The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick is Book One of The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy and what a fascinating account it is of who King Arthur might have been. Now I’ve not read any Arthurian stories before this one but from what I gather the majority of those are like fairy tales-very rosy views of Arthur. I can say in all honesty that I would and do prefer this down to earth, real-life type epic tale any day. This novel took me on a sweeping adventure into the Dark Ages in the history of Britain and I loved it!
This book spans from 450 AD to 457 AD. It’s a hefty book at 563 pages and yet you don’t notice that it’s that long as you are so caught up in the story itself. Helen Hollick’s storytelling ability is amazing. So many times I felt that I was right there in this story, experiencing someone’s pain or happiness, feeling as though I was right in the middle of a medieval battle. It’s fast paced and exciting and very well researched and told.
We start off with Uthr Pendragon coming to Gwynedd to see the Lion Lord Cunneda, ruler of the land. Gwenhwyfar, Cunneda’s only daughter among nine sons, and her brother are watching for the ship to come in. Years past Cunneda and Uthr had fought and lost to King Vortigern. Now they want to change that and give the title back to the rightful King, Uthr. Unfortunately after a bloody battle things don’t come to light as they had planned and Uthr is killed.
This is also the time that Arthur, who after Uthr is killed, finds that he is the rightful heir to Uthr. It is also when we are first introduced to the romance that is to build between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. At first she thinks he is insolent boy when she finds him staring at her from across the room. They experience a few run ins but later because of both of them being mistreated by female caregivers, they find a common bond and that is when Gwenhwyfar realizes that she loves this boy even though she is only twelve. Before Arthur is to leave Gwynedd, Gwenhwyfar pledges herself to him saying, ‘When I am woman-grown I shall have a greater gift to pledge. I offer you, my Lord, Arthur Pendragon, to use how you choose, my unborn sons!’ (pg. 109, uncorrected advance copy, published copy may be different) This is the start of an epic romance that spans the years and never dies.
Arthur is a character you really want to dislike, yet you find you can’t or at least I couldn’t. Oh my goodness, he’s a wine guzzling drunk at times and definitely a womanizer and yet there is the other side to him~the loyal side. The side that will give his life for Gwenhwyfar or his men. The thing that irritated me the most about him was the political side of the battles between the men. I know Arthur had to do what he could to advance himself in order to take over as King but when he marries Winnifred, Vortigern’s daughter, in a drunken stupor I was really ticked at him. She is the epitomy of evil~scheming and betrayal being her number one priorities. He eventually divorces her to marry Gwenhwyfar but she nevers acknowledges the divorce and in the meantime he has lain with her again and produced a son with her. He refuses to acknowledge this son. He will only ackowledge Gwenhwyfar’s and his own son. If he had learned to keep it in his pants, a lot of the tribulations he had would have been prevented but then the story wouldn’t have been the same either.
Gwenhwyfar was my favorite character. She’s a strong, independent woman in what would have been a man’s world back then. I loved her spirit and quick wit. Many times she had me laughing with her antics. When something bad happened to her I cried with her and when things were good, I was elated for her. I was rooting for her and Arthur all the way. They seem a couple destined to be together and when she even goes to war with him, you again see her strength.
There’s so much one could say about this book. It is very well worth the read. Helen Hollick’s writing is fantastic and the story is enthralling. A few quotes from the book that show off Helen’s wonderful way with words are…
- ‘Where valleys nestled green and lush, and mountains heaved upwards to caress the sky.’ (pg 20, uncorrected advance copy, published copy may be different)
- ‘A lively wind, the tail end of the storm, danced across the sea chasing a galloping herd of white-dusted waves that pranced to meet the nearing shore.’ (pg 20, uncorrected advance copy, published copy may be different)
- ‘Your life is my life; your death my death. I will follow where you lead, through water and fire, across earth and stone. My love for you shall burn until the very sun ceases to give us warmth and light; until the moon sinks behind the hills to rise no more. Your dreams are my dreams. Your destiny, my destiny. May the Mother of Earth bless our union.’ (pg 352, uncorrected advance copy, published copy may be different)
If you’re a lover of historical fiction then this is one epic novel you shouldn’t miss. You will find yourself taken into Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s world and when it ends you find yourself wanting so much more. I can’t wait to read the next installment in the trilogy which is Pendragon’s Banner and then Shadow of the King. I’m anxious to get back to the Dark Ages of Britain and see what the future holds for Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. I highly recommend The Kingmaking!
Be sure to pop into Peeking Between the Pages tomorrow when Helen Hollick drops by with a guest post to share with us.
Other blog reviews and guest posts with Helen out in the blogging world are and will be:
Harriet Devine’s Blog
Lazy Habits of Thinking interview 2/27
Carpe Libris Reviews
Historical Novels Book Reviews
Lilly’s Reading Extravanganza guest blog 2/25
Medieval Bookworm review
Medieval Bookworm guest blog 2/24
Books Are My Only Friends 2/25
We Be Reading 2/26
A Hoyden’s Look at Literature 2/26
Books Thoughts by Lisa 3/1
S. Krishna’s Books 3/1
Jennifer’s Random Musings 3/1
Passages to the Past 3/2
The Tome Traveller 3/2
Medieval History, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Writing Fiction 3/2
Savvy Verse and Wit 3/2 and interview 3/3
A Striped Armchair 3/3
Carla Nayland’s Blog 3/3
A Reader’s Respite 3/3 and interview on 3/5
Library Queue 3/4
The Bookworm 3/4
My Friend Amy 3/5
Sam’s Book Blog 3/5
Good Books, Bright Side 3/5
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time 3/6
Susan’s Art and Words 3/6
(borrowed from Medieval Bookworm who had this lovely list all done up~so all credit goes there)