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Devil's Brood (Eleanor of Aquitaine Series #3)

Devil's Brood (Eleanor of Aquitaine Series #3)

4.4 43
by Sharon Kay Penman

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A.D. 1172. Henry II’s three eldest sons conspire against him and align themselves with his greatest enemy, King Louis of France, but it’s Eleanor of Aquitaine’s involvement in the plot to overthrow her husband that proves to be the harshest betrayal. As a royal family collapses and a marriage ends in all but name, the clash between these two


A.D. 1172. Henry II’s three eldest sons conspire against him and align themselves with his greatest enemy, King Louis of France, but it’s Eleanor of Aquitaine’s involvement in the plot to overthrow her husband that proves to be the harshest betrayal. As a royal family collapses and a marriage ends in all but name, the clash between these two strong-willed and passionate souls will have far-reaching and devastating consequences throughout Christendom.

Devil’s Brood, a breathtaking and sweeping epic of a family at its breaking point, shows how two monumental figures once bound by all-consuming love became the bitterest of adversaries.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[Sharon Kay] Penman does a remarkable job of depicting passionate, dramatic characters and the perilous times in which they live. For those who like their historical fiction as complex and tightly woven as a medieval tapestry, this book cannot fail to please.”—Library Journal, starred review

“Teeming with characters and authentic period detail, the novel is part splendid pageant and part history lecture.”—Booklist

“Penman writes about the medieval world and its people with vigor, compassion and clarity.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A story so immediate and real that you’ll feel like you’ve lived it.”—Historical Novels Review

Library Journal

In Penman's final volume of her trilogy based on the lives of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (When Christ and His Saints Slept; Time and Chance ), the best-selling author concludes the tumultuous love story between these two strong-willed, brilliant rulers. As the novel opens, their four sons are beginning to chafe under the heavy hand of their father, who has crowned the eldest, Hal, as a coregent but gives him little authority or power. Egged on by their mother, the young king and his brothers mount a decadelong crusade of rebellion and treachery against their father and each other as they vie for land, money, and power. The empathetic reader can't help but be both horrified by the machinations of this grievously dysfunctional family and filled with pity for the pain they inflict upon one another. Penman does a remarkable job of depicting passionate, dramatic characters and the perilous times in which they live. For those who like their historical fiction as complex and tightly woven as a medieval tapestry, this book cannot fail to please. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/08.]-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Eleanor of Aquitaine Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 8.24(h) x 1.67(d)

Read an Excerpt


He would be remembered long after his death, one of those rare men recognized as great even by those who hated him.He was a king at twenty-one, wed to a woman as legendary as Helen of Troy, ruler of an empire that stretched from the Scots border to the Mediterranean Sea, King of England, Lord of Ireland and Wales, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, liege lord of Brittany. But in God’s Year 1171, Henry Fitz Empress, second of that name to rule England since the Conquest, was more concerned with the judgment of the Church than History’s verdict. 

 When the Archbishop of Canterbury was slain in his own cathedral by men who believed they were acting on the king’s behalf, their bloodied swords might well have dealt Henry a mortal blow, too. All of Christendom was enraged by Thomas Becket’s murder and few were willing to heed Henry’s impassioned denials of blame. His continental lands were laid under Interdict and his multitude of enemies were emboldened, like wolves on the trail of wounded prey. The beleaguered king chose to make a strategic retreat, and in October, he sailed for Ireland. There he soon established his lordship over the feuding Irish kings and secured oaths of fealty from the Irish bishops. The winter was so stormy that Ireland truly seemed to be at the western edge of the world, the turbulent Irish Sea insulating Henry from the continuing outcry over the archbishop’s death. 

 But in the spring, the winds abated and contact was established once more with the outside world. Henry learned that papal legates had arrived in Normandy. And he was warned that his restless eldest son was once more chafing at the bit. In accordance with continental custom, he had been crowned in his father’s lifetime. But the young king was dissatisfied with his lot in life, having the trappings of shared kingship but none of the power, and Henry’s agents were reporting that Hal was brooding about his plight, listening to the wrong men. Henry Fitz Empress decided it was time to go home.  

