Joanna.

MG: We’ve discussed this next question ourselves. What do you consider the responsibility of a historical novelist? What do we owe our readers? Those we write about?
SKP: I confess that I am obsessive-compulsive about historical accuracy, which is one reason why my friends will no longer go with me to see historical films; they got tired of listening to me muttering into my popcorn when screenwriters rewrote history in Braveheart and Kingdom of Heaven.
MG: I have to live with The Tudors and Charles Laughton’s The Private Life of Henry VIII, and the Liz and Burton Cleopatra.
SKP: You have my deepest sympathies for The Tudors! I have always seen historical fiction as a bridge to the past. Readers who might not pick up a biography may be tempted to read a novel. I feel a responsibility not to mislead my readers. I want them to feel they can take me on faith, to be sure that while there may be mistakes in my books, there will be no deliberate distortions. Nor will I create medieval characters with modern sensibilities, a phenomenon I call The -Plantagenets in Pasadena.

MG: My favorite anachronistic character is the “feisty heroine,” a tiresome stock figure in bad historical novels, who is athletic, vastly learned (usually secretly taught by her father “even though” she is a girl), and a champion of the marginalized. If my characters really did do any of these things (although they wouldn’t likely have done all three), I must put it in, but I try not to stress their prowess.

SKP: I also feel that a debt is owed to the dead. I remember an interesting letter I received from a reader not long after Princess Diana died. In the wake of the fierce criticism heaped on the tabloids and paparazzi, she found herself wondering if historical novelists could be guilty of exploiting the lives of the people they write about. I thought her query raised some intriguing issues. How much license can we take in our depiction of people who actually lived?

MG: I always write with the idea that the characters themselves are watching me and I want to tell their stories as they themselves would approve. Therefore, I don’t go against a known fact. But as you say, Sharon, sometimes there are gaping spaces between those facts and to get from one to the other we have to construct stepping stones—doing it with the utmost respect. The thing most often a mystery is the motivation—why someone did something. The novelist has to supply that, unlike the biographer, who can just leave it blank or say “we don’t know why he did that, or what he was thinking.” We have to build that bridge.

SKP: Obviously, imagination is what shapes any novel, but I think it is essential to construct a historical novel based upon a strong factual foundation. Since the medieval period is not always as well documented as I’d like, I sometimes have to do what I call filling in the blanks. For example, historians do not know the exact date of the wedding of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth and King John’s daughter Joanna. As a novelist writing about their wedding, obviously I had to choose a date for it. In the same way, I often have to decide how to dispatch one of my characters; unless he died on the battlefield or she died in childbirth, chroniclers rarely noted or even knew the cause of death.
But there is a great difference between filling in the blanks and misrepresenting or ignoring known facts. On those few occasions when I’ve had to tamper with history, I clear my conscience by mentioning my tampering in an Author’s Note. And if I am writing of men and women who actually lived and were not figments of my imagination, I do not think it is fair—to the reader or to them—to depict them in a way that violates all we know of them. Our fellow historical novelist Laurel Corona expressed it best when she said succinctly, “Do not defame the dead.” To me—and to you, Margaret—that is the first commandment for historical novelists. I also try to keep in mind the words of Samuel Butler: “Though God cannot alter the past, historians can.” Historical novelists can do even more damage, almost as much as Hollywood screenwriters, or in the case of another king named Richard, a sixteenth-century English playwright.

MG: Thank you, Sharon, for an interesting and insightful interview. I am looking forward to reading A King’s Ransom.

SKP: And thank you, Margaret, for agreeing to participate in the Random House Reader’s Circle. I loved your novel about Elizabeth I, and I am eager to see what you will do with Nero and Boudica in your next book.

MG: I appreciate that. Thank you as well.

1. What do you think about Richard and Eleanor’s relationship? Does Richard ask too much of his family? What did you think of him asking Eleanor to travel to get his wife?

