I am happy to be a part of the blog tour for The Kingmaking set up by Paul Samuelson with Sourcebooks . To read the reviews of other participants please see the bottom of this post.
Author: Helen Hollick
Grade: D - 18 and up (graphic violence and sex, mature themes)
The Kingmaking is the first book in the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, written by Helen Hollick. The book purports to show the Arthur of reality instead of legend. The mythical elements--such as Merlin and magic--are taken away from the story, as are the well known legends of Arthur many of us have become familiar with. Instead the author has spent ten years delving into the history of Wales, and archaeological discoveries, to come up with as historically accurate a novel of the times as is possible with the limited information available. The research put into the writing of this book is very evident, and I felt myself transported to a time long, long ago. A time of violence, war, and chaos.
The book opens in 450 A.D., not long after the Romans have left Britain to its own defenses. The Saex (Saxons) are beginning to make their way into the country, and there is not a united kingdom. Uthr, who is viewed--by himself and his people, at least--as the rightful king of the British, has been banished to the isles. After years away he has finally decided it is time for him to fight the present King, Vortigern, and win back his kingdom. He comes to seek the aid of Cunneda, King of Gwyneth. Together the face Vortigern, but are defeated, and Uthr is killed in the battle.
At this time the boy, Arthur, known as the bastard child of one of Uthr's servants, is revealed to be the actual son of Uthr and his wife. His identity hidden in order to protect him from Vortigern. And so begins the long and political battle of Arthur to work every possible advantage, to do whatever it takes, including joining the army of the hated Vortigern, in order to eventually gain what rightfully belongs to him. Arthur is painted as a very strong, passionate, charismatic, and easily angered man. A man of his time. This passion goes beyond battle to drink and women. A much different picture than the sainted Arthur of legend, but probably more closely in line with history.
And what of Guinevere? Yes, she is there, in her Welsh name of Gwenhwyfar. The daughter of the Pendragon's ally, Cunneda. A strong, daring and passionate girl and woman. Full of fire and defiance, she is not about to take the roll of women and let her life be decided by others. Early on she pledges herself and her love to Arthur, and she holds on to this promise and love through much adversity and many setbacks.
Overall, a very well written and researched book. Of course a 500+ page novel written at a time with few historical records has to be largely speculation, but Hollick's view of the story is very entrancing, and feels very realistic (At times, for me personally, a bit too realistic, as some very horrible war related atrocities were related). This book was both educational and entertaining.
Visit the author at her website: http://www.helenhollick.net/
Blog tour participants:
http://lazyhabits.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/the-kingmaking/ 2/21 and interview 2/27
http://lilly-readingextravaganza.blogspot.com/2009/02/kingmaking-by-helen-hollick.html 2/23 and guest blog 2/25
http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/ 2/26 and guest blog 2/27
http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com/ 3/2 and interview 3/3
http://readersrespite.blogspot.com/ 3/3 and interview on 3/5