Chapter One

April 1172  
Dyved, South Wales  

Soon after leaving haverford, they were ambushed by the fog. Ranulf had long ago learned that Welsh weather gave no fair warning, honored no flags of truce, and scorned all rules of warfare. But even he was taken aback by the suddenness of the assault. Rounding a bend in the road, they found themselves riding into oblivion. The sky was blotted out, the earth disappearing under their horses’ hooves, all sound muffled in this opaque, smothering mist, as blinding as wood-smoke and pungent with the raw, salt-tang of the sea. Drawing rein, Ranulf’s brother Rainald hastily called for a halt.“Mother of God, it is the Devil’s doing!” 

Ranulf had a healthy respect for Lucifer’s malevolence, but he was far more familiar than Rainald with the vagaries of the Welsh climate. “It is just an early-morning fog, Rainald,” he said soothingly. 

“I can smell the brimstone on his breath,” Rainald insisted, “can hear his cackling on the wind. Listen and you’ll hear it, too.” 

Ranulf cocked his head, hearing only the slapping of waves against the rocks below them. Rainald was already shifting in the saddle, telling their men that they were turning back. Before Ranulf could protest, he discovered he had an ally in Gerald de Barri, the young clerk and scholar who’d joined their party after a stopover at Llawhaden Castle.Kicking his mule forward, Gerald assured Rainald that such sudden patches of fog were quite common along the coast. They’d soon be out of it, he promised, and offered to lead them, for this was a road he well knew. 

Pressed, too, by Ranulf, Rainald reluctantly agreed and they ventured on, slowly and very warily. “Now I know what it’s like for your wife,” Rainald grumbled, glancing over his shoulder at his brother. “Poor lass, cursed to live all her days bat-blind and helpless as a newborn babe.” 

Ranulf’s wife, Rhiannon, was indeed blind, but far from helpless. Ranulf took no offense, though; Rainald’s tactlessness was legendary in their family. Slowing his mount, he dropped back to ride beside Rainald’s young son. The boy’s dark coloring had earned him his nickname, Rico, for upon viewing him for the first time, Rainald had joked that he was more an Enrico than a Henry, swarthy as a Sicilian. Rico’s olive skin was now a ghostly shade of grey, and Ranulf reached over to pat him reassuringly upon the arm. “Horses do not fancy going over cliffs any more than men do, and Welsh ponies are as sure-footed as mountain goats.” 

Rico did not seem comforted. “Yes, but Whirlwind is Cornish, not Welsh!” 

Ranulf camouflaged a smile, for the placid hackney hardly merited such a spirited name. “They breed sure-footed horses in Cornwall, too, lad.” To take his nephew’s mind off their precarious path, he began to tell Rico of some mischief-making by his youngest son,Morgan, and soon had Rico laughing. 

He missed Morgan, missed his elder son, Bleddyn, and daughter,Mallt, above all missed Rhiannon. But he’d agreed to accompany Rainald to the holy well of St Non, even knowing that he’d be away for weeks, for he knew the real reason for Rainald’s pilgrimage. Rainald had claimed he wanted to pray for his wife’s soul. But Beatrice had been ailing for many years, hers a malady of the mind that only death had healed. Rainald’s true concern was for his other son,Nicholas, who had not been blessed with Rico’s robust good health. Frail and sickly, Nicholas was not likely to live long enough to succeed to his father’s earldom, as evidenced by Rainald’s desperate decision to seek aid from saints, not doctors. 

Rainald’s pain was all the greater because Nicholas was his only male heir. Rico was born out of wedlock, and thus barred by Church law from inheriting any of his father’s estates–even though Rainald himself was bastard-born. The irony of that was lost upon Rainald, who was the least introspective of men. It was not lost upon Ranulf, who shared Rainald’s tainted birth, both of them natural sons of the old King Henry. Neither of them had suffered from the stigma of illegitimacy, though. As a king’s son, Rainald had been judged worthy to wed the heiress of the earldom of Cornwall, and Ranulf had long been the favorite uncle of the current king, Henry Fitz Empress.

 Henry would gladly have bestowed an earldom upon him, too, but Ranulf, who was half-Welsh, had chosen to settle in Wales where he’d wed his Welsh cousin and raised his family–until forced into English exile by a Welsh prince’s enmity. 

His Welsh lands were forfeit and his English manors were meager in comparison to Rainald’s vast holdings in Cornwell, but Ranulf had no regrets about turning down a title. He was at peace with his yesterdays, and he’d lived long enough to understand how few men could say that. For certes, Rainald could not. Nor could the king, his nephew, absent these many months in Ireland, where he’d gone to evade Holy Church’s fury over the slaying of Thomas Becket. 

