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)
Many thanks to Paul with Sourcebooks for this great novel and the opportunity to participate in Helen Hollick’s book tour. Be sure to visit Helen’s website here.
Wow, this is a different take from me on this book…there were parts I loved and parts I just couldn’t deal with….but we’ll all see that review later.
I’m glad you enjoyed the book.
Wow…that does sound like a great book. Thanks for the review…I will be back tomorrow to check out the guest post.
Jenny Girl says
You have me add yet another book to my TBR. Good job Dar!
Great review! I loved this book as well and am so glad that I had the chance to read it.
I love novels set in this time frame. This sounds like a good one. Thanks for the review.
I have always loved the Arthurian legends. Another good novel, told with more of a focus on Merlin, is Mary Stewart’s series, which begins with the Crystal Cave.
I’m adding this one to my TBR pile! Thanks!
Sounds like a fascinating read. I heard someone talking about this book the other day. She was saying good things about it but I don’t remember seeing it anywhere prior to that.
Beth F says
I am hoping to read this one soon.
S. Krishna says
Nice review! I really enjoyed this one as well.
I’ve already put the entire series on my amazon wishlist!
I soooo want to be in! I will be checking in on the book tour to hear more of the book and look forward to your Guest Post tomorrow. Your blog looks so nice.
Scrap girl says
My brother lent me The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which is all about King Arthur, but from the point of view of the female characters. It is 1000 pages, which at the moment is putting me off reading it. I know I will enjoy it, once I get into it. Perhaps I should start with The Kingmaking first.
You’re all making me want to read this book!! Lovely review, Dar.
Great review! I figure the book must be great if you made it through over 500 pages and still want to keep reading the series.
Just saw this over at Lana’s blog.
I’ve got to read more Arthurian novels. I used to read a ton and I really loved them.
I’m just a bit of a King Arthur freak and this book sounds right up my alley!! Trust me, there are some hard edged books about Arthur that are not all sweet and fairy tale style..if you like this one then you might want to try Stephen Lawhead. His series of King Arthur are magnificent. Plus of course, now you have to read Mists of Avalon!! Thanks once again for adding to my TBR list!!!
Teddy Rose says
I’m so glad you loved this book Dar! I did too. I didn’t want it to end.
I wrote my review a couple of weeks ago but am waiting to post it on March 6th as part of the tour. I will also be posting an interview withHelen Hollick. It will be my first auther interview ever, so I hope that everyone enjoys it. Any feedback negative3 or positive will be appreachiated.
“The King Making” looks like a great book. I am a huge history buff and love to read books from all different eras. For instance I just finished reading David H. Jones’ latest book, “Two Brothers: One North, One South” – written about actual historical characters and important Civil War events. I am now ready to read another book and think that it will be “The Kingmaking!” Thanks for the great tip!
I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read any Arthurian stories before either but I don’t think I have. I know I’ve seen quite a few movies so I’m familiar with the legend though. It sounds really interesting! Once my library gets it in I’ll have to try it. Great review!
Ms. Lucy says
Thanks for this fantstic review. Arthurian history is not usually the first type of book I go for…but after this review, I thinkg I’d like to read this one. Helen Hollick is a great author, I read the Hollow Queen by her- it was excellent. Thanks!
I loved this book too. I can’t wait for next intallments.
Your review is great by the way.
glad you liked it Dar! I recently finished it and it was great. I liked Gwenhwyfar too.
‘If he had learned to keep it in his pants, a lot of the tribulations he had would have been prevented’-lol! well said!
great review 🙂
Helen Hollick says
Hello everyone, thank you for inviting me aboard yout blog, I had a wonderful time on the tour.
And thank you so much for your enthusiasm and lovely comments.
Steven Till says
I liked Hollick’s depiction of Arthur: much more real-to-life than the traditional legend. I felt the author did a good job of blending history with myth, and creating an accurate picture of post-Roman Britain.
Arthur definitely had moments where you disliked him, among his other good qualities. Gwenhwyfar was the same way. There were times where I questioned her, but overall, she was more like-able than Arthur.
What did you think of the antagonist characters? Did you think they were well-rounded and complex? What did you think of Winifred? Did she have any redeeming qualities in your mind? I take it from your review that you probably didn’t find anything about Winifred you liked.
Also, now that I think about it, I would have liked to see Morgause as a more regularly character throughout the novel. What do you think? I thought she was an interesting, conflicting character.