The Last Plantagenet?
Costain’s tale begins as Richard O’Rawn, a powerful U.S. Senator, contacts aspiring author John Foraday out of the blue and invites him to travel along with him. The Senator tells John about Richard Rawen, who as a young boy is sent to serve as squire in the household of William Marshal. He eventually becomes a knight second to none but the Marshal himself and he is sent on a mission of great secrecy to Brittany where he meets Eleanor, daughter of Geoffrey Plantagenet and known to all as The Pearl of Brittany for her great beauty.
Unable to save Eleanor and her brother from their respective fates at the hands of King John, Richard’s travels take him to Rome and back in the service of Stephen Langton, and they find themselves in the thick of things in plots to rescue the captured Pearl from Corfe Castle and restore her to the throne as rightful Queen, as well as being involved with the events leading up to the signing of the Magna Carta.
The story then switches back to the present as Costain ties the original Richard Rawen into the O’Rawn’s of Ireland with another Eleanor as beautiful and gracious as the first “Pearl of Brittany”. All in all a very engaging tale, although I admit to being surprised at the time slip Costain worked into it – I was expecting a story set wholly in the past. It’s not the fastest paced book, but I found it an enjoyable, albeit fanciful tale. A big plus was finding one of my all time favorite heroes, William Marshal, as a secondary character -anyone interested finding out more about that most honorable man should look into Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. 4/5 stars.