2. How do you think Joanna maintains her strength? What keeps her going? She has lost so much by the age of twenty-five.

3. Berengaria seems to have a very naïve approach to marriage. She feels that it would be a lie to tell Richard that she likes his troubadour poetry when she clearly doesn’t. Hawisa tells her that “marriages are made of lies.” How do you think Berengaria’s thoughts on marriage change from the beginning of the book to the end?

4. When Richard calls Berengaria, “Berenguela” when they are alone it seems to be an uncharacteristically tender moment. Were you surprised that Richard did seem to truly care for Berengaria? In what other ways did he show that softer side when he was with her?

5. Eleanor felt “an unexpected pang of regret, for she was in her twilight while Berengaria’s sun was just rising.” Yet, she goes on to say that she would not have traded her past for her daughter-in-law’s youth. She seems satisfied with the life that she has lived, however turbulent. Do you think that Berengaria will feel the same sense of satisfaction with her life and her marriage with Richard? How are Eleanor and Berengaria alike? Different?

6. Joanna is a mother figure to Alice and then to Berengaria. How do you think that these two young girls would fare without her? How do they help her and how does she help them?

7. Do you think that Joanna is too involved in Richard and Berengaria’s marriage? Is it her place to step in on certain things?

8. “I know I’m the best because I’ve earned it,” Richards states. How is Richard unlike some other kings that you have read about who may have felt that they were entitled to things rather than feeling that they needed to earn them?

9. Where do you think Richard gets his sense of invincibility in battle?

10. Were you surprised when Richard offered Joanna’s hand in marriage as a peace offering to al‑’A-dil? He seems to have the strongest relationship with her out of all the people in his life, aside from his mother. Is victory more important to him than family?

11. Do you think that Richard had anything to do with Conrad’s death as the rumors swirling around suggested?

12. It was refreshing to see an arranged marriage that worked out as well as Henri and Isabella’s. Did you find it that much more gratifying to see that Isabella gave birth to a daughter rather than a son?

13. What did you know about the Third Crusade before you began reading Lionheart? What new things did you learn?

14. In her Author’s Note, Sharon Kay Penman confessed that she’d been surprised by the Richard her research revealed, and what had surprised her the most was that he’d enjoyed such cordial relations with his Saracen foes. She expressed astonishment that he’d actually knighted some of them in the course of the war. Were you as surprised to learn that Richard and Saladin had such mutual respect for each other? Why do you think Richard differed from most of his medieval contemporaries in this regard?

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Lionheart 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"Lion­heart" by Sharon Kay Pen­man is a his­tor­i­cal fic­tion book about Richard I and the Third cru­sade. This is a well researched book which is fas­ci­nat­ing and exciting. Richard I, bet­ter known in his nom de guerre "Lion­heart" takes his vows seri­ously includ­ing the one to free Jerusalem from Salah-a-Din. He leaves his king­dom and together with King Philip of France they make their way, with their armies, to the holy land. "Lion­heart" by Sharon Kay Pen­man is his­tor­i­cal fic­tion at its best. The research is impres­sive and Ms. Pen­man doesn't try to fit the his­tory to her story, but writes the story around history. I have always been fas­ci­nated by Richard I or as he is bet­ter known Richard the Lion­heart. It was prob­a­bly the nick­name and "guest appear­ance" in Robin Hood which spurred up the imag­i­na­tion of an eight year old boy more than his deeds. The author brings King Richard to life, not only his bat­tle glory, but also the man in all his splen­dor, his sar­donic wit, bat­tle com­man­der genius and mis­un­der­stand­ing of women. Some­thing most men share. Richard, which thinks of noth­ing of sac­ri­fic­ing his own life, ago­nized to no end about his bat­tle plans and min­i­miz­ing casu­al­ties. The bat­tle scarred solider who under­stands and respects his ene­mies, but still under­stands the impor­tance of mak­ing an entrance, whether by land or by sea. "Richard began to curse, "Bleed­ing Christ! I wsa so sure that raven swine would hit us from the rear! Take over, Jaufre!" I enjoyed the descrip­tions of bat­tles, large and small, the tac­tics involved, the ago­niz­ing deci­sions com­man­ders must endure as well as the impos­si­ble logis­tics of tak­ing an army across the ocean with no means of sup­port. The author's goes into great length describ­ing Richard's suc­cess, some of it was luck, but most of it was metic­u­lous plan­ning and audac­ity both in the field of diplo­macy and war. While Richard I is cer­tainly the main fig­ure in the book, there are many oth­ers his­tor­i­cal fig­ures. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, his mother, Richard's sis­ter Joana and his wife Beren­garia all have a major role in the novel, and are depicted in an inter­est­ing and involved manner. I enjoyed this book tremen­dously, but be aware that this is not an easy novel to read. There are many char­ac­ters, each of them a world of their own, com­plex, multi-faceted with strange and fas­ci­nat­ing rela­tion­ships among them. The book also includes polit­i­cal strug­gles and intense back-stories, together with the fight­ing (they always go together, don't they?). The book ended at the end of the Third Cru­sade, Ms. Pen­man stated that Richard I's life was so full that it would take more books to cover. I, for one, am look­ing for­ward to the rest. One of the ben­e­fits of hav­ing this blog is that I get intro­duce
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penman tells this story beautifully, crafting a setting that is drenched in historical accuracy and enough intrigue to keep you turning pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful Book! Sharon Kay Penman has done it again and I can't wait for more! Make sure you check out her other books as well. This is Historical Fiction at its best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been reading Sharon Kay Pennman 's books for over ten years and I always am left wanting more. I can't wait until the next installment!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of resesearch Penman does and the way she can capture the readers attention and hold it for 600-plus pages!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Though he was born a spare to King Henry Plantagenet and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, his older brother's failed revolt and subsequent death made Richard the heir. When he became king with the death of his sire, Richard began the Third Crusade to take back Outremer, the Holy Land after a brief stop in Sicily to rescue his sister. He has as much trouble with his alleged French allies as he has with the Saracen forces led by capable Saladin. In fact he and his adversary form a mutual admiration society of two as they respect each other's skills. Finally Richard knows it is time to go home as he hears rumors that his youngest brother John betrays him while he fights in the Holy Land. This is an exciting opening biographical fiction that humanizes the legendary Lionheart with little tidbits like his side trip to Sicily and his ignoring his wife Berengaria. Especially emphasized is the political intrigue within the Plantagenet family as his late oldest brother tried to take the throne form his father and his youngest brother has seemingly taken the throne from warring Richard. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this insightful well written medieval tale but will impatiently away the King's return. Harriet Klausner
