Lucy's Reviews > Pendragon's Banner

Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick
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's review
Oct 24, 2009

really liked it

In Pendragon’s Banner, by Helen Hollick, the tale of Arthur, the grand King and warrior, holds no place for Lancelot-types and ladies in distress. In this meaty epic, you’ll find a hero in the midst of endless battles, strong-willed women, questionable loyalty, heart-wrenching deaths, and true love.

Arthur possessed not only those majestic qualities loved in a king that’s hero; he was also capable of extreme emotions and actions that could destroy, refute (as in the case of his first son by Winifred…I had a very hard time understanding this…) and could also literally ‘dispose of’ mercilessly as a means to an end. Those passages led to very intense reading- where I just could not put the book down.

I appreciated the author’s realistic in –the- times approach to this King Arthur who also proved to be endearing and vulnerable when it came to true love. I admired Arthur for the ruler and lover he was (though some of his swaying motives lost him some points…but those were different times…). Hollick brought her characters to life –drawing me to strong emotions, precisely, I imagine, as intended. Her portrayal led me to despise and wish cruelty on the venomous Morgause; understand the validity of Winifred’s motives, while disliking her altogether; and then, there was Gwenhwyfar…

For me, she was the real heroine of this novel. I must admit that although I passionately read through the battle scenes, scheming plots, horrifying situations and the saddest of deaths-It was Gwen who kept me hooked to the storyline. What a heroine! In Pendragon’s Banner, Gwenhwyfar is strong, loyal, incredibly skilled mentally and physically (she could whip a sword as well as any Artoriani!) Her devotion, as well as her determination proved unshakeable in the worst of fates. Her fiery temper was no less passionate in the face of love for her husband and children. In all her intensity, Gwenhwyfar was also capable of great compassion, kindness and giving towards others in their time of need. Based upon Hollick’s fantastic character portrayal of Gwen in this rich novel, I have a renewed love and admiration for Arthur’s glorious Queen.

Pendragon’s Banner is a rich and gripping tale, but not without its light and often comical moments which the author interjects throughout the novel. Actions, motions and scenes are regularly described, with visual editorial type moments for vivid effect. It also helps alleviate the heavier scene being dealt with. For those who enjoy this type of thing, here’s an example:

Bottom of pg. 351, ‘Arthur slid his thumb through his sword belt, and rocked forward onto the balls of his feet and back to his heels.’

And, here’s another:

pg.312, ‘Arthur’s expression was his familiar, implacable, grim squint of right eye half shut, left eyebrow raised.’

Pendragon’s Banner, although quite chunky, is a relatively smooth read (difficult names and words have a pronunciation guide at the front). In addition, all chapters are only 3 to 4 pages long, easily readying you towards the next transition of events.

Arthurian fans will enjoy this tale portraying Arthur and his Lady in a different, yet more convincing light than ever read before.

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