SHADOW OF THE KING by Helen Hollick
“At long last, the peace King Arthur was born to usher in has settled over the realm. But Arthur was also born to be a warrior…and all true warriors are restless without a fight. Yearning for battle and ever loyal, Arthur is easily deceived into setting sail for Gaul to defend its territories – leaving his country vulnerable and leaderless.”
Review by Jana L. Perskie (APR 1, 2010)
Author Helen Hollock’s Shadow of the King is the final novel in the “Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy.” As with Books One and Two, I found myself unable to put this book down. Here, Ms. Hollick completes her story of King Arthur. It is a unique and creative version, without the magical or supernatural elements found in other books on the same subject.
Although, the conclusion to this trilogy is fairly obvious to those familiar with Arthurian lore, the author gives this tale some twists and turns which do allow for surprises and new interpretations. Shadow of the King can be read as a stand alone novel, however, I would strongly advise others to read the first 2 books before undertaking this one, as I did. I received an Advanced Readers’ Copy for this third book, but went out of my way to purchase used copies of its predecessors. I feel like I made the correct decision – but, then again, I really like stories about King Arthur.
Many of the characters from the prior novels, return here. I was immediately drawn into the narrative and, continue to be amazed at how believable the characters and storyline are. This is extraordinary “historical” fiction rather than fantasy. Ms. Hollick’s Arthur is no mythical monarch of yore, but a flesh and blood, complex man.
The story opens with Arthur, Pendragon, King of Britain, his wife Gwenhwyfar and their daughter Archfedd living at their home, Caer Caden in the Summerlands. “Arthur has been king for 11 years, and he intends to stay king, for at the very least, twice as many more.” He is about to celebrate his 33rd birthday, but the struggle to maintain peace throughout the once divided land, has caused him to look like a man ten years older.
His Uncle, Ambrosious Aurelianus, (his father Uthr’s brother), clings to the ways of the waning Roman Empire. He is a constant thorn in Arthur’s side, as he would like to return to the period when Rome occupied Britain, and obtain Arthur’s power for himself. Arthur’s first wife Winifred, another thorn, is determined that her son by Arthur, Cedric, inherit Arthur’s throne. Her plans present another threat to his rule.
Although King Arthur and his elite cavalry, the Artoriani, have achieved peace, violence still erupts between various tribes. Arthur, in his restlessness, hopes for yet another battle. He gets his wish when he is summoned to Gaul to help the Romans in their quest to defeat barbarian invaders. These barbarians also threaten Arthur’s holdings across the Channel in Lesser Britain. Unfortunately, what he believes will be a swift trip for him and his soldiers, turns out to be more than he expected. He soon realizes that he was drawn into war by false pretenses. And, while the cat’s away, the proverbial mice will play – and back in Britain, play and scheme they do. Political battles replace the more physical battles of Ms. Hollick’s previous novels. Gwynhwyfar strives to hold their kingdom together. There is much tension in this narrative which foreshadows the trouble brewing that will test the resolve of all.
Although parted again, Arthur and Gwynhwyfar remain soul mates. No other can compete with their love and friendship. The couple has almost always ridden shoulder to shoulder into battle, depending on one another to defend their land and the peace – except for this war – Arthur’s war in Gaul. During in this long period of separation, they falter in their loyalties and faithfulness.
It is impossible to review this excellent novel, with it’s 652 pages, without including spoilers. So, let it suffice to say that all three novels are skillfully written and hard to put down. I highly recommend this outstanding series.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 11 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Sourcebooks Landmark (March 1, 2010)|
|REVIEWER:||Jana L. Perskie|
|AMAZON PAGE:||Shadow of the King: Book Three of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Helen Hollick|
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Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy: