Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Lionheart by Ben Kane, which will be published by Orion on 28th May 2020 but is available to pre-order now. My thanks to Virginia at Orion for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my proof copy.
About the Book
1179. Henry II’s Norman conquerors have swept through England, Wales – and now Ireland.
Irish nobleman Ferdia has been imprisoned in Wales to ensure the good behaviour of his rebellious father. But during a skirmish on a neighbouring castle, Ferdia saves the life of the man who would become one of the most legendary warriors to have ever lived: Richard Plantagenet. The Lionheart.
Taken as Richard’s squire, Ferdia crosses the Narrow Sea to resist the rebellious nobles in Aquitaine, besieging castles and fighting bloody battles with brutal frequency.
But treachery and betrayal lurk around every corner. Infuriated by his younger brother Richard’s growing reputation, Henry rebels. And Ferdia learns that the biggest threat to Richard’s life may not be a foreign army – but Richard’s own family . . .
Format: Hardcover (400 pages) Publisher: Orion
Publication date: 28th May 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find Lionheart on Goodreads
Lionheart is the first book I’ve read by Ben Kane although I’m aware of his reputation as a bestselling and highly regarded author of historical fiction set in the Roman period. Series such as Spartacus, Hannibal and Eagles of Rome have earned him a devoted following and I can now appreciate why. In Lionheart, the first in a new series, the author turns his attention to 12th century England and France, and in particular to that famous historical figure, Richard the Lionheart.
The narrator of the story is Ferdia, the son of an Irish nobleman defeated by the English. During his time held as a hostage, Ferdia (or Rufus, as he is nicknamed for his red hair) encounters Richard, then Duke of Acquitaine. The manner of their meeting will change the course of both their lives. Rather against his will, Ferdia finds himself drawn to Richard because of the latter’s leadership qualities, military prowess and personal charisma. Whilst held hostage, Ferdia also makes himself a deadly enemy but, luckily, acquires a loyal supporter in the shape of Rhys, a young Welsh urchin.
Over the course of the next few years Ferdia comes to appreciate the camaraderie of his fellow squires and the bonds forged in battle. He also indulges in a young man’s interests: sparring, drinking and trying to attract the attention of young ladies.
As you might expect from a book set in an eventful period of history, Lionheart is full of vivid battle scenes and details of weaponry, armour and military tactics. In the background – an element I particularly enjoyed – is the picture of a family at war between themselves. King Henry’s sons – Henry (known as the Young King), Richard, Geoffrey and John – are distrustful of one another and constantly sparring for favour. As it transpires, some are prepared to go further than others to achieve their ambitions. Poor King Henry’s attempts to create peace between his sons usually come to naught, including during one especially uncomfortable Christmas at Caen.
At this point, I’d like to mention the 1968 film The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole as Henry, Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor and Sir Anthony Hopkins as Richard. Although historically inaccurate – Eleanor was imprisoned by her husband for rebelling against him from 1173 until his death – it’s still a wonderful depiction of the strife in the family. With a screenplay by James Goldman based on his 1966 play of the same name, the film won three Oscars including one for John Barry’s glorious soundtrack.
Interspersed between Ferdia’s first person narration are occasional sections from the point of view of Sir William Marshal. A real life figure known as ‘the greatest knight in Christendom’ and attached to the household of first the Young King and then King Henry, these sections provide the reader with an up close and personal insight into the turbulent relationships within the Royal family. The book ends at a pivotal moment for the realm, for Richard and for Ferdia. God’s legs, as Richard would say, the author knows how to leave his readers with both a warm feeling and wanting more.
Full of adventure, action and intrigue, Lionheart is a thrilling read. But don’t just take my word for it, read this brilliant review by Kate at For Winter Nights who really knows her stuff when it comes to historical fiction. Or check out some of the other stops on the blog tour.
I’m really looking forward to the next in the series, due in 2021, especially since the author promises us an appearance by Eleanor! Fans of classic films may want to get ready for the next instalment by watching Ivanhoe (1952) and/or The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
In three words: Dramatic, immersive, exciting
Try something similar: Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
About the Author
Kenya born, Irish by blood and UK resident, Ben Kane’s passion for history has seen him change career from veterinary medicine to writing, and taken him to more than 60 countries, and all seven continents. During his travels and subsequent research, including walking hundreds of miles in complete Roman military gear, he has learned much about the Romans and the way they lived. Ten of his thirteen novels have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his books are published in twelve languages; a million copies have sold worldwide. In 2016, his research was recognised by Bristol University with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Kane lives in Somerset with his wife and children, where he writes full time. (Photo/bio credit: Publisher author page)