Updated: Jan 20
This is Ben Kane's first crack at another period and I think he's done a grand job of bringing the twelfth century to life. The story, as the title suggests, covers Richard the Lionheart, and in the first instalment focuses on his rise to power.
For me, by no means an expert on the period, I found the history behind the story fascinating. The complex relations between Richard's father and his sons, and the family as a whole and their relationship with the French is explained in great detail.
The story is told through the eyes of Rufus, an Irish noble held hostage in England. My one quibble with the story is the first part, which ends with Rufus finding himself in service to Richard. This I felt was rather awkwardly done, and seemed a bit farfetched (although it was obvious our protagonist was always going to end up being close to Richard) I just felt it could have been more naturally woven into the story.
With that out the way the rest of Lionheart is as immersive as everything else Ben has written (he really goes the extra mile with his research) Overall I enjoyed Lionheart all the more as the story went on, though I would say I found it a bit slow at times, with a lot of focus seemingly on world building and historical detail, the plot wasn't really driving forwards.
In the second instalment 'Crusader', there is more pace and action to the story, a couple of added twists and more of a side story for Rufus, running along the timeline of Richard's endeavours in Sicily, Cyprus, and then the holy land. I enjoyed this one a lot, and found myself racing to the conclusion. The added action of the battles of the crusade really helped to spring the story from the pages, and I found the political elements of Richard's life were inserted into the narrative more smoothly than they were in the first book.