I have not read the first novel in Plaidy's Plantagenet series. The Revolt of the Eaglets is the second in the series. It opens with the King Henry II learning of the murder of Thomas Becket, and it ends with his own death, or, news of his death reaching his prisoner-wife Eleanor. The novel is focused on the strife between Henry and his family. Any "love" once felt for his wife, Eleanor, the mother of all his legitimate children, has vanished now that she's older and past her usefulness. The two live separate lives for a short time, but, he eventually holds her prisoner. HATE isn't too strong a word for how these two feel towards one another! It is also focused on "Young Henry" (the oldest son and heir), Richard, Geoffrey, and John. Henry II had a "brilliant" idea to have his heir crowned king. Having two crowned monarchs is a big, big mess. It does not inspire family harmony. The son has no actual power, authority, dominion, or independence. Richard is another son that comes into the story quite a bit. Oh the plotting and scheming that goes on...as his sons "turn" against their father and fight for what is "theirs" by right. Is it horrible for sons to turn against their fathers and lead armies? Of course. But the truth is it is hard to find good excuses for Henry II's bad behavior. Plaidy is very matter-of-fact about his weaknesses, mistakes, or sins.
What might be hardest for modern readers to understand is Henry's relationship with Alice. Richard and Alice were betrothed to each other as young children. She is a French princess. She leaves France to live in England at a young age. When the king first takes notice of his future daughter-in-law she is eleven or possibly twelve. It is lust pure and simple. The book presents the seduction (without graphic details, but what is there is CREEPY ENOUGH) very matter of fact without judgment or commentary. Alice believes this special but must keep it secret attention is marvelous. She expects to be made Queen one day. Alice and Henry's relationship continues throughout the book.
Readers get a glimpse of British history and French history. It isn't always a cozy, satisfying glimpse. But it was an interesting read with plenty of characters.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews