I can see why I'm the first to chance a review here. - This novel, or historical novel, or whatever one may choose to call it, is decidedly, it gives me pause to admit, after devoting much time and concentration to its 777 pages, NOT Powys's best. Here you will find what you will find in Powys's other novels (Maiden Castle and Wolf Solent, being to my mind, the best), to wit: a main character who much resembles Powys himself - "our friend Rhisiart" as he is referred to herein - along with the major themes with which all Powys's novels are preoccupied, "elementalism" - a variant of animism or of what Ruskin wrongly and dementedly, to my mind, called Wordsworthian "pathetic fallacy" and above all, the "life illusion" or "personal mythology" of Rhisiart, Owen and all other major players here. But, in this novel, Powys chooses an historical backdrop, with battles and diplomacy and other trappings of Nationalistic (Welsh, in this case) fervour which make it, well, a very clumsy read. The greatest flaw is the fathomless well of longueurs concerning Powys's favourite themes which wash over and threaten to drown the reader in the middle of every suspense-filled moment in the book where one is turning the pages to see who has died and who hasn't, what great sea change has occurred in the tides of fortune and battle etc. etc. After one or two instances, the reader (or this one) becomes irritated to an ever greater pitch every time these interludes obtrude. Here, Powys, however greater an artist, au fond, he may have been, could have taken a page from Tolkien (if Tolkien's pages had predated Powys's) and just got on with things. Powys may very well have held with Sir Thomas Oldcastle that, "Action-any action.....meant evil as well as good" and wished to postpone it for as long as possible, but this method of composition is just not on, so to speak, in a novel with a backdrop such as this one where "to lose the name of action" is to lose the reader's interest and attention.
Another (more serious) concern here is the "race consciousness" which permeates the book from first page to last. I've no idea if Powys picked up the notion from Jung or Nietzsche or what, but he clearly latched on to it and, as Dr. Krissdottir points out in the Introduction, lived in Wales the entire time of the book's writing, and was called "Lord Powys" by at least one of his neighbours. Powys obsession with atavism is deep, thought-provoking and singularly moving in his other books. Moreover, it rings true and adds heft to the artistic virtuosity of those works. - Here, it degenerates into gimcrack stereotypes to which the most addle-pated of racial theorists might lend a nod.
Despite these reservations, Powys writes so strikingly too many times to give the opus less than 4 stars. Meredith contemplates near the end, when all seems lost (p.767), "...but the dead needn't be forgotten - they couldn't be. They were in us! While we lived our half-life, they lived their half-life. Dark, dark, dark - the life of the living, the life of the dead!"
If you're willing to plough through many pages for gems like these, you WILL be rewarded. But I can't imagine many but the most devoted Powys enthusiasts, like myself, resolute enough to muddle through to the last syllable.