The author's Henry II and Thomas a Becket have not only survived as explicit personalities in transit from The Lion of England (1973), but have gained in breadth (if not depth) as here the conflict -- forecast at the dose of the last book -- explodes and accelerates. Exchanging Thomas' secular role of Chancellor for that of Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to Henry a happy plan: "". . .the Chancellor's undoubted love and loyalty to his [Henry's] interests would bind Church and State into an harmonious whole."" But Thomas, at first reluctant, casts himself into his new clerical responsibilities with the same proud fervor that brought him the King's friendship. He has now become no longer Henry's man, but God's. Soon the Archbishop and Henry are battling for prerogatives -- property, legal jurisdictions, fealties -- to establish just who should rule the Church. But the tugs and latent thrusts which have always existed in the relationship between the two men also define it -- Thomas, shrewd, ambitious, always with a cautious hand on the scabbard; Henry, impulsive in love and favors, yet also canny in politics, where apparent caprice and towering rages have a calculated purpose. As the two clash, the satellites seem small indeed: the unhappy Eleanor appears briefly; there is a new and vapid mistress for Henry; and Thomas' bishops range from devoted to expedient. At the close, Thomas is on the run to continue his home battles on foreign soil. A thoughtful restaging of the historically documented public confrontations, and a convincingly cohesive invention of some private skirmishes.