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Devil s Brood is an absolute rollercoaster of a novel Now in my mind, there are two types of rollercoaster novels One kind swings wildly from one extreme of emotion to another, melodramatically creating mountains out of molehills, its plot twists coming out of nowhere, the kind of rollercoaster that leaves you feeling queasy and desperately wanting to get off The other kind of rollercoaster novel sweeps you up and off you go, the highs and lows built up ahead of time, creating anticipation, but, when they come, even thrilling and exciting than you thought, every moment sheer breathtaking enjoyment, and when you get off you immediately want to join the queue and ride it again Needless to say, Devil s Brood is firmly in the second category I was swept up in the story from the first page to the very last, so thoroughly immersed that I must confess I don t remember too much of events over the past seven days, outside of what happened in this book I will never tire of marvelling at how thoroughly realistic are Sharon s characters and how authentic the environments they move through In my mind s eye they completely come to life, jumping off the page, so fully realised that the room around me melts away and I m instead right there with Sharon s characters, seeing what they see, experiencing what they experience Engrossing doesn t cover it by half I can actually believe that these characters are Henry Fitz Empress, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Will Marshal and Richard Lionheart, or at least a 99.9% match Over the years I ve enjoyed many historical fiction novels, and some which I haven t enjoyed so much, but it is truly a once in a blue moon event to encounter characters that I can believe in so thoroughly Even amongst novels I ve enjoyed a lot it s a rarity for me sometimes I ve liked the characters but felt like they re nothing like their historical counterparts, sometimes I agree with certain aspects of the portrayal but not others, and there s nothing wrong with that, I ve certainly never marked books down for that but how much better when well developed, organic, complex characterisations are combined with such historicity and thorough research How sublime the siren song seems then How divine to sup from such a feast for the mind then It may seem like such a small detail to some, but often the details are the difference between a very good novel and the perfect read, and the gulf might be the width of the Grand Canyon or the breadth of a hair Books are escapism, but we can choose from a wide variety of genres and the possibilities are endless Why then choose the historical fiction genre I can only speak for myself, but as a child I loved stories Imagine my excitement to learn that the most thrilling, engaging stories were those that were true, that had really happened in history As Sharon likes to say, you can t make this stuff up, it s so strange and weird and wonderful Most of all, it s our story, it s the story of us I can t think of anything exciting So when I pick up a book from the historical fiction genre, I am looking for escapism, but I am looking to escape into a realistic, authentic world that I can believe in, a world well written but also well researched I want to get swept away in the true story if I was looking for a purely fictional tale, I wouldn t have chosen that genre Exaggeration and embellishment seem so unnecessary when I want to be told the true story, to gain an insight into the fascinating real people of history and understand what it meant to be living through what they lived through I don t want something clinical and sanitised, nor do I want my story to be juiced up into salacious, tawdry scandal that defeats the very reason that I choose historical fiction to read in the first place for me the thrill comes from reading a good book and knowing that this stuff really happened, or as close as possible Sharon s books are also demonstrable proof that it is possible to stick very closely to the historical record, and still deliver a well written, vibrant, engaging story Devil s Brood is beautifully written Its construction shows all the finesse and erudition of a master of both the written word and the craft of story telling Its plot is sophisticated, refined, and richly detailed There are admittedly far fewer zeniths to soar than there are nadirs to plunge, but the depths are tremendously moving and poignant without overwhelming the book I found Devil s Brood just as thrilling and exhilarating as the likes of When Christ and His Saints Slept, Here Be Dragons and The Sunne in Splendour, and perhaps even vivid and vibrant than those latterly mentioned I loved every character, from the infuriating yet well meaning Hal, the savvy Joanna, steadfast Will Marshal, right through to the inscrutable Geoffrey, effervescent Eleanor, and the unfathomable Henry Fitz Empress himself And truth be told, reading about Richard before the Lionheart was utterly fascinating, and I must admit myself rather partial to his character, though like everyone else his vices as well as his virtues are made all too plain In addition to being eminently believable and well researched, Devil s Brood is at once an immersive experience and jumps off the page at you