Book review – Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien

19 Jun

ENGLAND’S MOST RUTHLESS QUEEN. Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, is a determined woman who plots and schemes an astonishing path between two equally powerful men in twelfth century Europe, a woman who can manoeuvre and manipulate to safeguard her own lands as effectively as any power-grasping lord. Eleanor is single-minded in her struggle to keep her inheritance intact, leading her to reject one husband and take another who will fulfil her desires. Eleanor intends to reign as Queen and is prepared to bring scandal down upon herself in pursuit of her ultimate prize. Hers is a story of power, political intrigue, passion and love.

I’ve been consciously trying to read more historical fiction lately and have discovered some great books in the process, including this book based upon the early life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor of Aquitaine is a fascinating historical figure and this isn’t the first historical novel that has had her as its leading lady. Many will know Eleanor as Henry II’s wife and Queen consort of England during the twelfth century but I have to admit that apart from recognising her name, I knew nothing about her when I started reading.

The book actually focuses on Eleanor’s early life, following events to the point where she becomes Queen of England and what a life it was; Anne O’Brien brings Eleanor to life as a feisty and ambitious woman not afraid to speak her mind and fully immersed in the politics of the day. As one of the richest women in Europe at the time, Eleanor is drawn as a glamorous, fashionable and sociable character, determined to get what she wants. Yet despite the ruthless nature of some of Eleanor’s actions, I found that I had a lot of sympathy for her as I read this book. O’Brien has certainly brought out the sensitive side to her main character in equal balance to the more ruthless aspects and through Eleanor’s first person account of events, I really enjoyed getting to know her as I read.

There is a colourful, varied and large cast of supporting characters, often with their own sub-plots which tie in to the main story and I particularly liked Eleanor’s sister Aelith and young Henry Plantagenet. Despite being six hundred pages in length, this book was a quick and fast paced read that easily held my attention.  The Devil’s Consort is packed with intrigue, backstabbing and political manoeuvring. There is a strong element of romance, particularly with Eleanor’s affairs during her marriage to Louis VII and adventure during her participation in a Crusade with much drama as her first marriage comes to an end and she hastily weds a younger man in a brilliant political move.

The book has an excellent ‘extras’ section at the end which includes reading group questions, more information on Eleanor including further reading (both fiction and non-fiction) and I loved the ‘what happened next?’ piece which fills in the historical outcome for several of the key characters. Anne O’Brien is definitely an author to watch for historical fiction fans and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

4/5

The Devil’s Consort is out now in the UK (published by MIRA) and has just been released in the US with the title Queen Defiant. I’d like to thank Christabel at Midas for sending me a copy to review.

You can find out more about Anne O’Brien and her books at: http://www.anneobrienbooks.com/

2 Responses to “Book review – Devil's Consort by Anne O'Brien”

  1. Simon T 23rd June 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Just popping by to say how nice it was to meet you last night! Simon

  2. Elaine Simpson-Long 23rd June 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Lovely to meet you yesterday and I, too, enjoyed this book and have reviewed over on Random.

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