In late 2012 I read the first novel in The Fifth Knight series and I’ve been hooked ever since. So I was delighted to receive a request to review The Lord of Ireland, the third book in the series, when it was released recently.
Here’s how the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, describes the novel: “England, 1185. 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.”
Like the previous novels, this book is a fast-paced historical thriller. It opens almost a decade after the second book, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, ended. The Palmers have settled on their own estate and are working hard to run it, glad to be free of the intrigues and dangers of Royal Court life that they have experienced in the past. Their children are almost grown and they have everything they want from life. So the summons Sir Benedict receives from King Henry II to accompany his son, Prince John, to Ireland on his campaign to quell the unrest there turns their lives on end. Built around Prince John’s first campaign in Ireland, a lesser-known chapter in his life, the plot is gripping and convincing. The author imagines details about people and events beyond the historical accounts to create scenes that are action-packed and fraught with political tensions and intrigues.
But the heart of the Fifth Knight books is the characters. The author is adept at portraying the emotional and physical humanity of characters from an age that held values and beliefs vastly different from modern society, making it easy for readers to empathise with them. Sir Benedict is still the honourable knight readers have come to know, now challenged by the physical limitations aging imposes. His wife, Theodosia, is still courageous and fiercely loyal to her husband and her family. I particularly enjoyed the author’s humorous portrayal of the historical figure, the royal clerk, Gerald of Wales as rather snivelling and cowardly. Some other memorable characters include arrogant and lustful Prince John, intelligent and cunning Hugh de Lacy and his proud, valiant Irish wife.
The author’s thorough knowledge of medieval life pulls everything together to vividly evoke for the reader the world in which the story is set. Although I’m not an avid fan of medieval fiction, EM Powell’s novels always draw me into the era. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and can recommend it to anyone who likes an exciting story, peopled by characters that seem to live and breathe.
For more information about the author and the series, visit E.M. Powell’s website and blog. Readers can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. The novel is available on Amazon and other retailers.
About E.M. Powell: E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.
Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.
She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.