CDowell More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book that brought out the true story of one of England's greatest Kings, Richard I, The Lionheart. I always hated that they made Richard I out to be a bad king and this book shows how great a King he truly was and how he lived up to the warrior spirit of the time. This book was a great read and I recommend it to anyone interested in the crusades, England, and history in general.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good pacing and storytelling. Helped by the central character (Richard's) overall story, makes a good endpoint at the end of the 3rd Crusade. An upbeat tale. I suspect the follow-on, which deals with post-Crusader Richard, will be less fawning over this great commander, but flawed individual, and absentee king.
Christiana5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lionheart tells the story of the Third Crusade, featuring much sniping between the French and English kings, Phillippe and Richard, both of whom have taken the cross, and their lords. A solid story by Penman, with good pacing, although it does take about 2/3 of the book before the characters arrive in the Holy Land, and the real battles begin. We get a female perspective from Joanna, Richard's widowed sister, who accompanies his new bride, Berenguela, and their ladies, on crusade. Many amazing battles based in fact, but most amazing of all is Richard's and Saladin's mutual respect for each other in a time when most of Richard's contemporaries would never deign to make treaties with their Muslim enemies. Not my very favorite of Penman's works, but I learned new things about the crusades and Richard, it kept my attention, and left me wanting to read the sequel. A solid 4 stars.
Chatterbox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As the title suggests, this hefty tome is a historical novel that follows Richard the Lionheart (aka Richard I of England) from his accession to the throne to the Crusades is "Outremer" (today's Syria/Jordan/Israel/Palestine/Lebanon). While the novel is the fourth in a series following the Angevin monarchs over the course of a century or so, this marks a bit of a departure: not only is Penman following the action to the Middle East, but the plot necessarily revolves around a lot of battles pitting the Saracens, led by Saladin, against the Crusader army.The resulting book didn't quite click for me. I kept getting bogged down in battle scenes that, however faithfully rendered, ended up giving me the feeling that I was reading a military history rather than a novel. Richard and Saladin keep bickering over a possible truce; Richard and his supposed allies keep bickering over military strategy; everyone bickers over who should be king of Jerusalem. Against that kind of backdrop, Penman's typical stylistic habits (most annoying, a habit of gathering a bunch of characters together over dinner or something, so that one of them can tell the others all the news that she, the author, needs to tell us, but can't describe for us directly because it's happening "offstage") become more irritating. (I don't think that historical purists would wilt if one of her characters said don't instead of do not, and had I run across the word "lass" one more time, used in addressing Richard's sister, wife or other noblewomen, I may well have chucked the book across the room.The book was a 3.8 star novel for me, and I'm being generous. I think Penman's die hard fans will love it, as it's the kind of epic saga in which she specializes. But what is missing from this are some of the more interesting characters, like John and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It's hard to make a character like Berengaria a vivid personality -- although Penman certainly tries hard -- and she does bring some new players into the spotlight, like Richard's nephew, Henri of Champagne, who are very interesting historical figures. I ended up reading the first chunk of the novel rapidly, fascinated by Penman's depiction of Sicily and Cyprus, but after that just got bogged down in too many characters, too much repetition of major themes (such as Richard's recklessness in combat). In contrast to Maude in "Christ and his Saints Slept" or Eleanor in the previous books, no character stood out here to make me care about turning the final pages. I'm glad I read this; I'll probably read the sequel which will wrap up the series, but I think in this novel Penman is trapped by the historical events, which focus on men at war rather than the complex dynamics of dynastic squabbles. I enjoyed parts of it tremendously, but expect it will be a long time before I even consider re-reading it.
gwernin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Covering the period July 1189 through September 1192, this is very much Part I of a two volume book. To say that it traces Richard Lionheart's involvement in the Third Crusade and his marriage to Berengaria of Navarre is too simple a description of a narrative which starts with a three page list of principal characters and stretches in its field of action from northern England to the Holy Land; to say that it includes a cast of thousands is no exaggeration. Penman paints a vast and minutely detailed picture; indeed the depth of detail (and the extensive and impressive research behind it) is both a strength and a weakness of this book. The first eighty pages sometimes seem to drag as Penman jumps from location to location, viewpoint to viewpoint, in the process of introducing all her principals and providing the necessary thumbnail sketches of their backgrounds. At last, however, the various parties (fated to converge in Sicily) get on the road, and