Review: The Kingmaking (Pendragon’s Banner #1) ~ Helen Hollick

The KingmakingWho was THE MAN
Who became THE LEGEND
We know as KING ARTHUR?

“You are the Pendragon, rightful Lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord of less Britain. By all that is right, you ought be seated where Vortigern sitsYou ought to be King.”

Here lies the truth of the Lord of the Summer Land.

This is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies, who captured Gwenhyfar’s heart, and who emerged as the hero of the Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all time.

This is the unexpected story of the making of a king the legend who united all of Britain. Book One of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is the first in the trilogy Pendragon’s Banner and, if this first instalment is anything to go by it is going to be a great read from beginning to end.

If you are looking for the normal run of the mill rendition of the main protagonist, one that is filled with brilliantly shining armour and evil doings by witches and wizards, then this telling of the Arthurian legend is not the one for you.  With a skilful use of words this Author brings to life a living human being in the form of Arthur.  He has flaws and faults like the rest of us, and is definitely a product of the Dark Ages he lived in; cruel times that needed, at times, a cruel hand to deal with them that the reader would not find in the books that perpetuate the myth of this man.  Unlike the saintly personae given to Arthur in other books, this Arthur is a 100% red-blooded male, he does whatever is necessary to take what he feels is rightly is, pleasures himself with women as and when the urge drives him, lies and cheats.  This may seem as if the Author has written him this way to try to dissuade the reader from liking him, but the overall effect is to make him so human the reader actually feels sympathy for him and cheers him on in his endeavours.  We are able to walk beside him on his journey thankful that we did not have to live in these times.  The penmanship show by the Author is not just reserved for the main character; she treats each of them with as much skill imbuing them with all the traits and qualities that make up our species.  The Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) character in this rendition is also totally different from those readers who may remember her from the Camelot movie as being played by Vanessa Redgrave; this Gwenhwyfar is a feisty, strong young woman who definitely knows her own mind; she is not content with skulking in the background weaving her ‘womanly’ plans to ensnare Arthur, she is a typical tom boy who loves the outdoors, adventure with hidden skills that only come to the forefront when needed.  Despite all this, she too is given a fallible side, which when bundled up with everything else about her makes her another character in this book that is easily liked; she is all woman as opposed to being a lady.

The elimination of magic in a story that is always surrounded and soaked in it makes this book unique.  Not a great deal is known about the time between the departure of the Romans from England and the arrival of the Normans in 1066, but it is apparent from reading this novel that the Author spent a great deal of time painstakingly research this era.  It is through this research and the way in which the Author translated it into their novel that lifted a lot of obscurity of the period for me, and for this I am truly grateful.  This book is a little slow to get underway, but these first few chapters set the scene perfectly for what is to come; once this book has gripped the reader though it will be hard for them to put aside without finishing it.

At 574 pages, for me this wasn’t a particularly meaty tome, but everyone one of those pages is filled with something that will keep even the most timid of readers when it comes to larger books captivated.  I would highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good historical fiction novel and lovers of Sharon Kay Penman, also to those who want a read that will keep them turning the pages long after they should have turned out the light.  I have the remaining two books in the trilogy all lined and ready to read, and I would suggest anyone that picks this up grabs the other two at the same time.


Review: The Crying of the Children ~ Peggi Lennard

The Crying of the children19th century Britain; Joseph Skinner wanted Ellie to disappear and he didn’t care where to. He wanted Thomas to rot in the cellar, Little Will to lie silent in the mud, his workers to work harder and his wife to remain sedated in bed, where she could cause no trouble. But his wife fought back. Dr. Taylor helped her. Mandrake Jnr. was always on hand. And Ellie? Well Ellie had quite a journey.


3 Thumbs-Up

This Authors debut novel is definitely not a book for those who have a weak stomach, or are easily upset by the written word.  I’m not one of these types, but even I found that, at times, I had to put this book down and walk away to regroup my emotions and my mind; it is that disturbing in parts.

The locations for the novel is the very grim and very private world of Victorian England so, with this in mind it is not surprising to see there is very little real depth or back story to any of the characters; and this is how it would’ve have been in real life, Wives would have known little about their Husbands and the servants would have known how to keep their mouths shut.  In abiding by this social expectation, in her writing the Author actually paints in very vivid detail the personalities and traits that make up her characters; and there is a very large list of them ranging from a despicable wealthy man of society right down to the lowest of the low.

To live in poverty in 19th century Britain was not how we see living in poverty in 21st century Britain, and the Author has done an outstanding job of capturing the misery of those in this situation.  She has held back no punches when it comes to describing the choices open to these people, and what they had to do just to survive from day-to-day.  Her descriptions of ‘parental’ discipline are graphic and moving, and serve to illustrate that children were regarded as a disposable commodity.

There were places in this novel were the hand of a good proof-reader and editor would have come into play, and made the book even more haunting.  In places the Author gets her characters mixed up, and I found myself having to flip back the pages to get them straight in my own head.  This did detract from my enjoyment of the book, but still made it something I wanted to read on to the end to discover what the outcome would be.

I would recommend this novel to lovers of the history genre, both fiction and non-fiction as, at times, this novel becomes something more than just a story; it turns into a social commentary of the times it covers.