Thursday 28 May 2020

BLOG TOUR: Lionheart (Richard the Lionheart Book 1) - Ben Kane


1179. Henry II is King of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. The House of Plantagenet reigns supreme.

But there is unrest in Henry's house. Not for the first time, his family talks of rebellion.

Ferdia - an Irish nobleman taken captive during the conquest of his homeland - saves the life of Richard, the king's son. In reward for his bravery, he is made squire to Richard, who is already a renowned warrior.

Crossing the English Channel, the two are plunged into a campaign to crush rebels in Aquitaine. The bloody battles and gruelling sieges which followed would earn Richard the legendary name of Lionheart.

But Richard's older brother, Henry, is infuriated by his sibling's newfound fame. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest threat to Richard's life may not be rebel or French armies, but his own family...

What did I think?

As a fan of historical fiction, I've always wanted to read a Ben Kane book so when I saw that he had changed historical period from Roman to Plantagenet I thought it was a good time to pick one up.  Richard the Lionheart is such a famous historical figure and I am ashamed to say that I knew very little about him, although I know a bit more about him now that I have read Lionheart.

Richard is Duke of Aquitaine when we first encounter him in Lionheart and rather surprisingly he is not the main character in the book.  The story is told from the point of view of Ferdia, an Irish nobleman who is being held captive at Striguil (now known as Chepstow) in Wales.  Ferdia is nicknamed Rufus because of his red hair and quickly acquires an arch-enemy, a knight named Robert FitzAldelm, who Ferdia refers to as Fists and Boots due to the constant physical bullying.  Ferdia and FitzAldelm take an instant dislike to each other but fate sees them crossing paths on many more occasions.

Lionheart tells Richard's story through Ferdia's eyes and it covers quite a lot of ground over a 10 year period from 1179 to 1189.  Richard's father, Henry II, is on the throne and growing weary of his four sons feuding and backstabbing each other.  I really enjoyed reading about the plotting and scheming between the boys: Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John (they sound like a medieval Beatles).  I was aware that Richard and John were brothers, but I didn't realise that there were other siblings so it was really interesting to find out how Richard I became Henry II's successor.

There are not only battles between the brothers, but there are actual battles portrayed in Lionheart.  The level of detail and vivid depiction of battle is clearly Ben Kane's forte.  The sights, sounds and smells of battle jump out of the pages as Richard evolves into the warrior we know he becomes.  I have to say that I found the battle scenes a bit hard going as I'm not terribly interested in strategy and war but I'm sure that most people will find it gripping and thrilling.

I loved reading Ferdia's story as his growing respect for Richard sees him overcoming his hatred of the English.  Ferdia seems very loyal, in both love and war, so I think that Richard has a good man by his side and Ferdia will have many more tales to tell in future instalments.  In this first instalment, Lionheart sets the scene perfectly for what I'm sure will be an epic series.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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