I have recently begun narrating the historical fiction titled “Devil’s Brood” – third in a series of tales about King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine by Sharon Kay Penman.
Ms. Penman is nothing if not extremely thorough in her research of the times and the characters – major and minor – involved in what we know of the past. The story clocks in at roughly 750 pages and has plenty of fodder in the history books to make this fictionalized account quite an interesting tale. And Ms. Penman is very adept at creating honest-feeling characters as she brings to life individuals about whom we know so much and yet so little.
The dialogue among the various players is quite realistic – even if today we can’t imagine what it might actually be like to be a king, queen, duke, duchess, etc. with land holdings, vassals, and all the attendant privileges and responsibilities. And, as she has done such deep research, Ms. Penman helps the reader catch a sense of the amazingly complex relationships among those ruling Europe in the 12th century whether exercising their authority from a castle or from a cathedral.
Because this story is so rich in historical detail, you cannot expect it to zip along like a typical fiction novel. And since much of what occurs results from the aforementioned complex relationships among the ruling class, much time is spent on the “intrigue” involved as well as the resulting actions.
This will be a lengthy project for me because the incredible detail requires me to do my own research in an attempt to pronounce every proper noun – names of places and people – correctly. Currently, I am not even a third of the way through. And while I do know how the story ends, I will be interested to see how Ms. Penman brings her characters through this story.
A synopsis from the author’s website reads –
Where the second novel in the trilogy, “Time And Chance,” dealt with the extraordinary politics of the twelfth century, climaxing with the murder of Thomas Becket and Henry’s confrontation with the Church and self-imposed exile to Ireland, Devil’s Brood centers on the implosion of a family. And because it is a royal family whose domains span the English Channel and whose alliances encompass the Christian world, that collapse will have dire consequences.