the pace picks up slightly. By the time we reach Cyprus the action is fairly brisk. The rest of the book, located in the Holy Land, mostly holds this pace, although there are some slow sections now and again which deal mainly with the labyrinthine politics of the Crusade, often seeming to take the principals in slow ponderous circles at an enormous cost in blood, treasure, and general suffering. The conclusion of the book sees Richard's departure from the Holy Land, sailing back to Western Europe to try and salvage his battered empire. History (and Penman's afterword) tells us the fate of most of the principals, but it's partly the future of two minor but appealing invented characters which will lure me back to read the next volume. Overall, an impressive achievement, highly recommended for Penman's fans and those interested in the Angevins and the Third Crusade.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel has many qualities that define the best of historical fiction. First, Penman has an evident respect for history and well-researched knowledge of the periods she depicts. Her characters don't sound like reality tv stars nor is her history risible such as that of Philippa Gregory. In this novel of Richard the Lionhearted and his war in the Holy Land, Penman quotes primary sources such as medieval chroniclers who were witnesses to the Third Crusade from both sides, Frank and Saracen. She has a way with the telling detail, whether sexual practices, medicine, cuisine or details of dress or siege warfare that brings another age and land to life. And as with her other books, I greatly appreciate her afterwards that detail what liberties she took with history.Most crucially Penman doesn't just write historical characters as modern people in dress up. She takes us on a tour of the foreign land of a long past century, and in that regard I rank her with the best writers of historical fiction such as Mary Renault and Robert Graves. She writes of a mindset alien and alienating to contemporary sensibilities yet manages to still make her characters sympathetic. This is no mean feat given medieval views on warfare, religious tolerance and the status of women.This is particularly so when it comes to the title character. We see Richard from a multiplicity of views, although rarely his own. There are dozens of point of view characters here in a sprawling book spanning around 600 pages covering from July of 1189 to August 1192, from the time Richard becomes King to when he leaves the Holy Land. We're taken from Normandy to Sicily to Cyprus and then on to Palestine. And the portrait that emerged of Richard was more complex and intriguing than I expected. Penman's is a rounded picture, that neither glosses over his flaws nor paints over his virtues. This is a king who doesn't hesitate to force women into unwanted marriages nor to slaughter men who surrendered to him when required out of military necessity, who has a bad temper, holds grudges and can be ruinously stubborn. But this is also a man who can be generous and has a good sense of humor, who others willingly follow into battle because he shares their hardships, is reckless with his life but careful of the lives of his men, and who displayed an undaunted courage that earned him the sobriquet "lionhearted" even before he became a king, let alone a crusader. Nor as depicted here is he a narrow-minded religious bigot, but someone who respected his adversaries and tried to come to terms with them in ways his fellow crusaders did not. There are also other fascinating portraits here, from famous figures such as Eleanor of Aquitaine to more obscure figures such as Henri, Count of Champagne. I finished this book better understanding the Third Crusade and why it was a qualified failure, from the point of view of the European crusaders. We get some sense of their foes as well, but primarily from the Eurocentric point of view--we never really get inside the heads of the defending Muslims.I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the period, King Richard the Lionhearted of England, or who enjoys Penman's work. As to the reason I don't give this top marks... Well, Sharon Kay Penman has formidable competition--from Sharon Kay Penman. Her biographical novel of Richard III, The Sunne in Splendour, and of King John's daughter Joanna, Here Be Dragons, are two of my favorite novels and would certainly make my top ten list of favorite historical fiction, and Here Be Dragons is high on my list of the most moving love stories I've ever read. I didn't find Lionheart as moving or impressive as those novels. Nor do I find Penman as remarkable a stylist as Hilary Mantel of Wolf Hall or Dorothy Dunnett of Game of Kings. But that is to set a very high bar, and I'm sure few, if any, historical novels published this year will be as good as Lio
