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Here be Dragons (Welsh Princes, #1)
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Here be Dragons (Welsh Princes #1)

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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  14,564 ratings  ·  941 reviews
"A masterful picture of Wales in the 13th century...vivdly pictured as grandly beautiful, its people volatile, stubborn and mystic."
THE SAN DIEGO UNION

Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's belove
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Paperback, 704 pages
Published May 11th 1993 by Ballantine Books (first published 1985)
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Randal I can't speak to the history, but linguistically it's nowhere ... the characters -- as courtiers -- would have almost exclusively spoken French (OK,…moreI can't speak to the history, but linguistically it's nowhere ... the characters -- as courtiers -- would have almost exclusively spoken French (OK, Anglo-Norman) & Welsh.
Commoners would have spoken something in the Old/Middle English range ... but the setting of this book predates Chaucer by 150-200 years:

Here bygynneth the Book
of the tales of Caunterbury

1: Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
2: The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
3: And bathed every veyne in swich licour
4: Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5: Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
6: Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
7: Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
8: Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
9: And smale foweles maken melodye,
10: That slepen al the nyght with open ye
11: (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
12: Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
13: And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
14: To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
15: And specially from every shires ende
16: Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
17: The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
18: That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.(less)
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
49th out of 5,274 books — 20,183 voters
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay PenmanHere be Dragons by Sharon Kay PenmanWhen Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay PenmanKatherine by Anya SetonFalls the Shadow by Sharon Kay Penman
Historical Fiction: The House of Plantagenet
2nd out of 203 books — 378 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cassy
I used to have a rule: You will read at least fifty pages before you decide to quit a book.

Then a few years ago, I vowed to completely finish every book I start. The unintended consequence of this stricter policy is that my “currently-reading” shelf exploded. I am up to thirteen books – most of which I lost interest in a few months (or even a year) ago, but feel pressure to pick back up. Honestly, looking at that shelf fills me with dread.

Just when I was considering reverting to my fifty-pages
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StoryTellerShannon
Most medieval fiction, other than Follet's PILLARS OF THE EARTH, fell short of my expectations so I never went out of my way to read much in the genre. But then, a few different people recommended Penman, I tried her out and she's now on my list of authors worthy of reading!
Here are some good reasons to read Penman:

(1) EVOCATIVE IMAGERY: the words flow with apparent ease, opening the reader's mind to a new world; you can see this mentioned in some of the more popular reviews below;

(2) VIBRANT, I
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Lucy
I love to read other people's favorite books. Amy M. recommended this to me, although I don't think she described it as her favorite. Just a book she had read a long time ago that she remembered loving. Having never even heard of it before, I pulled out my super reading powers and gave it a whirl.

First, this is NOT an easy read. The edition I checked out contained more than 700 thin pages of small print. Second, it's historical fiction about a time in history I had no prior knowledge of - 13th c
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Kristin
How refreshing it was to read this book after the dreadful The Virgin's Lover. Here is well-written, wonderful, historical fiction at it's best!! Sharon Kay Penman is a fantastic author and she took me to a time and place that I haven't read much about...13th Century Wales.

The book tells the story of Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales, and his rise to power and fame as Llewelyn the Great and his great love, Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John. In the quest for Wales Llewelyn and King
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Sarah
[...loading unpopular opinion...]

I didn't like this book.

I didn't like the author's writing style, treatment of the period, or copious infodumps that were awkwardly wedged into the prose (which was pedestrian at best). Despite the piles of glowing reviews for SKP's medieval books, I kept my expectations low -- but alas. Here Be Dragons plunged through such tissue-weight optimism like a brick through toilet paper. I really did try, guys. I hoped it would improve, or at least hook my attention.

It
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Jane
Where I got the book: purchased used on Amazon.

This is the first book I’ve read by Sharon Kay Penman, and it was a product of the Goodreads Effect—I’ve heard so many good things about Penman on Goodreads that I realized I was going to have to get acquainted with her work. This, I believe, was the second book she wrote, after The Sunne in Splendor, and the first book in her Welsh Trilogy. It covers the years from 1183 to 1234 and tells the story of Llewelyn, a Welsh prince determined to keep Wale
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Anna
I really liked this. Penman is a meticulous researcher, but in some of her other books, I’ve thought she’s been too fact-heavy at the expense of great storytelling. For me, she got the balance right in this book, it’s an equally entertaining and informative read.

I read a lot of English history books, whereas this is my first foray into Welsh history. Perhaps that's why I preferred the goings-on in King John’s court to that in Llewelyn the Great’s - I was more familiar with the people and events
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Mandy Moody
I can't say enough good things about this book.
Sharon Kay Penman is absolutely amazing. The characters in Here be Dragons live and breath like I would never have thought possible for people that died almost 800 years ago. Almost all of the major characters are factually based, and Penman says that she also cast her secondary characters from real-life molds. Maintaining historical accuracy in how these people thought, spoke and lived makes their vivid reality even more amazing. There are dozens o
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Rio (Lynne)
This book was so packed with years of information where do I begin with a review?
First all of I was excited when the book came in the mail and it was a version I had not seen. I loved the cover and the fact that it was the imported paperback. I know this has nothing to do with the writing, but I'm a sucker for a nice cover.
When you read this book, you need a quiet corner with no distractions. You need to be able to emerge yourself into Penman's saga to enjoy it to it's fullest. The main chara
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Barbara
Let's just say I lost sleep to keep reading this page-turner of a historical novel. Set in England, Wales, and France, and starring the aristocracy and royal families of the late 1100's and early 1200's. The main story line surrounds Joanna, a daughter of John I of England. Most of us remember him as Robin Hood's nemesis... Robin supported John's brother Richard Lionheart. But old Robin's not in this tale. It's told from a wholly different viewpoint.

