A King’s Ransom-Sharon Kay Penman

A King’s Ransom
Sharon Kay Penman
Marian Wood Book/Putnam, Mar 4 2014, $35.00
ISBN: 9780399159220

In 1192, King Richard the Lion-Heart sails home on the Holy Rood after fighting in the Third Crusade in the Holy Land. He expects a hero’s welcome upon his return and to take back his throne from temporary ruler, his brother Prince John. However, Richard has limited information about England in his absence; especially John’s alliance with the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor.

Instead of arriving triumphantly in England, a storm causes havoc to his ship and enemies, ignoring Papal decree of safe passage home for Crusaders, seek his capture off the French and Italian coasts. Mercenaries hired by the Holy Roman Emperor take Richard prisoner. He lingers in a dungeon in Trefils for fifteen months until his mother Eleanor amasses A King’s Ransom to free him though at an exorbitant cost to the country. Abashed with what happened to him during his fifteen months in hell, Richard cowardly cannot face his wife Queen Berengaria and instead turns to extra marital trysts. No longer the same confident man he was before his incarceration except in war; for the remaining five years of his life Richard mostly serves as an absentee ruler living on the continent fighting his enemies.

The latest Angevins epic is an exciting medieval fiction that brings to life Richard the Lionhearted though it behooves fans to read the previous two tales first to fully understand how much imprisonment changed him (see The Devil’s Brood and Lionheart). Although the engaging plot fails to dig deeply into the impact on the kingdom’s economy caused by taxes to pay Richard’s ransom and wars; fans will enjoy the entertaining A King’s Ransom.

Harriet Klausner

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