Falls the Shadow

Sharon Kay Penman, Author Henry Holt & Company $0 (580p) ISBN 978-0-8050-0300-0
It is a mystery why Simon de Montfort's name is not as instantly recognizable as those of Charlemagne and Richard the Lionhearted. The histories of France and England were significantly shaped by the causes he espoused and the battles he fought. Penman, a writer whose fidelity to historical detail is matched by her gift for narrative, makes Simon, Earl of Leicester, one of her central characters in this sweeping, dramatic saga set in the 13th century. The novel initially suffers from a dual focus, however, since Penman is equally concerned with the descendants of Llewelyn Farr of The Sunne in Splendour, who united the Welsh lords in an uneasy peace. The lives of highborn English, Welsh and French families intersect and painfully collide through complex ties of royal kinship: Montfort's wife, Nell is sister to King Henry III, one of England's most incompetent monarchs. Hot-tempered, high principled and ""the most celebrated soldier in Christendom,'' Montfort enters into bitter conflict with his brother-in-law, becoming leader of the barons who oppose Henry's irresponsible leadership. Henry is forced to accept the Oxford Provisions that limit his power and affirm the rights of English citizens, but after two decades of intrigue, internecine conflict, shifting alliances and full-fledged civil war, Henry's son Edward Plantagenet prevails in the bloody battle of Evesham. Penman brilliantly evokes the medieval world with its deeply ingrained religious convictions that made men believe themselves directly favored or abandoned by God, a mental construct hard to reconcile with ``the seductive allure of a chivalric brotherhood based on the sword.'' As usual, she illuminates the events of individual lives as well as the political and cultural forces that characterized this tumultuous era, in a thoroughly engrossing book. 75,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 580 pages - 978-0-312-38246-9
Hardcover - 978-0-517-01222-2
Open Ebook - 592 pages - 978-1-4299-2295-1
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