Gerald de Barri’s voice floated back upon the damp morning air. A natural-born talker, he was not going to let a bit of fog muzzle him, and he continued to engage Rainald in conversation, not at all discouraged by the earl’s taciturn, distracted responses. Ranulf listened, amused, for Gerald was an entertaining traveling companion, if somewhat self-serving. The nephew of the Bishop of St David’s, he was returning to England after years of study in Paris, and he reminded Ranulf of Thomas Becket, another worldly clerk blessed with great talents and even greater ambitions. Becket had been a superb chancellor, wielding enormous influence because of his close friendship with the king. What a pity it was, Ranulf thought, that Harry had taken it into his head to elevate Becket to the archbishopric. But who could ever have expected the man to undergo such a dramatic transformation? He wasn’t even a priest, had hastily to take holy vows just days before his investiture. But once he was Canterbury’s archbishop, he’d devoted himself to God with all of the zeal he’d once shown on behalf of England’s king. Henry hadn’t been the only one discomfited by Becket’s newfound fervor.His fellow bishops had often been exasperated by his provocations, his refusal to compromise, his self-righteous piety. Even His Holiness the Pope had been confounded at times by Becket’s intransigence. 

All that had changed, of course, as he bled to death on the floor of his own cathedral, and when the monks had discovered their slain archbishop’s vermin-infested hair-shirt under his blood-soaked garments, none had doubted they were in the presence of sainthood. Acclaimed as a holy martyr in death, even by those who’d considered him to be a vexation and an enigma in life, Thomas Becket was sure to be anointed as the Church’s next saint. Already people flocked to his tomb at Canterbury, seeking healing cures and buying little vials of his blood as precious relics.More than fifteen months after Becket’s death, Ranulf still marveled at it all. Was Becket truly a saint? 

He smiled wryly, then, remembering his last meeting with his nephew the king, just before Henry’s departure for Ireland. Over a late-night flagon of wine,Henry had challenged him, wanting to know if he believed Becket was a saint.He still recalled his reply. “I cannot answer your question, Harry, doubt that anyone can. I do know, though, that saints are not judged like ordinary men. That is, after all, what makes them saints.” Henry had reflected upon that in silence, then said, sounding both skeptical and regretful, “Saint or not, Thomas got the last word for certes.” 

Menevia was the name given to the small settlement that had sprung up around the cathedral of St David. Its houses were outnumbered by shabby inns, stables, taverns, and a few cook-shops, for the shrine of the Welsh saint was a popular choice for pilgrimages. Because of its remoteness and the difficulty of travel in Wales, the Holy See had decreed that two pilgrimages to St David’s were the equivalent of one to St Peter’s in Rome. The cathedral itself was situated just west of the village in a secluded hollow, out of sight of the sea raiders and Norsemen who had pillaged the coast in bygone times. 

The men expected to be accosted by villagers proclaiming the comforts of their inns, the superiority of their wines and mead, the bargain prices of their pilgrim badges. To their surprise, the streets appeared deserted. Advancing uneasily, they finally encountered an elderly man in a doorway, leaning heavily upon a wooden crutch. 

“Where have all the folk gone?” Rainald called out, and when he got only a blank stare in response, Ranulf repeated the question in Welsh, to better effect. 

“To the harbor,” the ancient replied, hobbling forward a few steps. “Sails were spied and when word spread, people went to see.Most pilgrims come on foot, but we do get some who sail from Normandy and Flanders, even a few Frenchmen who lack the ballocks to brave Welsh roads.” He grinned, showing a surprising mouthful of teeth for one so old, but Ranulf knew the Welsh were particular about tooth care, cleaning them with green hazel shoots and polishing them with woolen cloth. Flipping him a coin for his trouble, Ranulf interpreted for the others, translating the old man’s “Frenchmen” into “English” to avoid confusion. It was not always easy to live in lands with so many spoken tongues. To many of the Welsh, the invaders from England were French, for that was the language they spoke. To the French, those who dwelled on the rain-swept island were English. But those descendants of the men who’d followed William the Bastard to victory in God’s Year 1066 thought of themselves as Norman, and his nephew Henry was Angevin to the core. 

