SUMMARY (from Goodreads): News of Thomas a Becket's martyrdom has spread throughout Christendom and the blame is laid at the feet of Henry Plantagenet, King of England. Two years later, with Becket canonised, Henry's position is precarious: punished at the Pope's insistence for his part in Becket's death, he now also has an enemy in his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, after her discovery of his longstanding infidelity with Rosamund Clifford. Eleanor is determined to seek vengeance, so, with King Philip of France, she encourages her sons to conspire, both against their father and each other. Much embattled, the old eagle Henry struggles to fend off both rebellion and the plots of his aggressively circling offspring...
There are several reasons I liked The Revolt of the Eaglets better than The Plantagenet Prelude.
Firstly, it seemed better written to me, or maybe I just got used to Plaidy’s simplistic style for this saga.
Secondly, as much as I usually root for female characters’ presence in fiction, I think Eleanor’s absence for the most part of the book turned out for the good. When she did appear I liked her better, perhaps because we could then really see the gist of her character. I disapproved of her pitting her sons against Henry and each other, but on the other hand I understood her reasons for acting in such way, and I couldn’t help but admire her resilience and ability to adapt to circumstances and make the best out of them and still find a way to scheme and try to get her way (and succeed).
Thirdly, despite Henry’s many faults, it was captivating to watch him manoeuver between various sides and demands and most of the time manage to get himself out of precarious positions, even if by questionable means (lying, going back on his word, manipulating, etc.) And I felt a little sorry for him wanting to be loved by the sons who hated him, though he had kind of brought that hatred upon himself and though he was a fool (and a willing one at that) to turn a blind eye where John was concerned due to that longing of his for the love of at least one of his sons.
At least Henry’s daughters seemed all right, although the book barely mentioned them, apart from Matilda and Joanna. After all, women were a lot of times only chess pieces, means for making alliances, expanding territories and buying peace. Sad and frustrating, but historically accurate.
Finally, I liked the sense of the author’s sarcastic opinion about the historical events and figures she presents. It appears in subtle, faint undertones in many spots, and I may have just imagined it, but I it gave the book a bit of a special flavour.
Overall, The Revolt of the Eaglets was a gripping historical read, and it convinced me to read more of The Plantagenet Saga. Actually, I can’t wait to start next book, The Heart of the Lion.
RECOMMENDATION: If you are looking for an unembellished presentation of history, Plaidy’s works definitely qualify as such, and The Revolt of the Eaglets is no exception.