The Kingmaking: Book One of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy by Helen Hollick
I have never been a fan of the mythology and magic surrounding King Arthur. I’m not sure why, but fantasy and mystical books are not something that capture my imagination enough to even give them a try. On top of that, medieval times is not something that interests me to begin with. Up until this year, I would have bet that I would never read about King Arthur. I would have lost. When I received an offer from Sourcebooks to read an account of Arthur based on what really could have happened without all of the magic, I jumped at the chance. I’m glad that I did. I may never be one who gets excited about the Middle Ages, but I am so glad to know more about Arthur’s rise from supposed bastardy to the throne of England.
Helen Hollick is an amazing writer. She made both the characters and their surroundings come to life for me. There was just the right amount of drama to make most of the novel read very quickly. Just with William the Conqueror, the road to the English throne is not quick, easy or painless for a bastard child. In Arthur’s case, this was a factor even after he discovered that he was the legitimate child of Uther, the first Pendragon. If others did not continue to view him as a lessor man, he continued to fight with the fallout from the distant relationship he has with his biological parent.
There were certain sections of the novel that seemed long and repetitive. This was especially apparent to me when Gwenhwyfar was pining for Arthur while she was in exile. For a while it seemed as though her emotional agony kept being brought to the fore unnecessarily. This slowed down the novel that is otherwise full of drama and action to the point where I found myself skimming through paragraphs to get back to the meat of the story.
Despite some sections that dragged down the plot, I would highly recommend The Kingmaking to those who love historical fiction. This time period will probably never be my favorite, but I appreciated the pronounciation provided for places and character names. It took me half of the book to finally consistently pronounce Gwenhwyfar in my head correctly without looking it up. Hollick created some absolutely delightful she devil characters. I cannot help but love reading when the villianess is as bitchy and conniving as Winifred. I will definitely be on the lookout for second and third installments in this trilogy. Once again, Sourcebooks has come up with another winner.
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