Monday, December 28, 2009

Review: The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

The Kingmaking: Book One of the Pendragon's Banner TrilogyFrom the Back Cover:

"You are the Pendragon, rightful lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord of Less Britain. By all that is right, you ought to be seated where Vortigern sits...You 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 Gwenhwyfar'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.

In this version of the King Arthur story, Arthur is a dark hero. He is young, selfish, ambitious and callous. He makes decisions based on his own desires with little thought to future consequences, making enemies left and right. Yet Ms. Hollick does a fabulous job of letting the reader glimpse just enough of his fears and vulnerabilities to keep him from being unlikeable, and to sway the reader to root for his success. Although there were instances where my reactions to his behavior were so strong I wanted to throw the book across the room, I had to keep reading, dying to find out what would happen next!

I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of Gwenhwyfar as the young, strong, independent princess of Gwynedd, forced to grow up all too quickly amidst the heartbreak and harsh realities of a chain of events beyond her control; her life on a course so different from that which she'd dreamed of. She is a worthy heroine in this story, and my favorite character in the book.

Though it may not be for the faint of heart - abuse against women, rape, murder and gore abound - this is a raw, gritty, realistic telling of the tale as it could have been. Ms. Hollick has done her research on the time period and it comes to life effortlessly within the pages of her first novel. She's also done extensive research on the various versions of the Arthurian legend and has used historical figures and settings to make her story and characters plausible; there are no wizards or knights in shining armor. The Dark Ages in Britain were a time of religious and cultural upheaval as Christianity and other foreign invaders settled on the island and this provides a rich backdrop for the story.

Full of heartpounding action, troubled heroes, wicked villains, violence, betrayal and, of course, true love, this well-written book is an intense read and a real page-turner. I look forward to reading the remaining two books in the trilogy.

Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars


  1. Welcome to blogging!

    I really enjoyed this book, and the follow up to it as well. I am hoping to read the third book shortly as well, and then moving onto some of Hollick's other novels.

  2. Hi Marg, and thanks for the welcome!

    I have been following Historical Tapestry for a while and have been turned on to a few new authors. I read Helen Hollick's Why I Love post and thought her Arthur sounded interesting and I really got sucked into that first book and I've already ordered the other two.

    Unfortunately, none of her books outside the Pendragon trilogy are readily available in the U.S., but hopefully they will be soon if more people catch on to the new Sourcebook releases of the Pendragon books.


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