Lionheart

Lionheart - Sharon Kay Penman I have finally finished. I really enjoyed this book and Sharon Kay Penman is the master of medieval historical fiction. It turned on its head many misconstrued ideas I had in relation to Richard the Lionheart. I like him a lot more now. I love how tactical and strategic he was. Being an Angevin no doubt helped this. After all with Eleanor Aquitaine as a mother you had to have some diplomacy skills.

The book centres around Richard's involvement in the Third Crusade to Outremer and what a journey is was to get there. From Phillipe Capet trying to block him at every turn, it is a wonder that the French and the English even made it to Outremer without killing each other. We spend the first half of the novel with Richard trying to get Phillipe to even commit to going on Crusade, even though they have both vowed to. It is obvious from the outset that Phillipe doesn't want to go on Crusade but eventually he succumbs and the journey begins, from France to Sicily to Cyprus and finally Outrember. Along the way it is a constant battle as both Sicily and Cyprus are in turmoil.

Finally arriving in Outremer, it is battle to rescue Jerusalem from the the Saracens. It is easy to forget how fervently people believed in God and that it dictated so much of daily life in medieval times. The zeal that men were prepared to die and the desire to rescue Jerusalem are plain to see. Both sides really believed they were doing the will of God. The Saracens protecting their religious sites and the Crusaders trying to retrieve them.

Saladin is clearly portrayed as a compassion man. He sends Richard fruit and snow when he is seriously ill and there is always the sense of him being honourable. Saladin is often in the background though as this is Richard's story.

Richard was a man of war. He comes across as one of the great warriors (if not the greatest) of his time and his prowess on the battlefield was legendary. There are numerous instances where he seemingly recklessly threw himself into battle, yet he always found a way to survive. He would have been very formidable if you were staring at him across a battlefied.

The books is also a depiction of how long things took. We are so use to being able to board a plane or drive a car to get somewhere. In medieval times it could take months. When Richard receives news it is months later. While he fights the Saracens, he receives troubling news from home and he battles with the desire to do God's work and to maintain his kingdom.

This book is only part 1 or 2. Penman stated she had too much material to complete just one novel and I can't wait to read part 2 when Richard returns from Crusade, as he already knows that his brother John is plotting against him and the Phillipe Capet is trying to take over his domains. This books is must for lovers of medieval fiction.