Mary Campbell's Reviews > The Reckoning

The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman
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's review
Aug 21, 2009

it was amazing
Recommended to Mary by: my brother John originally recommended Penman
Recommended for: Anglophiles, readers of hist. fiction
Read in August, 2009 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** This is the third and last book in the "Welsh princes" series. You already know that Wales is doomed as a separate political entity from England, but Penman frames the story in such a way that you grieve for the personal tragedies as well as for the unique Welsh way of life, in which, for example (and this is in the Middle Ages), a woman may leave (divorce) her husband for any reason.

Most wars led by royals or nobles are fought only for personal aggrandizement. Thomas B. Costain writes of Edward, the Black Prince (father of Richard II), who lived mostly in France, that "he would fight for a brother knight or undertake the rescue of a degenerate king like Pedro ["the Cruel, deposed king of Castile:] even if it cost the lives of thousands of common men and hopelessly entangled his affairs at home" (THE LAST PLANTAGENETS). The Welsh certainly fought among themselves for territory, for leadership of a "united Wales." But they united in fighting the English for their way of life.

Though Penman's bias slants toward Wales and the Welsh princes -- Llewellyn "the Last" (as he would later be known) in THE RECKONING -- it is difficult even at a distance to sympathize with the English point of view. It seems that Edward I "Longshanks" was interested primarily in controlling the entire island -- Scotland and Wales as well as England. As we know, Scotland, at least in the Highlands, would not be subdued until Culloden (1746). I guess Edward thought it was tidier that way.
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