Schmerguls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this author's first book, The Sunne in Splendour, an account of Richard III, in 1997 and liked it pretty well. But I have not, till now, read any of the author's subsequent books. This book, being published this year, is a fictionalized account of Richard I and the Third Crusade. It is as true to the actual history as it can be except for minor items. Yet the book says any resemblance to actual persons and events is purely coincidntal--an obvious falsehood inserted no doubt for some good reason but the book resembles actual events and persons very closely. There are very exciting events detailed in the book and one cannot help but admire Richard, despite his flaws, and to rejoice over his exploits. But the sufferings which the Crusaders underwent are heart-rending and of course the quarrels which impeded their efforts to reclaim Jerusalem for Christians are dismaying. And the book is long and sometimes not too much fun to read. But it does make history vivid and since it is mostly factual is an easy way to remind oneself of the history which it recounts.
PensiveCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I haven't done much reading about the Crusades, probably because although I like history, I'm not a battle reader. Lionheart does have plenty of battle scenes, but it also tells the story behind the scenes - the intense bickering between Richard I of England and Philippe of France and the French that stayed when Philippe left, the revolving door that was the kingship of Jerusalem, Richard's wife who in previous accounts was more of a footnote, and Mr. Lionheart's illnesses. I think this was the first time Richard was mildly appealing to read about - for one his mother's love didn't have to pull the weight. Not that he was warm and fuzzy - but as a man of his times he at least made sense. And that's one of Penman's strengths - to keep the players of their time, which calls on us to put ourselves in their shoes rather than the other way around.It was a bit of a long book for such a short time period, but it wasn't dull by any means. I hope the next book has more Eleanor of Acquitaine, because it could be the last chance Penman gets to write about her, and she really does a good job with Eleanor.
ddelmoni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of Penman's having enjoyed Sunne In Splendor and her Justin d'Quicy mysteries, with 2 others in my TBR pile. I was obvoiusly delighted to recieve Lionheart through LT early reviewer program.Richard is one of my favorite characters in English history and Penman does a good job in telling his story. I particularly liked the way Penman begins the story by centering it around his sister Joanna. Penman created a powerful segway for Richard's introduction into the story. I was impressed with Penman's ability to handle military action and still keep the reader engaged -- for once I wasn't skipping over the gorey/boring scenes. She's also adapt at setting the atmosphere of the 12th century holy land. TBContinued
RockStarNinja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Admittedly, Richard is one of my least favorite characters from Penman's other books, but He is one of the things that made this books bearable. The best parts of this book was the battle scenes, they were in depth and gave you the feeling that you were really there. Unfortunately though, everything else in the book was highly political and as a result I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over again. The same people were against everything and the same people were for it, it all got very predictable towards the end, and I found myself wishing I could just be done already. I am a big fan of Sharon Penman and I have high hopes for her other books and will be eagerly awaiting the second installment A King's Ransom.
4fish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I waited eagerly for Lionheart to arrive, because Sharon Kay Penman is one of my favorite authors, and she doesn't disappoint. I loved all 600 pages. It only took me so long to finish because I had to finish a book club book and then take a break while I cooked and cleaned for Thanksgiving.Penman's take on the infighting and convoluted politics of Richard's Crusade is fascinating. He fought some horrific battles with the Saracens, but had even more vicious, if less bloody, fights with his reluctant allies, the French. Richard is generally dismissed as a bad king of England, largely because he rarely spent time there, but Penman makes it clear that in his day, he was considered a hero, and England was only a small part of his empire.But as usual, it's the secondary characters that really flesh out the story. Richard's sister Joanna, rescued from her husband's successor as King of Sicily and taken along to the Holy Land as a companion to Richard's new wife, Berengaria, a princess of Navarre. Henri of Champagne, son of another sister, and Morgan ap Ranulf, a fictional Welsh cousin, both follow Richard in battle. Their perspectives provide background and narrative to the story of a crusade that was considered unsuccessful because it fell short of recapturing Jerusalem, despite the fact that it enlarged the western sphere of influence in the Holy Land considerably, largely through Richard's mastery of the art of war.