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Extraordinary Historic Fiction By The Genre's Master Writer!,
This review is from: The Reckoning (Paperback)
"The Reckoning" is the last novel in Sharon Kay Penman's medieval trilogy of 13th century England, Wales and their larger than life leaders. Ms. Penman succeeds brilliantly in bringing these men and women, and the causes they fought for, to life in these books. Her impeccable historical research, attention to detail and superb storytelling ability make her novels consistently excellent. "The Reckoning" is one of her best efforts, preceded by "Here Be Dragons," and "Falls The Shadow." Each of these wonderful historical novels stands on its own, however, and while it is an extraordinary experience to read each book in the order it was written, one does not have to do so to appreciate the history, the characters, or the period.
Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, husband of Henry III's sister and the aunt of King Edward I, was one of the most powerful men in England. He was a warrior, great leader, and politician who despised Henry III for his incompetence and the favoritism he displayed for the foreigners in his court. King Henry was bankrupting England and estranging the peerage. Ahead of his time, Simon also espoused the idea that the common man deserved a voice in government. England was in the midst of civil war as factions split between Henry and his son and heir Edward. When Edward realized that de Montfort's reforms would limit his power and the Divine Right of Kings, he turned against him in the bloody battle of Evesham.
During this same period there was terrible unrest in Wales, including civil war. Charismatic Llewelyn Farr, Prince of Northern Wales had fought to unite his country's nobility and provide a strong front against the English. His grandson, Lwellyn ap Gruffyd, became Llewelyn's heir and inherited the staunch commitment to keep Wales united. The Welsh leader was a cousin to both the English King and the de Montfort family, and was betrothed to Simon de Montfort's daughter, Ellen. When de Monfort lost all at Evesham, Welsh politics changed. As Wales sought to consolidate its position and prevent being absorbed into a greater England, the new Prince's brothers were determined to wage war against him to gain power of their own. They sacrificed Welsh independence in the process.
This is a complex and tragic saga of historic characters, politics, intrigues, betrayals, bloody battles and wars, romance, lust, power struggles, princesses held captive, revenge and forgiveness. Yet once begun, this extraordinary epic is almost impossible to put down. Ms. Penman portrays Wales, its people, culture and landscape vividly with glorious detail. Ms. Penman joins the histories and characters of Wales and England to give the reader, not just a superb tale, but a look at the bigger historical picture.
This is truly one of the best historical novels I have ever read, and the trilogy by Ms. Penman is absolutely outstanding. She paints an unforgettable picture of medieval England and Wales and the characters who made history. I cannot recommend these books highly enough.