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Customer Review

on 28 February 2005
Sharon Kay Penman is a remarkably gifted writer. Her impeccable historical research, attention to detail and superb storytelling ability make her novels consistently excellent. "Falls The Shadow" is one of her best efforts. It is the third book in her Plantagenet series, which began with "The Sunne In Splendour," followed by "Here Be Dragons," and ending with "The Reckoning."
Simon de Montfort was a nobleman from France, whose family, (originally English-Norman), had been disinherited by King John. A young man in his mid-twenties, he returned to England in 1232 seeking restitution of his family lands from King Henry III, John's son. He wound up marrying Henry's sister, Eleanor Plantagenet and risking the King's and Church's wrath by doing so. De Montfort, who became Earl of Leicester, was a warrior, great leader and politician. He despised Henry III for his incompetence and the favoritism he displayed for the foreigners in his court. Henry was bankrupting England and estranging the peerage. Far ahead of his time, Simon de Montfort also espoused the idea that the common man deserved a voice in government. England was on the verge of civil war as factions split between Henry and his son and heir Edward. The collision of blood ties, politics and war, shifting allegiances, along with the pageantry and drama of life in the Middle Ages, make this novel hard to put down.
Intertwined with the story of Simon de Montfort is that of Welsh Prince Llewelyn Farr, who united the Welsh nobility against the English. Wales was also in a state of civil unrest at the time, as Llewelyn had just died and his sons were fighting for leadership and power, thereby losing everything their father had gained to the English. What makes the Welsh part of the story even more interesting, is that not only is Welsh history linked to that of England's, but the royal families, Kings' John and Henry, and Prince Llewelyn's are linked by blood. Ms. Penman joins the histories and characters of these two countries to give the reader, not just a superb tale but a look at the bigger historical picture also.
I highly recommend this book, and the all the others in the series, as this is some of the best historical fiction I have ever read.
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