The Passionate Brood: A Novel of Richard the Lionheart and the Man Who Became Robin Hood by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Paperback (Reprint), 368 pages
October 1, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from Sourcebooks for review
“In this compelling novel of love, loyalty, and lost chances, Margaret Campbell Barnes gives readers a new perspective on Richard the Lionheart’s triumphs and tragedies. Drawing on folklore, Barnes explores what might have happened if King Richard’s foster brother were none other than Robin Hood, a legendary figure more vibrant than most in authentic history. Thick as thieves as Richard builds a kingdom and marshals a crusade, the two clash when Robin Hood so provokes the king’s white hot temper that Richard banishes him. The Passionate Brood is a tale of a man driven to win back the Holy Land, beset by the guilt of casting out his childhood friend, and shouldering the burden of being the lionhearted leader of the Plantagenets” (from Sourcebooks website).For a novel whose title states it’s a novel of Richard the Lionheart and the man who became Robin Hood, there is fairly little Robin in this novel. He has a semi-prominent role in the first quarter of the book and then appears again in the last few pages, although he is never far from Richard’s thoughts. I think for the importance that the title places on the character, there was not enough time spent on him. Once he becomes “Robin Hood” we really don’t find anything more about him – it’s more of a story of how casting Robin aside affects Richard’s conscience; a little different than how I pictured the story to be. Aside from that, I think The Passionate Brood is certainly an appropriate title – those Plantagenets were very passionate people and as a group even more so.
What I liked most about this novel was the importance placed on the female characters whom you rarely see in novels about the children of Eleanor of Aquitaine. We have the pleasure of meeting Eleanor’s daughter, Johanna, as well as Richard’s wife, Berengaria. While this was certainly a story of Richard and we spent a lot of time on Crusade, it was a story of these women as well. You were able to learn about their hopes and fears and see how they dealt with being on Crusade. I think I loved the character of Johanna the best – she was very similar to her mother – spunky, willing to go on Crusade, and wanting to be “one of the boys”. As a reader you get the whole family feel and see the distinct personalities that emerge from these characters.
As I was reading some of the events within this novel, I began connecting it with events in the Elizabeth Chadwick books, For the King’s Favor and The Scarlet Lion. In the Barnes’ novel, you see the royal side of the events, while in the Chadwick books you see the courtier side of the same events; the most notable example for me was when Richard was captured and they had to raise the ransom money to free him. By having read all three of these books it helped me to round out the experience more.
When I previously read Barnes’ novel Within the Hollow Crown (review here), I had a very hard time getting into it and had a harder time connecting with the characters. I am glad that I didn’t base my decision to read more of her books on my opinion of that novel. I very much enjoyed this book and I don’t think that it had any of the pitfalls of her other book (in my opinion).
4 out of 5 stars
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