3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
(4.5) Not your usual romanticized version of the Arthur legends,
This review is from: The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy) (Paperback)
The Kingmaking begins in post Roman Britain as the exiled Uthr Pendragon lands in Gwynedd, Wales to join Cunedda in an attempt to overthrow Vortigern and drive the Saxons out of Britain. The battle does not go well, and fifteen year old Arthur is revealed as Uthr's son and heir. Too young and inexperienced to make his claim, Arthur eventually throws in his lot with Vortigern as he learns the arts of war and builds his own army and cavalry. Arthur is in love with the Prince of Gwynedd's daughter Gwenhwyfar, but she is promised to another and he marries Vortigern's delightfully wicked daughter Winifred for her dowry. As Vortigern's pact for peace with the Saxons fails due to treachery, Arthur's time has come to defeat the Saxon Hengest and claim the crown of Britain with Gwenhwyfar as his queen.
Although you'll find pretty much the usual characters as you do in other books on the Arthurian legend, what sets this one apart is Hollick's take -- no knights in shining armour, no Merlin and his magic, no Lancelot -- this is a gritty down to earth version as the author envisions Arthur. Even whilst still young and with a young boy's ideals, Arthur is far from being pure as the driven snow. He drinks, he wenches and when he does lead his army into battle he is a fearsome and ruthless warrior. Winifred and her equally wicked mother schemes both together and behind each other's backs in bids for power were priceless, as well as Winifred's constant plots to get herself back into Arthur's bed, and keep Gwenhwyfar out of it. Gwenhwyfar was nicely portrayed as a young girl growing up a bit of a tomboy in Gwynedd, and while I enjoyed her portrayal as a strong woman there were times she was just a tad bit too independent and feminist.
If you're looking for another glorified, romantic version of Arthur with honorable knights, magic and ladies in constant peril waiting for her knight to rescue her then this series is not for you. However, if you're looking for something more down to earth and realistic you might want to give this a whirl - just be warned the battle scenes are brutal and bloody. Interesting side note, apparently Sharon Kay Penman was a friend and/or mentor of Hollick and the book is dedicated to her. I found Hollick's style and sentence structure to be very similar to Penman's earlier work, The Sunne In Splendour, it's a bit different and does take getting used to. Out of print (and some versions quite spendy), but being republished in early 2009. Next up in the series, Pendragon's Banner (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy). 4.5/5 stars.