My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love English history, literature, tea, scones, accents, cities, and beer. In fact, my family even has a manor in England! (And, by my family, I mean, waaaay back, if you trace my last name, you get to England. And then, if you trace some of those people forward, you’ll find out that they were slightly fancier than their American cousins & got to be Lords & Ladies & meet Shakespeare & Queen Elizabeth I, and have a giant manor that looks like a castle.)
ANYWAYS. So, I love the Brits.
My favorite period in all of English history is the period following William the Conqueror’s…conquering of England through the Third Crusade (i.e. late 12th century). AND, my favorite historical figure from that time is Eleanor of Aquitaine. (Also, my favorite movie of all time? The Lion in Winter. Hands down.)
So – this book, which is historical fiction, is set in the time preceding Henry II & Eleanor’s ascension to the throne of England. It covers the war between King Stephen & Empress Matilda (Maude) as they fight over the throne of England. She was the only surviving (legitimate) child of Henry I, and expected the throne to come to her (even though she was gasp* a woman); Stephen was her cousin who usurped her throne, leading a period of bloody, horrible civil war.
The book does a great job of describing & personifying the horrors of war and showing the effect on the people of England, as well as on those doing the fighting (or orchestrating the fighting).
Even though I knew the general story, I was very impressed with the way it unfolded. I am excited to read her next two books which further develop the stories of Henry II & Eleanor (who only really came into their own as characters in the last half of the book), and would recommend this (fairly long & weighty read) to anyone interested in military history, English history or medieval love stories.