Sharon s style of writing brings the subject to life, no matter what it may be, and to that end I d like to provide some of my favourite quotes from Devil s Brood The great hall was shimmering in light, sun streaming from the open windows, and ablaze with colour, the walls decorated with embroidered hangings in rich shades of gold and crimson New rushes had been strewn about, fragrant with lavender, sweet woodruff, and balm the air was perfumed with honeysuckle and violet, their seductive scents luring in from the gardens butterflies as blue as the summer sky. The day s heat had faded and the sky was a deep twilight turquoise, stars glimmering like scattered shards of crystal It was a beautiful evening but Henry seemed oblivious to his surroundings Even after they d entered the gardens, he paid no heed to the fragrant roses, the scent of honeysuckle and thyme, or the soft bubbling of the fountain. But then he looked back, and what he saw caused him to catch his breath as if he d taken a blow, for, thinking himself alone, Henry had leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. Twilight was laying claim to the cit , and the sky was a deepening shade of lavender, spangled with stars and fleecy clouds the colour of plums. This was the moment he most loved about tourneying, that first glorious sortie with banners streaming, trumpets blaring, and the earth atremble with pounding hooves as hundreds of knights came together in a spectacular clash of sound and fury. Dawn was streaking the sky in delicate shades of pink and pearl, the last of the night stars flickering out like quenched candles. It s not just that Sharon researches her books so carefully and accurately, but the fact that when she brings the facts to the page she writes so imaginatively and creatively, taking the raw data and dry evidence and drawing out the vivacious, funny, flawed people from the artefacts and documents and telling their human stories and all this achieved with no or very little alteration or embellishment of the facts Some of Sharon s descriptions are worthy of the great historical bards, and from what fount of inspiration she plucks her words from I am often left mystified, albeit bewitched, for I am sure it never would have occurred to me to write of a clash of sound and fury or describe the sky as variously turquoise or pearl with clouds the colour of plums That is simply marvellous to me, marvellous and magical I don t know how Sharon Penman does it I normally write much longer reviews than this, and I ve noticed that my reviews of Sharon s books have been a lot shorter What a pleasure it is to write a line saying this is perfection rather than pages deconstructing why a bad book didn t work.Forget the pretenders to the throne Sharon Penman deserves the accolade of queen of historical fiction, and a title richly deserved it is too.10 out of 10 I honestly don t know how Sharon can top this, but with Lionheart coming out soon, I m eager to see if she s up to the challenge My money s on yes. There is one thing you can t fault Penman for and that s her research It s thorough, copious and usually factual, almost OCD in places But what I do fault her for is her need to include every single word of it in her novels This one was so bloated by research that it floated belly up slowing the narrative, distancing characters from the reader and was downright tedious distracting in places And as fascinating as most of the information was although I could well have lived without knowing how 12th century Welshmen cleaned their teeth or that Henry had a painful abscess in is groin near the end of his life a lot of it really had no place in the story which led to ridiculous amounts of exposition and dialogue between characters discussing stuff they would have already known And there was 700 pages of it to wade through Surprisingly, for an author of Penman s reputation I also found her guilty of another historical fiction sin imbuing some of her 12th century characters with 21st century sensibilities, and although it wasn t as bad as in some novels by lesser authors I ve read, it was there I also found several other niggles in that the religion expressed felt very Protestant to me maybe it was all that scripture quoting and the physicians seemed to have anachronistic medical knowledge Fair enough, nobody s perfect.That s not to say I didn t enjoy the book I did Because when Penman was able to concentrate on the story and not her research it was great stuff Unfortunately, I would estimate the parts where the story, characters and history came together in harmony was only about a quarter of the book.I do feel sad that I m not in raptures over this book like everyone else I really wanted to love it No, than that, I expected to love it and am disappointed that I didn t However, I did learn lots but think next time I would much rather read NF than research saturated fiction.My special thanks to Anna and Karla who supported me through the 700 pages and listened to my gripes Best of all they made me laugh and helped make it a enjoyable experience.Buddy read with Anna. Rating 3.5 starsI read historical fiction for two reasons to learn and to be entertained.There s no doubt that Penman s research is impeccable As a new reader to this era, I now feel I know the