Tuesday, 26 April 2016

REVIEW: Audiobook of The Lord of Ireland by E.M. Powell

The Lord of Ireland (The Fifth Knight, #3)The Lord of Ireland by E.M. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book I have 'read' in the "Fifth Knight" series by E.M. Powell. I'd read lots of positive reviews of the first two novels, Fifth Knight, The and The Blood of The Fifth Knight, so I jumped at the chance of listening to the audiobook of The Lord of Ireland.


The blurb on the book is as follows:

"John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname "Lackland." When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry's reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.
Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship - he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father's shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.
But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry's orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John's hands, is a murderous force - and he is only just beginning to wield it."


Not having read the first two books, I wondered whether I would miss anything in the story, but I needn't have worried. The salient points from the previous novels were clear and the novel works well as a standalone adventure. I know the previous books are labelled as historical mysteries/thrillers, but this seemed to fit firmly in the historical action adventure camp, rather than mystery. This is not a bad thing in my opinion.

The characters are strong and well-portrayed and the story flows well and quickly. I knew nothing about Prince John's campaign in Ireland, so I not only enjoyed the ripping tale of intrigue, battles and skulduggery, but I also felt I learnt quite a bit in the process. The historical note at the end of the novel added to my enjoyment, with succinct and entertaining information about the period and how some of the details that Powell had use almost directly from the chroniclers' accounts from the time. It's amazing what nuggets an author can find that just cry out to be used.

The hero and heroine of the piece were not my favourite characters, in fact I found Palmer's wife to be annoying in her moralistic view of things, though she is a good foil for the evil Prince John. John Lackland is suitably ineffective and generally underhand and greedy, traits that have seen him play the villain over and over in fiction. I couldn't help wonder whether he was really as useless as portrayed, but then the notes on the history seemed to bear out the image of him. I guess he is so often the baddie in books and films because he really was nasty!

My favourite character was Hugh de Lacy, as he seemed the most nuanced. Is he good or bad? Vicious or kindly? He is as robust a character as you are likely to find and of all the cast, he felt like the most real and also the one I'd most like to share a cup of wine with. Though I doubt he'd have had much time for me!

The story has a good deal of action, with gripping fights and chases, as the protagonists seek to prevent John from totally wrecking his father's realm whilst they also try to avoid being killed by the impetuous and cruel prince.

My verdict?

A fast-paced adventure that tells the story of John Lackland's catastrophic Ireland campaign with a good dose of intrigue and action thrown in for good measure.


This was the weakest part of the package for me. James Langton is clearly a skilled narrator, giving each character a unique voice, and performing the dialogue well. However, there was something about his general intonation that I found just didn't click with me. He would sometimes stress words on the 'wrong' syllable or go up at the end of sentences as if asking a question. This didn't make the book difficult to listen to and is purely a matter of personal taste, but I couldn't help thinking a different narrator, perhaps one with a bit more gravitas, would have done the material more justice.

Overall score:

4 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

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