Having no interest in incoming ships, they continued on toward the cathedral, where they received the welcome worthy of an earl, although Gerald de Barri was disappointed to learn that the bishop, his uncle, was away. They were escorted to the guest hall and were washing off the grime of the road when they heard shouting out in the close. Ranulf and Rainald hastened to the window, looking down at a man sprinting toward the bishop’s palace. As several canons hurried to meet him, he sank to his knees, chest heaving. 

“The king . . .”He gasped, struggling for breath. “The king is coming! His ships have dropped anchor in the harbor!” 

Meet the Author

Sharon Kay Penman has lived in England and Wales and currently resides in New Jersey. She is the author of six other novels: Falls the Shadow, Here Be Dragons, The Reckoning, The Sunne in Splendour, When Christ and His Saints Slept, and the first Justin de Quincy adventure: The Queen’s Man.

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Devil's Brood (Eleanor of Aquitaine Series #3) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
ladylawyer8650 More than 1 year ago
I loved the first two books of this trilogy, buut I am not going to pay $19.99 for any nook book. Ten dollars is pushing it as far as I am concerned. B&N, you need to reconsider your relationship with your readers.
Nidaria More than 1 year ago
I already own this book in hardcover and thought it was fantastic! Sharom Kay Penman knows how to write history and tell a story. I saw that the book was available for $2.99 and since I was shopping or nookbooks thought I would add it to my nook collection. I was appalled to discover that the nook price is $19.99. Why is the hardcover $2.99 and the nookbook $19.99?!?!?!?!?!? I WILL NEVER PAY more than $10 for a nookbook. I am outraged and disgusted at these $20 nookbooks.
Lorrie Edwards More than 1 year ago
When one misses the characters in a book when it is over, I think the author has done the job of making their characters truly believable. Weaving history and fiction together makes reading twice as enjoyable! Penman is one of the best. Love all her books!
Kathleen M. Murphy More than 1 year ago
Enjoy this author but will not buy this overpriced ebook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book- the details make you feel like you are really there with the characters, experincing their world with them!
MKMar More than 1 year ago
This is this is the third in the Eleanor of Aquitaine series and it is just as fascinating as the two previous books. I find Penman's writing excellent and her characters vivid and believable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the third book by Sharon Kay Penman following the fascinating life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Penman did a great job of bring the medieval world of the 1100's to life. Great read that I would recommend to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sharon Penman writes the best novels about British History I have ever read. I can't wait for the next one.
HarperPH More than 1 year ago
Ms. Penman has once again kept me up well past midnight reading her exquisite prose. "Devil's Brood" is the third in a series about Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, but not the final one, I was pleased to learn. (If you haven't read the first two books, do so, before tackling this one. Like most people's lives, you really can't know them if you haven't known what happened to them earlier in their lives.) Henry and Eleanor begin this book in their late forties or early fifties, so a lot has gone into their relationship and their circumstances before Devil's Brood begins. In this book, the author really gets inside the hearts and minds of both of the main characters--you truly do feel their pain, and there's plenty of it. Many nights I wanted to shout to the characters, "Don't do that!" When you talk to characters, which I normally do not, you know the author has done her job. Devil's Brood is an apt title if ever there was one. Henry's sons were nothing if not ones to hold grudges, start rebellions, and generally make one fervently hope for a barren womb. But they make for great story-telling. It also makes you wonder how any of Henry's kingdom survived, and yet, tired as you are, you can't put the book down, and when you've read the last letter of the last page of author's anything, you cannot wait until the next book comes out. Henry and Eleanor are two star-crossed lovers with lots of individual charisma and power. Explosive, head-strong, wise while being so foolish in some of their judgments that you want to scream, but they are joined forever, and as Penman says "not even death can change that." And nothing but death will keep me from reading Penman's next masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As an avid Sharon Kay Penman reader I've looked forward to the ongoing family saga of Elanor and Henry. This family puts even the most intense soap opera to shame, but Penman's storytelling kept me involved and looking forward to the next part of the story.
janalee1951 More than 1 year ago
