A King's Ransom picks up after the crusade years covered in Penman's previous book, Lionheart, to follow Richard I and his family during his captivity and final wars with the king of France. It's an epic story in itself, let alone as part of the larger series about the dynasty, and when Angevins are involved history is usually larger than life. But although the story is engaging, I found it to be a bit lacking in characterization. Although Richard is the protagonist of this book, he shares the spotlight with several of his family and companions- in fact, there are several chapters wrapping up their stories after his death. There were very few members of this cast of characters whom I felt I'd come to know as people. Although Penman does suggest Richard suffered from PTSD following his captivity (without using that anachronistic term or any others that wouldn't have fit a late twelfth century mindset), I didn't take away a sense of what "made him tick." Queen Eleanor feels more completely developed than most (which is probably not a surprise considering that in any interpretation she steals whatever scene she is in), as does her daughter/Richard's sister Joanna. All in all I would consider this to be an engaging retelling of history, but it is less perfect than it could be because of the lack of psychological insight into the king of the title.
Overall grade: B+
A King's Ransom will be released March 4