The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

This is one of those great overview books where you get enough of the story to be engaged, but you’re also left wanting more. In short, my kind of history book. I love these kinds of launch pads into deeper research. Without a book like this, the in-depth works keep the reader on the outside. A work like this helps a person to do so much more than tread water; it makes history accessible to everyone. This is not my first dip into the Plantagenet history, but it is the first time I’ve had it delivered cohesively and linearly. What a difference that makes, putting it all into persective! Now I can read these longer stories about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I, and so on with a far better understanding of how it all fits together.

Clive Chafer’s narration… I have really mixed feelings about. I want so much to give him high marks. The man has an incredibly fantastic voice, the kind of voice you wish you could have so as to impress others. The problem is that his inflection and overall delivery comes across, and I hate to say this, as a parody of a BBC newscaster. Anyone remember those Monty Python skits where Eric Idle would read the news? It’s that sort of thing, only with a more authoritative voice and no punchline. His cadence is very similar to this as well, where he’s very “radio announcer” instead of being conversational or documentary narrative as it needs to be, and it’s repetative. Let me attempt to illustrate this. You remember when your teacher first introduced you to Shakespeare and iambic pentameter, and that rhythm (da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM) was plugged in to stay for the rest of your life? Chafer isn’t doing that exactly, but there is a cadence there in regard to his vocal inflection that will make itself known within just a few minutes of listening, and it goes like that to the end of the book. Maybe that’s just how I’m hearing it, but if you do pick up this title – and it’s well worth your credit to do so – you can judge for yourself and tell me if I’m just way off base. Based on other reviews, it seems I’m in the minority here.

4 stars

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