Richard I was crowned King in 1189 and set off almost immediately for the Third Crusade.
This was a bloody campaign to regain the Holy Land, marked by warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens.
Men and women found themselves facing new sorts of challenges and facing an uncertain future.
John, the youngest son, was left behind - and with Richard gone, he was free to conspire with the French king to steal his brother's throne.
Overshadowing the battlefields that stretched to Jerusalem and beyond were the personalities of two great adversaries: Richard and Saladin.
They quickly took the measure of each other in both war and diplomacy.
The result was mutual admiration: a profound acknowledgement of a worthy opponent.
In this gripping narrative of passion, intrigue, battle and deceit, Penman reveals a true and complex Richard - a man remarkable for his power and intelligence, his keen grasp of warfare and his concern for the safety of his men, who followed him against all odds.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 608 pages, maps
- Publisher: Pan Macmillan
- Publication Date: 03/01/2013
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9781447205364
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Review by john257hopper
Another beautifully written novel by this author. Covering the first three years of Richard the Lionheart's reign, this is in effect the fourth book in a series starting with her trilogy on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The sights, sounds and smells of the Crusade and of the Holy Land itself are vividly described. Richard comes across as almost an action superhero though the author's historical note makes clear that if anything she has downplayed the sources in this respect (both Christian and Islamic sources). Some character traits are repeated rather tediously, though, such as the famed Angevin temper and Richard's recklessness for his own safety, while being concerned nevertheless for the safety of his men. It's refreshing to see his wife Berengaria of Navarre portrayed as a character in her own right as she is generally outshone by the King's sister Joanna and indeed is probably the most obscure medieval Queen, often relegated to being merely the answer to the quiz question of who was only Queen of England who didn't set foot in the country during her husband's reign. Saladin and his brother Adil (Saphadin) are also well depicted as the honourable opponents they seem to have been. Richard is the great strategist as which he was almost universally depicted in the sources on all sides, the massacre of the Acre garrison being depicted in the light of contemporary concerns, horrific though it was. The leading French crusaders come across very poorly here, as obstructive cowards constantly trying to outwit Richard and this does seem a little simplistic.Overall, this is a brilliant read, well up to Penman's high standards. 5/5