A co-worker recommended this author. So far, I
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Anneliese Bennion
Nov 14, 2007 Anneliese Bennion added it
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans
It has taken me a month to read all 700 pages. I haven't taken that long to read a book since The Lord of the Rings trilogy. At first I wasn't really impressed with it. It wasn't getting to the romance quick enough for me and it was a little confusing to remember all of the characters. It also was a little disturbing to have older men marrying very young women. Most of them were still girls. Eventually, I wrapped my mind around it. My friend Jill told me the romance between Llewelyn and Joanna w ...more
Tania
There was one aspect of successful kingship, however, that John had always utterly lacked - luck.

4.5 stars. Many people has recommended that I try a Sharon Kay Penman, but I felt a bit intimidated for two reason - firstly by the size of the books and secondly I was worried it may be too highbrow for my taste. But I'm happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned so much about thirteenth-century England and Wales, but it never felt forced. The characters were all fully developed, and even at th
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Annalisa
Jun 16, 2008 Annalisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Annalisa by: Amy
Although it took me 3 weeks to read this novel, I actually really enjoyed it. Unlike other historical fiction that seemed more fantasy that truth, I had a hard time pulling apart what was fiction and what was fact translated into dialogue. I believed these characters, that Penman selected personalities that were the obvious choice and the scenes could have very easily taken place.

Despite a time period anchored and defined by war, Penman does a good job of giving you a few snippets of exciting w
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I have a bit of a dilemma with this book. It's not the first historical fiction novel I've read that deals with "real" people - historical figures, that is. But it is the first I've read to this scale, and it left me a bit ... perplexed. It's set in 12th and 13th century Wales and England, and is the story of a Welsh prince, Llewelyn, who from the age of fourteen fought to reclaim his father's domain and then, throughout the rest of his life, unite the Welsh princes - a united Wales, he could se ...more
Zoe
This is hands down my favorite book. Ever.

It is multi-layered. On the one hand it's about the power struggle between England and Wales in the 1200s. On the other hand it's about the relationship between Joanna (illegitimate daughter of King John) and Llewelyn (prince of Wales).

I have never read a book with better characterization. The people are real and complex. There isn't a bad guy, per se, and that adds to the reality. You can always see the situations through everyone's eyes, so you can s
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Shelbi
Surprisingly enough, I was able to find this (semi) rare book in my scant city library, and it was completely worth it.

At first, I had a real problem 28 year old men marrying 12/14 year olds, but after I got over it, I became completely engrossed in the book. I love being able to make English connections and this swashbuckling novel is no exception. It features King Richard the Lionheart and his "cowardly" brother King John. The more I read about John Plantagenet, the more I don't like him, des
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Elizabeth
OMG. I LOVE historical fiction. I LOVE this period. But I cannot for the life of me get into this book! And that's disappointing b/c this author wrote many and I was hopeful of having lots of nice, long books to read. It's hard for me to put my finger on what I don't like -- basically, as soon as one gets interested in a character or a situation, the scene shifts dramatically. There are too many characters and too much going on.

And YES, it's history, and there WERE a lot of characters and a lot
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Lady of the Lake
This is one of my favorite books ...I don't believe the story she has fabricated within the web of historical figures and happenings but I loved d it none the less. This brought joy toe but it also had me crying my eyes out. I fell in love with the characters most had lived a life similar to what goes on here but much it far from the truth I am certain. I was so sorry to reach the last page. This was the first book in the trilogy and the best of the 3 IMHO. It was the great love she was able to ...more
Andrea
This is one of my all time favorites. It is the first in Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy of the 12th and 13th century Welsh princes known as Llewelyn The Great and his grandson, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd or Llewelyn The Last who united their people to fight for independence from English rule. Ms. Penman's meticulous historical research and her ability to make the reader feel they are in the room listening to history unfold is just addictive. I have always been an Anglophile, but knew nothing of Welsh his ...more
Margaret
Here Be Dragons is the first in Sharon Kay Penman's Wales trilogy, which follows the ruling families of Wales in the thirteenth century, a turbulent era for the small country on the borders of England, as their princes fought to protect Welsh independence from the encroaching English. Llewelyn ap Iorwerth makes an uneasy truce with King John of England by agreeing to marry John's illegitimate daughter Joanna, who is initially reluctant to marry Llewelyn and go to a land of which she knows nothin ...more
Kathryn
Wow. What a book!
To be honest, this book took me about a month to plod through. The difficult names and interweaving of families made the characters a bit difficult to keep straight, and the 700 paged tiny typed aspect didn't help. That being said, this is truly a beautiful book written about 1300 England and Wales. The book carefully balances historical fact with compelling plot points without tying the book to boring battles or bogging it down in overly graphic romance. The last 200 pages sped
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I usually shy away from historical fiction starring real people, finding that such books are often dry--that, or widely derided for inaccuracy. This is one of those rare books that is neither, that is thoroughly researched but never reads like biography; the characters and their inner lives and relationships are fleshed out in a way that would make any novelist proud.

