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

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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  11,978 ratings  ·  826 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...more
Paperback, 704 pages
Published May 11th 1993 by Ballantine Books (first published 1985)
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Best Historical Fiction
49th out of 3,926 books — 17,142 voters
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Historical Fiction: The House of Plantagenet
2nd out of 185 books — 334 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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...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
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...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...more
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...more
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...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?!
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
Smokey
Jan 27, 2008 Smokey rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hystorical fictionists, lords & ladyes born 800 years late, Mary Stewart/George R.R. Martin fans
Here be Dragons is a novel based on the events and important figures of Wales, England, Scotland, and France from ~1180 - 1240AD. This telling of the reign of King John of England and the ascendancy of Prince Llewellyn of Wales (and his political marriage to John's illegitimate daughter) winds its way through many pivotal events in history, including the signing of the Magna Charta, and the loss of English holdings in northeastern France to King Phillip. The book even touches on the crusade of R...more
MichelleCH
I loved this book;one of the reasons I enjoy reading historical fiction is because of the opportunity to sink into a time period and know that the events and characters are drawn from what really occurred. Penman does this exceeding well and I could not put this book down until I had read it to the very last page. The primary characters of Joanna and Llewelyn have so much depth - I could not help but fall in love with their relationship and root for a happy ending. You can certainly tell that Pe...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
Rebecca Huston
A wonderful, beautifully written story that really happened. Set in the times of Richard I and John, this tells the story of Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Gwynedd, and his marriage with Joanna, the bastard daughter of King John. It is passionate, full of real history, and plenty of emotional punch. I have read this one several times over, and discover it anew every time I go back for a reread. One of the desert-island books for me.

The copy listed in the swap is for the mass-market paperback edition....more
Cphe
It's taken me a while to get through this book, but I took my time and savoured it. A tapestry of political intrigue, greed, family and history.

It's not a perfect book by any means but it did keep me captivated. I enjoyed seeing John as a father figure, he's not often portrayed the way he was here. There were lulls in the story but there was always something to hold my interest.

A wonderful story and a gifted storyteller.
Shelley
This was a solid historical fiction -- politics galore, and a good insight into the early 1200s England and Wales. However, I found it quite hard to follow the many characters that had similar names, as well as the fact that the author headed each chapter with a date (often with many years between chapters) and did not really use other means to give us the age of the characters or the time that had passed. And so it was tricky to follow how old people were during that moment in time. I often had...more
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
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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...more
More about Sharon Kay Penman...
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.” 23 likes
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