Michele's Reviews > The Kingmaking

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick
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's review
Mar 03, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, historical-fiction, arthurian, my-personal-library
Read in March, 2009

The Kingmaking is Book One of The Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, by Helen Hollick, re-released by Sourcebooks on March 1. An epic undertaking, The Kingmaking is the tale of the mythical King Arthur and his queen Gwynefar, stripped of wizards, magic swords, and mythical ladies rising from lakes. It is the tale of Arthur as he may have been.

Many talented writers have spun the tale of Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (Mary Stewart notably comes to mind here), but it took author Helen Hollick to strip away the trappings of myth and magic and write what possibly might be the most compelling account of all.

Little is known of England during that murky time period between the abandonment of Rome and the invasion of the Normans in 1066. Hollick takes advantage of this and drawing from what little is known about the Angle, Jute and Saxon warlords that vied for control of England, she paints a vivid portrait of a divided land populated by a widely diverse population caught between their pagan past and the introduction of Christianity .

Here we are presented with an Arthur who is a product of these dark times, a complex man who is, in turn, both a brilliant strategist with touching compassion for his people and a

Hollick acknowledges the guidance of renowned historical fiction author Sharon Kay Penman in her forward - indeed the book is dedicated to her - and the influence shows. A comprehensive afterword to the novel reveals her meticulous attention to historical detail and provides a most satisfying end to this first novel of the trilogy.

But perhaps her most impressive strength as an author lies in her development of character, specifically the Pendragon himself. If you are looking for a saint-like Arthur, hoodwinked by his golden Guinivere (Gwynafar), you won't find that here. Arthur is a red-blooded man of his times who takes women at his pleasure, lies and cheats as necessary to take what he feels rightfully belongs to him, yet still manages to remain - by and large - a sympathetic character you will cheer for.

Fans of Sharon Kay Penman will appreciate Hollick's complex character development, plot pacing, and attention to historical details while any afficianado of Athurian legend should appreciate this original vision of the myth. This is first-rate writing, indeed.

Historical fiction lovers, meet Helen Hollick. Enjoy!
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