Penman has become my favorite author of historical fiction. This series should be required reading. Penman brings the history to life and not only showed two individuals as monarchs, but a husband and wife at odds and as parents raising 4 difficult sons - all of these folks wanting power. I've read all three in this series and have a much better understanding of the struggle between Henry II and Becket, Henry and the Church, his struggles with his family and the aftermath it caused in the third book. The only problem with the third book is that it ended and we have to wait for the 4th! I've always had a great interest in this time period of history and Penman has developed my interest even more. I just bought the first book in the series on the Welsh history - Here be Dragons. Penman is a wonderful author - please - get that 4th book in this series written!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1172 King Henry Fitz Empress names his oldest surviving son Hal as his coregent. However with the title comes nothing else as the second Henry since the Conqueror refuses to give his offspring any meaningful authority. ------------- Hal is irate as he feels his sire has insulted him with a name that is a title only and has no power behind it.. The monarch¿s wife Eleanor of Aquitaine rallies their male offspring to back their oldest brother in a bid for power. Over several years, however, Richard, Geoffrey and John not only join Hal in an open revolt against their sire, they war with one another over land, which each knows denotes power in late twelfth century England. Eleanor cannot believe how convoluted her encouraging her children to rebel against their martinet father has spun, but remains steadfast in support of Hal.----------- The third Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine historical thriller (see WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT and TIME AND CHANCE) is an excellent extremely complex medieval saga. The story line digs deep into two obstinate but powerful monarchs who battle in bed and on the throne for the top position. Their adult children also come somewhat into focus especially the frustrated males, which in turn amplifies the intricacy of the story line. Fans of a well written vivid medieval tale will want to read Sharon Kay Penman¿s powerful twelfth century chronicle.------------ Harriet Klausner
CheliD More than 1 year ago
And we thought that kids nowadays got into trouble…. In this final installment of the story of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, we are given the account of their four rebellious and ungrateful sons as well as the flawed judgment of the father and mother. Each son (Hal, the young king, Richard - Duke of Aquitaine, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, and John) has grievances with the power that King Henry wields over the regions of his kingdom. Each wants the reins to be slackened and the management to be theirs but Henry cannot give up his domination over the lands and the brothers join together to wrest control away. Normally in a story of this type there are heroes and villains, but not so here, probably because it is based on truth. We are dealing with flawed humans who not always are thinking or acting clearly but are passionate in their desires, selfish, exercising poor judgment or no judgment at all. Henry could not understand why his sons would be so ungrateful as to rebel against his authority. He did not feel that they were mature enough to handle the reins of power, however, when they cited his experiences at the same age, he could not justify his delays to them. Henry's issues appeared to be with trust throughout his life - his father trusted him at an early age, but he could not trust his sons which only brought about the rebellions that repeatedly threatened his kingdom and his life. He could forgive many of those involved in the rebellion but the betrayal of his Queen Eleanor was the wound that he could not heal which only drove his sons farther away. Not only is the reader treated to the historical accounts of the events of the reign of Henry II but we are also shown the driving forces of the other 2 sons - Hal, the young King, and Geoffrey the Duke of Brittany - who did not live to wear the crown of England. We know of Richard the Lionheart as well as evil King John, but rarely are we treated to such a personal look at the other two sons who frequently were in the forefront of the rebellions and the reasoning that drove the battles between father and sons. The characters were brought to life so thoroughly on these pages that often I wanted to shake a few and say, what are you thinking? No matter what, the historical events of the 12th century depicted throughout this meticulously researched book, are woven spectacularly into a tale of a dysfunctional family worthy of 21st century reality TV.
Reluctantcritic More than 1 year ago
An interesting historical-fiction manuscript; however, the choice of lead characters is out of the ordinary, causing this reader's interest to be lost on several occasions. One must trudge on to find the next interesting section and sometimes that is a battle. Seems as if Geoffrey deserves a short to mid-length book of his own, maybe we will eventfully get one. In fact, there are several interesting and deserving characters left begging for fictional development. How would this Henry have stayed as monarch for so long? This tome needed a first-class editing job and did not get it. The book is much too wide-ranging and not the best in her wonderful set of historical works, too bad. She had two or three books of material, and it is too bad for her readers that she did not shorten the format. Even with its problems, the book is still wonderful. This is an excellent winter time read, but not a novel for the beach, it would leave the reader 'flat-chested'
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE Penman's novels. Every one of them. So wonderful. I find myself thinking about the characters during the day and can't wait to see what will happen next. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and Penman does not disappoint. Don't hesitate to buy any of her books. All are fantastic.
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