Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien
|Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: The second historical novel by Anne O'Brien is a substantial improvement on her Virgin Widow – which was rather fantastic itself. A stunning portrayal of narrator Eleanor of Aquitaine and a gripping mixture of historical fact and O'Brien's imagination make this a must read for anyone interested in the period. Anne O'Brien was kind enough to answer some questions for us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 624||Date: April 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
In the year 1137 fifteen year old Eleanor of Aquitaine is an orphan. Just before her father's death he asked King Louis VI of France to take care of her, and the unscrupulous Louis took advantage of this request to marry her to his pious son Louis VII. When her new father in law passes away, the young woman becomes Queen of France and is determined to safeguard her precious lands from all who want to take them – even if it leads to conflict with her weak-willed husband. Then she meets the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey Plantagenet, and his son Henry…
Most readers will have some idea of what happened to Eleanor of Aquitaine in the end, but as with Virgin Widow , it's seeing how everything came to pass that makes this such a gripping read. Eleanor herself is an incredible heroine and narrator – capable of riding like a man, taking part in war councils, and even leading her nobles on a Crusade when her husband Louis fails to inspire them. Louis, on the other hand, is such a pathetic and wormlike creature that the arrival on the scene of Geoffrey of Anjou almost sets the page alight in contrast – to describe the chemistry between the pair of them as smouldering would be an understatement! Henry, his son, first shown as a self-confident boy and later as he becomes a man is also a fantastically well defined character, quick to anger, decisive, and altogether the opposite of Louis.
Even if you have no interest in Eleanor, Louis or Henry as historical figures, this is an enjoyable read in all ways. It's fast paced and thrilling, with great romance (eventually!) and O'Brien's style is incredibly easy to read. I'd be slightly more wary of recommending it to teens than I would the Virgin Widow – this has a rape scene, although it's not at all graphic, and includes some incest – but mature young adults with an interest in history who aren't put off by that will enjoy it just as much as older people will.
At around 500 pages it's a fair bit shorter than O'Brien's first book but be warned it's not one to pick up without having a decent amount of time on your hands – my Sunday vanished completely as I wasn't able to tear myself away from it until I reached the end!
Finally, special commendation to O'Brien and publishers MIRA for again putting together a collection of extras which are nearly as brilliant as the book. We get family trees, questions and answers with the author, her biography, her ten favourite books, the facts behind what happened to Eleanor, Henry and Louis after the conclusion of this novel, and recommended reading if you want to find out more about this incredible young woman. Superb stuff.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: O'Brien herself recommends Alison Weir in the extras and I certainly wouldn't disagree – Katherine Swynford is a particularly interesting one of Weir's books.
You can read more book reviews or buy Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien at Amazon.com.
Anne O'Brien was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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