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've been reading Sharon Kaye Penman from the beginning with her very first book, The Sunne in Splendour. My copy of this book has been re-read so many times it's close to needing replacing. She is one of my favorite authors, although she does spoil you for historical fiction. Once you're hooked on Penman, most other historical fiction falls far short of the mark she sets. She's smart, she writes well, she does an enormous amount of study of primary sources before she writes, and the stories she tells are so fascinating you'll go back to them again and again.Lionheart is the penultimate in Ms. Penman's books on Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their Devil's Brood. I have a fondness for Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and no one's written better about them. Given the name it's not hard to figure out that this one is about Richard the Lionheart - considered to be one of England's great kings and one of the greatest war commanders ever.I've always been less fond of Richard than of the youngest of the brood, John. Richard is always presented as so big and bold - brash, daring, bigger than life, self-righteous, reckless. He's an amazing character, but something about John has also appealed to me (yes, I know, he's generally thought of as a villain). I think I like John because he was a survivor and because he was a pragmatist. He was always more concerned with the administration of his kingdom and of justice. He inherited a rudimentary justice system and spent a great deal of time expanding and formalizing it. He was also selfish, arrogant, sort of spineless, and left his father (who loved him greatly) to die alone.In any event, Richard is very heroic and Ms. Penman has not forgotten that. This is a novel of the Third Crusade, with all its betrayals and internecine warfare between the various European factions attempting to work together to take Jerusalem. As we all know, this region has never been kind to invaders - has always been a hotbed of religious warfare. Seeing this through 12th century eyes is an interesting experience, particularly since the broad brush strokes of it all seem so very modern in their own way. It is as if the Crusades have never really ended and no one has learned anything from them.Richard proves himself an almost invincible battle commander, charismatic, and pragmatic - opening discussions between himself and Saladin trying for a long-term peace over the ignominy of capturing Jerusalem only to see it lost again when he and the rest of the Crusaders returned home.This is a wonderful and entertaining read, illuminating a time in history most of us know little about. As always Ms. Penman's writing and storytelling skills carry the day and will carry you through to end - leaving you craving more.
BrokenTeepee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So much is known about Richard the Lionheart. Even people who don't know much about history have at least heard about him. He is a true legend. Yet in this magnificent novel Ms. Penman manages to make him both bigger than life and ordinary man. Richard ascends to the throne of England upon the death of his father, Henry II. His mother is Eleanor of Aquitaine and he had spent most of his life in her domain thinking he would be ruling there. He never expected to be King of England. He had "taken the cross" and found himself on the third crusade right after he was crowned King. He was unmarried and his heir was his youngest brother John whom he really did not trust. Smart man.Richard was a soldier through and through. He was a brilliant battle commander and strategist. He and Phillipe Capet of France were joining forces to go on the crusade together but neither man liked nor trusted one another.The book is a history lover's dream, full of detail and life created from the records left by peoples long dead. Fortunately with Richard there are records from both sides - those that hated him and those that revered him so a somewhat true picture of the man can be formulated. So often with historical records only one side is left to tell the tale.This is not a book for someone looking for a fast, light read. This is a book for someone who wants to truly immerse themselves in time and place. There are a lot of characters from a number of countries to keep straight - this is sometimes a challenge but they are important to the telling. I have never been disappointed in a book from Ms. Penman, in fact I look forward to each one with a passion.Lionheart tells only half of Richard's story; the rest will be told in the sequel - A King's Ransom. So my waiting begins. I first discovered Ms. Penman's books in the '80ies with The Sunne in Splendour and drove my husband crazy for every time we went to a book store I had to look for the next book and when it wasn't there I was crushed. This was, of course, before the internet became so ever present.So if you love history and you want a deep, involving book pick up Lionheart. You will not be disappointed.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In her latest work of epic historical fiction, Lionheart, Sharon Kay Penman explores the reign of Richard I, Richard Coeur de Lion. In particular, Penman focuses on Richard as Crusader-King.Penman is a true master of historical fiction. There is a lot of repetition in the story of the Third Crusade, falling back, advancing, gaining cities and losing them again, Richard riding out with seeming disregard for his personal safety. And yet, Lionheart is a book I didn¿t want to stop reading, despite its being 600 pages long. Penman¿s strength is in bringing her historical characters vividly to life, without changing their stories or personalities for dramatic effect.Part of what makes Lionheart so compelling is Penman¿s narrator, using the third personal intimate voice, switching not only between Richard and some of his men, but also between his sister Joanna and his wife Berengaria. The women and their retinue ¿ unconventionally following the men on the Crusade, as did Joanna and Richard¿s mother Eleanor when she was married to the French king ¿ lent some relief what might have otherwise been a bleak and seemingly endless campaign, bringing humanity to the proceedings in Richard¿s camp.Lionheart is another extremely strong showing from Sharon Kay Penman, and a fascinating look at Richard the Lionheart, Crusader King. The only real negative to reading something by Penman is that it reminds you that she has so many other fabulous (but long!) books that you haven¿t read it, thereby stalling your entire TBR list. Highly recommended.
EllenLEkstrom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bad son, bad king, bad husband, but hey, he was a medieval rockstar! Richard I of England was the epitomy of the crusader and medieval superman. Penman once again brings us a sympathetic (and annoying) hero in her story of Richard, the first of two books. This story begins in the Kingdom of Sicily and ends with Richard leaving the Holy Land after the Third Crusade. I would have given this book five stars, but it got repetitious - unusual for one of Peman's books. I still recommend it.
Romonko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Sharon Kay Penman's historical novels. They are so thoroughly researched and so well-written. The historical characters seem to come right off the page into your own life as you read. I have always loved the legend of Richard I (Richard the Lionheart), and was thrilled when i saw this book come out. Ms. Penman does her usual masterful job of depicting this larger-than-life warrior king. This is the first book of his remarkable attempts at the infamous Third Crusade. Ms. Penman is going to do another novel of the rest of his life after he leaves the holy land after the third crusade. This book has a lot medieval warfare in it, and it is depicted so realistically with all its gore and bloodshed. It was a book that I just couldn't put down. It swept me right into the latter years of the 12 century, and it was always difficult to leave that world and come back to this one when I did put the book down. I can't wait now for "The King's Ransom" where we will get to see the later years of Richard's life.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I got my copy of Lionheart in the mail, I screamed with excitement. I knew immediately the package held this book, due to the size of the package (and the notice that it was coming, of course), and I could barely open the package because my hands were shaking so much.When I settled down to lose myself in the story of King Richard, I was immediately reminded of just why I love Sharon Kay Penman¿s writing. Intricately detailed, filled with rich characters, human characters ¿ people that make you feel as if you are being introduced to them and they are friends that you can take away with you after you say goodbye. And on top of all of that, I knew that the education I was receiving would be information that was well-researched and presented fairly. One of my favorite parts of this book, actually, was the Authors Note at the end, in which Sharon describes how she felt toward Richard while writing Here be Dragons and how her opinion has been altered in writing this book.This book is history made fun. While my favorite of her books is, and will always be, Here be Dragons, Lionheart satisfied me and reminded me of just why I love historical fiction. Don¿t give me flimsy, romantic stories ¿ give me stories like this, filled with rich meat and potatoes of information and characters that are so alive they leap off the page.This is a story to read. If you purchase one book for your historical fiction loving friends and family (or yourself!) this holiday season, make this one it. You won¿t regret it.
klaidlaw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't believe my good fortune when I was notified that I had "won" this book in the Early Reviewers program. I have been awaiting it since I first heard it was in the writing process. The place to start reading this book is at the end--in the author's notes. Ms. Penman (who I have to admit early on is one of my favorite historical fiction authors) shows why this book is not only interesting as a read, but is important from a historical research perspective. The author had always been dismissive of Richard until she began researching for Lionheart. What she discovered, helped her peel back the myth of Richard and provide a look at the historical figure based on solid research in primary resources. That is one of the things that sets Ms. Penman above so many historical fiction writers. She is true to history and does not rely merely on secondary sources for her facts. To say that I like this book is a serious understatement, and I look forward to the second half. For a person she dismissed as uninteresting, weak, and vain, she has painted a magnificent portrait of a man of his age. There is a reason he earned the name Lionheart, and this book shares his exploits in the Holy Land to show why. He was a consummate military leader, a great negotiator, and a lousy husband. What more could you want for an interesting story. Sharon saved the best for last in her series of novels about the Angevin rulers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago