There aren’t too many novels focused on Henry I- mostly he shows up as a secondary character in the story of his daughter Matilda’s fight for the English throne in the mid-12th century. I read Jean Plaidy’s The Lion of Justice several years ago and thought it was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. When I ran across this book by Pamela Hill I figured I would give it a try – it couldn’t be any worse, could it? Well, no. Not quite.
The Supplanter begins shortly before the hunting “accident” that befalls William Rufus, allowing Henry to take the throne. Although most seem willing to overlook or ignore the obvious, Henry’s path to kingship will come back to haunt him later.
There is a lot of information in this book despite its short length (223 pages). Since I’ve read so little about Henry’s actual reign, there was quite a bit that was new to me, and so I found parts of it very interesting. Hill also adds an intriguing twist (or at least something I hadn’t heard before) to the story of Henry’s daughter, Matilda.
The problem is the way it's all presented. There is a lot of telling and the information dumps regarding who was related to whom and how they all fit together in a big jigsaw puzzle was at times mind numbing. I often had trouble following it and so the puzzle ended up missing more than a few pieces! Particularly confusing was the story and lineage of Henry’s first queen, Eadgyth of Scotland (known as Mald once she becomes Queen of England). With a rather detached style of narration, the overall result just doesn't work very well.
In case the FTC asks: bought this one used