story of Henry II, his sons, their rebellions and their contemporaries very well The information given is interesting and thorough I couldn t have asked for a fuller, complete picture.The entertainment side was less successful for me In her quest to tell the whole story, Penman felt she had to include everything This started out well, and I enjoyed the family squabbles, feeling Henry s exasperations as his sons constantly pushed for and , and rebelled with war against him and each other every time he stalled over their demands And who could blame him for being so reluctant, those boys could not be trusted Not knowing the story of Henry and Thomas Becket, I also enjoyed the recap of the build up and aftermath of Becket s murder, incorporating Henry s complex feelings towards that whole situation However, around page 500 of 700 , my enjoyment started to wane It s obviously not Penman s fault that the bickering brothers and their rebellions dragged on for years, but they became tiresome and repetitive and sapped my strength.I also thought there was too much of everything It s a double edged sword I want the complete story, warts n all, but I also want it to be fresh and riveting and how do you do that when the real life historical facts went round in circles for than a decade Perhaps by showing and telling less Perhaps by not having the same characters hold the same conversations over and over Perhaps, in a real cast of hundreds, don t add in a couple of fairly predominant but pointless fictional characters Perhaps by not imparting all your research, by keeping your lesser facts back to give the important ones greater impact This wasn t a book that included everything but the kitchen sink the kitchen sink was perched up on the dais.Thanks to my friend Jemidar for this buddy read I loved your insightful and silly thoughts as we ploughed through it all If Eleanor of Aquitaine s marriage to King Henry II wasn t passionate and tumultuous enough it gets even spiced up when their sons rebel against their father with Eleanor s aid resulting in her captivity house arrest Sharon Kay Penman leaves the drama of the murder of Thomas Becket behind in Time and Chance and follows the family breakdown with the third book revolving around Henry and Eleanor in, Devil s Brood Devil s Brood follows familiar ground with the subject of Eleanor and Henry but Penman breaks some ground with her style Devil s Brood is noticeably the strongest after the first two books both in writing and story Instead of a slow beginning in usual Penman fashion in which she spends too much time setting the scene, establishing characters, and recalling past events Penman finally jumps right into the story and keeps a steady pace which heightens the emotional accessibility of the story Devil s Brood still features a lot of discussing of events versus living them but the share of this is heavily diminished and lessened in comparison to the first two books Penman s writing story is alive and charged making it a much better read The characters are also stronger and each stand out on their own feet, especially Eleanor and Henry s sons who really capture the reader s attention.As per usual with Penman, her writing in Devil s Brood often sweeps the literary language landscape and is rich with imagery However, she truly steps it up with Devil s Brood with some emotionally packed moments that the reader will genuinely feel in all of its essence and will be left in awe This carries the story and teaches the history aspect by leaving a strong impact The great thing is that Penman doesn t force this and it all flows naturally One of the standout features of Devil s Brood is the depiction of the family breakdown and rebellion that takes place Oftentimes with this subject in both history and historical fiction pieces Henry is simply washed as the bad guy , Eleanor and her sons as the victims, and everything else is black and white Penman brings the grey matter to light, voices the psychological causes effects of these events, and doesn t exaggerate each character s roles therefore eschewing stereotypes and making Devil s Brood real and relatable Devil s Brood does eventually fall into some discord only in the sense that there is so much intrigue and drama between the sons and Henry that the story becomes slightly muddied and even somewhat tedious and overwhelming Yet, the angles that Penman spins are fresh and invigorating such as continuing to show Eleanor as a cunning woman not suffering in imprisonment but still helpless to her surrounding situations The portrayal of the Young King Hal s death is extremely moving, vivid, and rife with emotion making it a monumental and memorable part of Devil s Brood despite a reader s personal opinion of Hal Penman s writing here is unarguably splendid and top notch The final quarter of Devil s Brood regresses in strength and the story and Penman herself seems to lose some fire The text feels compressed and tired meanwhile Penman tries too hard to tie loose strings, inform the reader of real historical conclusions, and set up events for the next book Basically, too much is thrown into little space and thus, it is spread thin This results in some debasing of Devil s Brood but luckily this doesn t take away too much from the overall value of the novel The final ending, however, is strong emotionally wrapping up with Eleanor s point of view and truly bringing her emotion to the reader, therefore leaving a well enough, memorable note Penman supplements Devil s Brood with an Author s Note debunking some classic myths regarding some of the figures in the novel and also explaining some of the minor historical liberties she has taken within her composition.Despite some flaws and a weak final quarter Devil s Brood is a nuanced historical fiction piece that stands out against Penman s first two books on Henry and Eleanor Devil s Brood is definitely not recommended to be read as a standalone novel but is absolutely riveting in the series Devil s Brood is a lovely fire lit by Penman. Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine thought they had it all the greatest empire since Charlemagne, healthy children including the heir and several to spare so how did it all go so wrong The Devil s Brood takes up the story where Time and Chance left off with the murder of Thomas Becket, as Henry returns from his self imposed exile to Ireland Henry s three eldest sons are chafing at the bit to have lands and power of their own and egged on by Louis of France they join with their mother Eleanor in rebellion against their father In time Henry quells the rebellion and forgives his sons, but he cannot forgive his wife and queen and he imprisons her Even though Henry forgave his sons, they are still not happy with his generosity and it eventually leads to power struggles and back biting amongst the brothers, particularly young Hal, who suffers the ultimate punishment for his reckless deeds.This was a fascinating story of a brilliant, powerful king whose blind love and trust in his sons lead him to making mistakes in judgment that eventually lead to his downfall I also loved seeing a different side of the haughty, queenly Eleanor we saw in Time and Chance, as unlike her sons she does come to recognize the wrongness well sometimes of her actions and the cataclysmic effects those actions had on her family Some readers may find the first part of this book a bit slow paced as Penman does spend time setting up the back history of Henry, Eleanor and the Becket murder, but hang in there as about half way through when the boys start turning on each other the pages literally started flying Penman s dialogue was exceptional, although I couldn t decide who got the best lines, Henry or Richard they just smoked off the page One of Penman s great strengths is to take the most complex political situations and put them into a story that not only entertains the reader but educates at the same time Five stars and it appears from the author s notes and a recent blog interview that this will not be a trilogy, she will continue the story of Eleanor, Richard and John in one book Hurray For those of you coming away from this book wanting to know about William Marshal, I highly recommend Elizabeth Chadwick s The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion They are hard to find in the US, but readily available in the UK and Canada. This story is several hundred pages of epic dissension between brothers, sons and father, and husband and wife cheered on by those wanting to shatter the empire said to rival that of Charlemagne s, and supported by their expedient sycophants I would jump off to their time if I only could and give each of Henry s four sons a smack in the head for being so self serving and power hungry, for still wanting of the pie when they were already given their share, for brewing deception and discord and distrust among themselves, and for wounding Henry as a father most of all as I ve truly come to sympathize with him since Time and Chance But then I would often hear of present day news about siblings fighting over their parents inheritance, or influential families that were torn apart because of materialism, and lament that nothing has truly changed much about the deadly sin that is greed even after some 850 years Only, this particular Plantagenet brood makes family sibling rivalries of today look simply mundane and uncomplicated Sigh. I have enjoyed Ms Penman s writing for many years She seems to be able to accurately craft characters and scenes that are true to life within the context of their age She is one of the few medieval writers that can describe strong female characters, and yet does not pander to an audience, or seem to cross the line in modernizing them At least that is how it seems to me Her Eleanor of Aquitaine is amazing in this book She is the most three dimensional and conflicted of all of the major characters presented.The only thing I would like to see often in Ms Penman s books are stories seen through the eyes of the peasantry The poor souls who fight, work and die so that all these nobles can play their high stakes political games Her books focuses solely on the upper aristocracy of the middle ages.As I read this book I was continually struck by the reasons a peasant with would fight and die for nothing but feudal loyalty I do not seem to be a pacifist, but if it is a wasted life to fight and die for economic, philosophical or government systems, or even religious differences, how much is it a waste to die for whether this brother claims inheritance in this duchy