Eleanor of Aquitaine has disappeared. After launching a great rebellion to destroy her husband Henry II’s reign, it seems she has abandoned her sons in the struggle against their formidable father. As treachery radiates from Scotland to the Pyrenees, tension between the kings of France and England erupts into war.
Richard, the mightiest of the English princes, is determined to find his mother and avenge her. But Henry is more cunning than Richard or any of the other rebels anticipated, and the fates of Eleanor, her sons, and France itself, are in jeopardy.
The final book in award-winning novelist and biographer Blanche d’Alpuget’s Birth of the Plantagenets series, The Cubs Roar, illuminates the tumultuous end of Henry II. A tragic history of love, power and betrayal, The Cubs Roar reveals the destruction of an empire at the hands of a broken family.
First off, I’d like to say that I’m very familiar with this historical period – having widely read about medieval history and the Plantagenet dynasty – so I had high hopes when I picked up The Cubs Roar, and believe me, I was not disappointed.
The medieval Europe that d’Alpuget depicts in The Cubs Roar is richly imagined and meticulously researched – so much so, that, as I read, I felt as if I had been whisked away from my own reality and into that off 12th century England and France; I was lost in the detail, and I spent the better part of my weekend immersed in this world of muddy battlefields, troubadour culture and political intrigue. It’s a dangerous world too – one of menace and betrayal, where wives are at the mercy of their husbands, brothers are pitted against brothers, and fathers against sons.
The pages of the novel are also brimming with famous historical figures – from the politically astute King Henry II, who is always two steps ahead of everyone’s schemes, to his ruthless son, Richard (later known as the Lionheart), and the brilliant Eleanor of Aquitaine, who, even as her husband’s prisoner, is still a force to be reckoned with. D’Alpuget uncovers each characters’ hidden motivations, passions and desires, so that they are transformed from stagnant historical figures into well-rounded and flawed human beings.
The Cubs Roar is a feast for the senses: a sumptuous delight that delivers all the treachery, violence and scandal you’d expect from one of Britain’s most notorious dynasties. It’s an excellent conclusion to d’Alpuget’s Birth of the Plantagenet series, and for those of you craving more passion and politics, you can always go back and re-read the first four books in the series.