Here Be Dragons spans 51 years of Welsh and English history (from 1183 to 1234), focusing on the lives of three main characters:
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Lori Anderson
Feb 19, 2009 Lori Anderson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Outlander and historical fiction
As a fan of historical fiction and the "Outlander" series in particular, I had high hopes for this book. The title jumped out at me in the library and I snagged it without really reading the fly leaf.

I loved it. I lost a lot of much-needed sleep reading "just one more chapter" and was entertained and educated at the same time. I had a little trouble with the Welsh (can I please buy a vowel???) and am usually irritated with books where my reading is clumsy because of my inability to pronounce som
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Linda
I recommend the book.. It has been read and reviewed so many times that my testimonial is not needed. Ms. Penman is an excellent author who uses weird and repetitive sentence structuring in a positive manner for the reader. The book encompasses the border wars among England, France and Wales during the 12th and 13th centuries. Llewellyn, Princess Joanna, and King John of England are the main characters, each having made some contribution of historical importance. Llewellyn is known as the Great, ...more
Ikonopeiston
I did not like this as well as "Sunne" mainly because of its incoherence. There is a lack of focus which seems to rise out of the material itself. The story wanders back and forth with neither side earning my allegiance. I did not like Joanna at all. She is a bit of a liar and a fool, not a proper follower to Eleanor of Aquitaine. I fear I am not really all that fond of great love stories and do not believe in happy ever after. I am sorry for this; I had looked forward to other of her books, now ...more
Michele
Brilliant story involving King John, Richard the Lion Heart, and John's illegitimate daughter Joanna, whom he wed off to Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales. A little too romance-y, but excellent. First in a trilogy; followed by 'Falls the Shadow' and 'The Reckoning.'
Chrissie
Oct 21, 2013 Chrissie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chrissie by: Misfit
This is not a book for me! I didn't finish it, and I do not intend or picking it up again. It is simply not my kind of book. I have read 164 pages. I really do not enjoy reading it, so why should I continue?!
Robin
I think what I love about Penman’s novels (aside from her obvious talent for sentence structure and superior vocabulary) are the many view points and characters who all have so much depth. One characteristic of Penman’s novels is occasionally (especially in the beginning) telling a chapter from a view point of a minor, almost insignificant character who is then never featured again. That can be a little misleading but I think it also adds to the dimension of the story. In the beginning, I often ...more
Rachel
After reading the many complimentary reviews, I almost couldn't sleep I was so excited to get my hands on this book. I've spent two evenings of my free time working my way into it, and I've finally put it down. I just can't read this any more. First of all (I'm on page 283), I can't tell whose journey this is. John's? Joanna's? Not Llewelyn's, he's (by far the most interesting character) barely been featured in the ten years I've covered. I feel like the writing is mediocre. I get kicked out by ...more
Ashley
Okay, I was a very diligent reader for the first 200 pages or so. I was thoroughly intrigued in the story of Richard and Prince John and Llewellyn. But then the romantic story entered, and I couldn't help myself! I loved, loved, loved, reading about Llewellyn and Joanna!!! And I couldn't get enough of it! I found myself skimming ahead just to find out when I would see them again in the book, but then I would start reading those parts! And then I had to be firm with myself and force myself to rev ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Here be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman 1 10 Jun 11, 2015 08:55AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Undoing a character merge 3 24 Apr 15, 2015 02:02AM  
If they were to make a TV series... 9 125 Dec 04, 2014 09:07AM  
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Penman received her bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin, she majored in history, and also received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Rutgers University School of Law, and later worked as a tax lawyer. Penman suffered from an eighteen month bout with mononucleosis.

The Sunne in Splendour, a novel about Richard III of England is one of the most popular books on the Historical Nov
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More about Sharon Kay Penman...

Other Books in the Series

Welsh Princes (3 books)
  • Falls the Shadow  (Welsh Princes, #2)
  • The Reckoning  (Welsh Princes, #3)
The Sunne in Splendour When Christ and His Saints Slept  (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #1) Falls the Shadow  (Welsh Princes, #2) The Reckoning  (Welsh Princes, #3) Time and Chance (Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, #2)

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“Poor Wales. So far from Heaven, so close to England.” 33 likes
“If that’s how you’d rather remember it. But I did not mean that as a reproach. I do not, in truth, think less of you for having the common sense to abandon a ship once waves began to break over the bow. Nor, after sixteen years shut away from the sun, am I likely to find tears to spare for Henry Plantagenet.” 1 likes
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