Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Review: The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick
Here is a brief summary of The Kingmaking from the Sourcebooks website:
This is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies, who captured Gwenhyfar's heart, and who emerged as the hero of the Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all.
I was one who grew up hearing mystical tales of King Arthur and his magical wizard Merlin so when I first heard what this book was about I didn't think that I would enjoy it. After reading a few reviews it appeared that this book wasn't full of the fantasy folklore and realized I may actually enjoy it. And I enjoyed this novel immensely! Considering the fact that we do not even have evidence that King Arthur actually existed, I think that Hollick did a fabulous job of weaving a story that showed us the life of a young man that would later be the King of Britain.
Arthur is introduced in this novel as a fifteen year old that is the son of a menial servant. For some reason Uthr Pendragon has taken a liking to young Arthur and has decided to take this boy under his wing. Uthr's mistress Morgause cannot understand her lord's fascination with the boy and finds herself jealous of the relationship that the two seem to have.
When Uthr brings his army to the Gwynedd territory, that is when Arthur has his first glimpse of the lovely Gwenhwyfar. Although she is a young gal at the time, there is something about her that grips his heart. While the army is away at battle their relationship seems to blossom with the time passing. Before Arthur leaves Gwenhwyfar, they pledge their lives and their love for each other.
Unfortunately, circumstances and politics seem to have other plans for Arthur. Before too long, Arthur has taken Uthr's place as head of the army that serves King Vortigern. Although Vortigern despises Arthur, he thinks it best to have him in his own employ since he can sense the power that Arthur is developing. As Arthur makes these political decisions, he worries that he may never be able to enjoy the company of his beloved Gwenhwyfar again.
I don't want you to think that this book is just a love story between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, because it is so much more than that. There were many battles that were fought to show his country that he was a worthy king. Many of these scenes were pretty graphic so I found myself cringing in my chair. Especially when Gwenhwyfar was fighting in a couple of the battles herself. She was portrayed as a very strong woman and would do just about anything to serve the ones she loved.
As I mentioned earlier, there was only a small amount of magical element in this novel, and that surfaced when Arthur found the sword that he knew he had to possess. I thought this was put into the novel in a way that seemed plausible. Throughout this book you could see the birth of Christianity while the pagan beliefs were falling behind. Many of the characters found themselves practicing both beliefs as they did not want to get rid of their old ways. In one part of the book Arthur was so relieved that he found himself praising his pagan god and the Christian God both in the same breath.
The Kingmaking is part of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, and the second book, Pendragon's Banner, is now available and I have ready plenty of rave reviews of this book also. You can find out more information about this series and other books by Helen Hollick at her website. As I first mentioned, there is no documented evidence that Arthur actually existed, so if you are a reader that prefers accurate historical novels, you may not enjoy this book. If you are looking to read an interesting piece of fiction that sweeps you away to another time and place then I highly recommend it.
My Rating: 4/5