or another brother claims it Under either lord their lives would not change nor are the the peasants even promised improvement in their lives There were no promises of freedom or Make Aquitaine Great Again or even God is on our side What was their motivation It baffles me unlike the later wars of the Crusades or the ages of Nationalism where at least there was propaganda presented ensuring possible improvement or eternal salvation The feudal and dynastic clashes were indeed strange.This is a great book and I plan to continue to read from this author. &READ EPUB ↻ Devil's Brood ⇻ The Long Awaited And Highly Anticipated Final Volume In Penman S Trilogy Of Henry II And Eleanor Of Aquitaine A Tumultuous Conclusion To This Timeless Story Of Love, Power, Ambition, And Betrayal 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 This Is A Story Of Betrayal As Henry S Three Eldest Sons And His Wife Enter Into A Rebellion Against Him, Aligning Themselves With His Bitterest Enemy, King Louis Of France But It Is Also The Story Of A Great King Whose Brilliance Forged An Empire But Whose Personal Blind Spots Led Him Into The Most Serious Mistake Of His Life Sharon Kay Penman Has Created A Novel Of Tremendous Power, As Two Strong Willed, Passionate People Clash, A Family Divides, And A Marriage Ends In All But Name Curiously, It Is A Novel Without Villains Only Flawed Human Beings Caught Up In Misperceptions And Bad Judgment Calls Most Devastating To Henry Was Not His Sons Rebellion But His Wife S Betrayal In Joining Them How Could It Happen That Two People Whose Love For Each Other Was All Consuming End Up As Bitter Adversaries That Is The Heart Of Penman S Tale In Devil S Brood There is much less in the way of historical error in this book Ms Penman s research has tightened up and become outstanding, by fiction standards and actually by historical standards I have read less convincing historians.This very comprehensively tells the story of the dysfunctional family dynamics that tore the family of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine apart, the tragedy of the death of two sons and the heartrending end of Henry himself Along the way, we also get the story of William Marshal, which is a dramatic bravura performance in it s own right There is not a single major character in this novel who is not well drawn and interesting Henry II was in my own view one of the most interesting of the English kings He was also, arguably, one of the most successful, despite the dire family dynamics And, despite history s ordure throwing, John was the son most like him as King The politics of the reign remain fascinating.Ms Penman is a favourite HF author of mine because even her early work is characterised by honest research and willingness to accept her own mistakes This novel is one of her best three, in my view the other two are the two Lionheart novels. I m seeing Richard I of England in whole new light and it s as dim as a gutting candle but I digress Richard is a product of his time and that time was dark and disturbing.Ms Penman once again makes medieval life and history as palpable as what we see on the news today, the persons as real, whole and flawed as ourselves separated by a thousand years Devil s Brood concludes the story of Henry II of England and his queen Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine and concentrates on the ill fated rebellions of Henry and Eleanor s sons, The young king Hal, crowned during his father s lifetime as a surety of succession, Richard, Geoffrey and John The rebellion is sanctioned by Eleanor who is tired of being seen as merely Henry s queen and not as a duchess in her own right with power and intellect in a man s world A few of the mythic causes of that rebellion are swept away in Ms Penman s meticulously researched book, leaning on fact.Henry is arguably one of England s greatest rulers but he failed miserably as a father to his children, especially his boys four spoiled, willful and vengeful brats in my opinion, Geoffrey being the most sympathetic Hal, the eldest, is a celebutante of his day handsome, popular, free with favor and money, but weak as a commander and ruler, easily swayed by hangers on Geoffrey is the son in the middle overlooked, underappreciated but cold and calculating and turning when the wind blows in his favor John is a boy learning from his older brothers and gets a lesson in mistrust and treachery Richard is just downright scary Sorry if you, dear Reader, hold the historical legend that he was a champion of the weak, poor, downtrodden nope, that was Robin Hood Richard is portrayed here as cold, calculating, mean, bloodless while suffering bloodlust as he hacks and stabs his way through Normandy, Poitou, Anjou, Maine and Aquitaine All of the sons have plenty considering the times, it s just that they want their father s trust and attention and lands and castles, but everyone goes after that trust and attention all the wrong ways If you re expecting the witty banter and political savvy of that outstanding play, The Lion in Winter, you re in for a surprise This is real, gritty, poignant and outstanding As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is a medieval reality show, Plotting with the Plantagenets a family that put the capital D in Dysfunctional.