Reviews for Plantagenets : The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

Booklist Reviews 2013 March #2
They may lack the glamour of the Tudors or the majesty of the Victorians, but in Jones' latest book, the Plantagenets are just as essential to the foundation of modern Britain. As he chronicles the entire dynasty, beginning with Geoffrey of Anjou (commonly adorned with a sprig of Planta genista, which gave his line their moniker), familiar dramatis personae emerge. Of course, there's the recklessly brave Lionheart and the incomparably inept John, but Jones devotes ample time to the forces at work that shaped the kingdom. The great battles against the Scots and French and the subjugation of the Welsh make for thrilling reading but so do the equally enthralling struggles over succession, the Magna Carta, and the Provisions of Oxford. Many of these early inklings toward a permanent parliament and the rule of law would find a much fuller and fraught expression under the Stewarts, but they begin here. Written with prose that keeps the reader captivated throughout accounts of the span of centuries and the not-always-glorious trials of kingship, this book is at all times approachable, academic, and entertaining. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Choice Reviews 2013 October
Following in the footsteps of his Cambridge mentor David Starkey, Jones has produced yet another popular installment of Plantagenet royal history (e.g., Summer of Blood, 2008). He therefore reiterates the same traditional views (harsh on John, indulgent toward Richard I, respectful of Edward I, frustrated with Edward II and Richard II, and venerating a legendary Edward III), the same epic hyperbole of brutal, bloody-minded, yet brilliant monarchs, and the same insular understanding of a family whose interests and dynastic bonds actually reached deeply into Germany and Spain as well as France and Scotland. And readers must conclude that this royal family built England single-handedly. Yet given these traditional motifs, Jones writes excellently crafted prose that evokes powerful images. He readily admits this is a "book written to entertain," and, indeed, he presents traditional political narrative at its best--well informed by both medieval and modern historiography and made readily accessible to the curious general reader. In addition, Jones provides the Plantagenet women their just due on the political stage. The next volume will cover the Wars of the Roses, and here the Plantagenets will not look so much like swashbuckling, awe-inspiring nation builders. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General collections, public libraries. General Readers. J. P. Huffman Messiah College Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #2
A novelistic historical account of the bloodline that "stamped their mark forever on the English imagination." The first 250 years of the Plantagenets included numerous battles, the first half of the Hundred Years' War and some of the most colorful kings, from Henry II (the first king of England, as opposed to "of the English") and his "eaglets" to the three Edwards and Richard II. With a bit of background on the civil war between Stephen and Matilda that first gained the throne for Henry, Jones (Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, 2009) splits his tale in two at the usurpation of Richard II in 1399 by his first cousin Henry IV. This structure will whet readers' appetites for the second volume, which will cover the War of the Roses, the princes in the Tower and Richard III. Shakespeare and the movies have given most nonhistorians sufficient background to enjoy further tales of these kings and the little I-never-knew-that! moments that a good historian uses to tickle our fancies. For example, Edward I's Hundred Rolls was an even larger inventory than William the Conqueror's Domesday Book. After King John's death, his wife, Isabella of Angouleme, returned to France and married the man she was betrothed to when John swept her off her feet. There were so many battles and skirmishes with France and invasions back and forth, readers may wonder why the French and British even speak to each other anymore. Perhaps Jones' regular column in the London Standard has given him a different slant on history; however he manages, it's certainly to our benefit. Historians may question a few dates and events, but for enjoyable historical narratives, this book is a real winner. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 April #1

Although their presence in popular culture pales in comparison with that of the Tudors, the Plantagenet succession that ruled England for nearly 300 years during the Middle Ages was no less interesting or pivotal to the development of the Western world. Here, historian Jones (Summer of Blood) presents a riveting portrait of the royal lineage from Henry II through Richard II, after which the line split into the houses of York and Lancaster (the subject of Jones's next book). The author's special focus is on the qualities and decisions that led to each ruler's eventual downfall. Despite the density caused by any attempt to cram centuries of English history into one volume, Jones manages to create a work that is highly accessible to readers with only a basic knowledge of this era. The brief "Further Reading" section instead of a bibliography is a disappointment, however. VERDICT While the sheer volume of information presented may prove daunting to the casual reader, this is an excellent study of the period, both an overview and a series of character studies. It will be thoroughly enjoyed by Anglophile history buffs and others who love popular history or even historical fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/12. To read LJ's Q&A with the author, visit]--Ben Neal, Sullivan Cty. P.L., Bristol, TN

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #3

Although less famous than their Tudor cousins, the "unnaturally cruel" and powerful Plantagenets were the longest-reigning English royal dynasty, ruling for more than two centuries, from Henry II's ascendance in 1154 after a violent civil war to Richard II's deposition at the hands of his cousin Henry Bolingbroke in 1399. The great-grandson of William the Conqueror, Henry II--cunning, dynamic, and "a great legalist"--ruled over England and great swaths of France, but was labeled a "pariah" for his involvement in Archbishop Thomas Becket's murder and was betrayed by his redoubtable wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons. One of the dynasty's worst kings was Henry II's youngest son, John--"weak, indecisive, and mean-spirited"--who killed his nephew, a hapless prisoner, with his own hands in a drunken rage, lost Normandy to France, and was forced to guarantee his barons' rights through the Magna Carta. By contrast, John's great-great-grandson, Edward III, considered the greatest Plantagenet, was a new Arthur who "bonded England's aristocracy together in the common purpose of war," revived the knight's code of chivalry, and ushered in English as the accepted language. Blood-soaked medieval England springs to vivid life in Jones's (Summer of Blood) highly readable, authoritative, and assertive history--already a #1 bestseller in the U.K. 6 maps. Agent: Georgina Capel, Capel & Land (U.K.). (Apr. 22)

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