Pendragon’s Banner by Helen Hollick is a continuation of The Kingmaking and another fantastic example of Helen Hollick’s amazing story telling. It is the story of King Arthur and granted I loved the first book as well but picking up this one was wonderful – being able to go back in time and learn more about Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, their lives together and the times that the novel takes place in had me completely engrossed. I was sucked into Pendragon’s Banner from the first page and let me just say that the 460 odd pages of this novel just fly by as you’re trapped inside with battles raging both on the war fields and at home with Arthur and Gwenhwyfar.
Arthur is Supreme King for the past three years and he has been fighting battles and moving Gwenhwyfar and his three sons many times. Gwenhwyfar is plain sick of it; sick of living in tents and never having a place to call their own. Gwenhwyfar has not changed much with the years. She is still the feisty woman she has always been; a woman with her own mind and not afraid to use it or voice her thoughts. She is angry with Arthur as his need to settle is not as great as her own. Along the way tragedy strikes and Gwenhwyfar decides to take some time away from Arthur and go home to Gwynedd until finally their love wins out again and they are back together.
What I think I like best about Helen Hollick’s writing is her ability to make me feel like I’m living in the pages of the novel. I’m on the battlefield seeing the bloodshed and feeling the fear. I’m feeling Arthur’s fears as he tries to do his best for his men and his family and I’m feeling anger when he is unfaithful to his wife and needs a kick in the butt. I’m feeling their sadness when things go terribly wrong and their happiness and hope when they don’t. This book is hard to put into words because it is such an epic tale and one that needs to be experienced to feel the full impact of it.
Arthur again is a man who you just can’t make up your mind about. Do you love him or hate him – well it’s both. He’s a good man who loves Gwenhwyfar more than anything and you can feel that completely and he loves his family and he is fiercely loyal to his men. At the same time he does things that just get my feathers in an uproar. He has some definite problems saying no to women’s wiles and has been unfaithful more than once. He has a jealous streak that sometimes takes over before his brain does. All in all though I have to say once again that I like him.
By far my favorite character is Gwenhwyfar. She is the type of woman, especially for those times, who was very different. She is extremely willful and has the tendency to do things her way, not the way Arthur or anyone else may tell her to. She’s beautiful, strong and has no problem wielding a sword should the need arise. I could just envision her on the battle field with her hair flowing behind her and her sword at the ready. My heart just broke for her many times throughout this novel; she has suffered much heartbreak in her young life. She also made me laugh outright several times. When certain over zealous men try to put their hands where they don’t belong they find the point of a sword awfully close to their equipment and back off quickly. lol.
There are many of the old characters back that I didn’t find myself liking any more than the last time like Winifred who wants her son recognized as Arthur’s and Morgause who just wants to destroy Arthur. There were others like Arthur’s and Gwenhwyfar’s sons who touched your heart and Gweir, Arthur’s new slave boy who was pretty amusing as well.
Pendragon’s Banner comes highly recommended for those who love a little history weaved in with a great fictional story. Helen Hollick has given real lives to these people and given us a glimpse once again into how they might have lived through her vivid imagination. I’m already anxious for the third and final book in this trilogy being re-released this spring by Sourcebooks called The Shadow of the King so I can see how it will all end.
I read Pendragon’s Banner for Helen Hollick’s book tour and again I have to say that I recommend both Pendragon’s Banner and The Kingmaking. Make sure to visit Helen Hollick’s website and browse around and take a look at all of her books. You can buy Pendragon’s Banner here in the US and here in Canada.
Please check back tomorrow as I’ll have a guest post from Helen Hollick to share with everyone!
To Paul with Sourcebooks for my review copy of Pendragon’s Banner by Helen Hollick.