Mar 2, 2009

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

Helen Hollick's The Kingmaking is the first of the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, which will be published in March 2009 by Sourcebooks. Thanks to Paul Samuelson for sending the book along for my review.

This first part in the trilogy begins in 450 AD in the midst of the Middle Ages while Britain remained in a tumultous period politically. Arthur is merely a bastard son at the beginning of this novel, and his foster father is kin to Uthr Pendragon. In the first chapters of the novel, Arthur grows into a man while visiting Gwynedd with Uthr and his abusive and cantankerous mistress Morgause. He meets Gwenhwyfar, daughter to Uthr's faithful friend Cunedda, and begins to have deeper feelings than friendship for her. The relationship between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar is rocky in the beginning, but blossoms through understanding and mutual respect. However, there are circumstances surrounding the death of Uthr and a failed attempt to regain control of Britain that hinder the ability of their relationship to grow.

"The oars lifted then dipped to kiss the white foam. The sail dropped and the ship, tossing her prow like a mare held over-long curbed and kicking high her heels, leapt for the harbour sheltering beneath the imposing fortress that was Caer Arfon." (Page 20)

The description in this book helps to set the scene of Britain in the Middle Ages, with its dark and ominous feel, but also its wild beauty. There is more to Britain during this time than readers may remember from their school days. My favorite passage in the book uses description to show Arthur coming into his manhood, along with the other adolescents of Gwynedd.

"The boys, stripped to the waist, were turning new scythed hay, making idle, breathless conversation as they tossed the sweet smelling, drying grass. Arthur's bruising was a faint memory of shaded yellow against suntanned bronze skin; gone was that weary look of watchfulness and unease, replaced by relaxed laughter and happy contentment. His hair was longer, the close-cropped Roman style beginning to grow, with a slight curl, down his neck and flop across his forehead." (Page 89)

Although there is great potential in the descriptive writing, some of the scenes fall flat as the narrative lists actions of the characters rather than showing the characters in action. Unlike the Arthurian legends of old which have mysticism and Merlin at the center of Arthur's rise to power, Hollick's retelling focuses on the realities and abilities of the "real" Arthur and his determination to regain control of Britain after the death of his true father.

Readers looking for mysticism and magic will be disappointed with this retelling. However, if readers are easily engaged by books with intrigue, battles, and strategy, this novel will not disappoint.

At nearly 600 pages, you can believe Hollick extensively researched her subject and it shows, from her use of place names connected to the regions at the time to the spellings of her main characters. Although portions of the book were a little dry and long, creating nicknames for some of the characters--Gwenhwyfar as Gwen or her brother Osmail as Ozzy--made it easier to become absorbed in the story.

Unfortunately, after 200 pages I stopped reading as certain scenes made me wonder what their purpose was, like when Gwen is aloft in a tree in the prime location to overhear Uthr and Morgause in intimate conversation. Considering the conversation that follows is not integral to the storyline, it makes the reader wonder why Gwen is in the tree in the first place to overhear the conversation.

***Giveaway Details*** (Part of the BookRoom Reviews Book Giveaway Carnival)

Sourcebooks has kindly decided to giveaway 3 copies of this novel to three lucky U.S. and Canadian readers.

I will pass along my ARC of the book to one lucky international reader; so please designate whether you are international when you enter the contest.

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment here; something other than "enter me" or "pick me"
2. Make sure you leave an email or blog address that works
3. Let me know if you are an international entrant, so I can place you on the list for my gently used ARC.

Deadline: March 8, 2009 at 5PM EST.

This Contest is NOW CLOSED!

Other blogs on the tour:

http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/harriet_devines_blog/2009/02/the-kingmaking.html 2/20
http://lazyhabits.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/the-kingmaking/ 2/21 and interview 2/27
http://carpelibrisreviews.com/the-kingmaking-by-helen-hollick-book-tour-giveaway/ 2/23
http://www.historicalnovels.info/Kingmaking.html 2/23
http://www.bibliophilemusings.com/2009/02/review-interview-kingmaking-by-helen.html 2/23
http://lilly-readingextravaganza.blogspot.com/2009/02/kingmaking-by-helen-hollick.html 2/23 and guest blog 2/25
http://chikune.com/blog/?p=488 2/24
http://booksaremyonlyfriends.blogspot.com/ 2/25
http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/ 2/26 and guest blog 2/27
http://webereading.blogspot.com/ 2/26
http://www.caramellunacy.blogspot.com 2/26
http://bookthoughtsbylisa.blogspot.com/ 3/1
http://jennifersrandommusings.wordpress.com/ 3/1
http://rhireading.blogspot.com/ 3/1
http://passagestothepast.blogspot.com/ 3/2
http://thetometraveller.blogspot.com/ 3/2
http://steventill.com/ 3/2
http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com / 3/2 and interview 3/3
http://www.carlanayland.blogspot.com/
http://readersrespite.blogspot.com/ 3/3 and interview on 3/5
http://libraryqueue.blogspot.com/ 3/4
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/ 3/4
http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/ 3/5
http://samsbookblog.blogspot.com 3/5
http://goodbooksbrightside.blogspot.com/ 3/5

***My Current giveaway of Dan Simmons' Drood. Check it out, here.***

Also reviewed by:
Historical Tapestry

84 comments:

anniegirl1138 said...

would be interesting to read Arthur as history instead of fantasy.

Becca said...

I like Arthurian legend and would be very interested is reading a version that has less mysticism than the average. This book sounds like something I would really enjoy. Thanks for the chance to win.
rebecca.bradeen(at)verizon(dot)net

Kaye said...

I love books set in Britain, doesn't matter what time frame. The excerpts were particularly intriguing.
Please enter me in the drawing.
florida982002[at]yahoo[dot]com

S.M.D. said...

I'm not usually into all the ancient England/Arthur stuff, but this sounds interesting.

Thanks for the cool giveaway (my email is in my profile).

carolsnotebook said...

I love the Arthurian legend and this sounds like an interesting, if slightly long-winded, take on it. Thanks for entering me.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Jo-Jo said...

I love historical fiction and although I haven't read many King Arthur books, I am intrigued by this one. Not sure if I like this cover or the one I saw on Dar's blog better. Thanks for hosting the contest.
joannelong74@gmail.com

Belladonna1975 said...

I love historical fiction. I haven't read any Arthurian historical fiction before. It is usually fantasy So I have been looking forward to this book.


Thanks!

Belladonna1975(at)pobox(dot)com

Rue said...

I've always loved the King Arthur mythos and the stories that it generates. Such great tales of chivalry and magic and a time so distant and different from our own. This sounds like a great series of books and it would be great to win the first one to read.

Thanks for the chance to win.
I'm in the US.
ruthann (dot) francis (at) gmail (dot) com

EllyBean said...

I appreciate everyone having such wonderful giveaways today! This book looks like a wonderful/exciting read! Do count me in :)

darbyscloset said...

I am not international, so kind of you to include that aspect in your giveaway!!!
I would so enjoy this book for I am so loving this time period!!!! I understand that this is a series, how great is that! You always pick out the best reads!!
Thanks
Darby
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

darbyscloset said...

I am also a follower!
Thanks
Darby
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Bridget said...

I've posted this on Win A Book. No need to enter me though.

donnas said...

I love the legend of King Arthur and would interested in reading this book. I am not international.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

kalea_kane said...

I would like to win this book because I am interested in the time period, but also because your review has made me want to know more. I'd like to know how I would feel about it. :) Thanks for the giveaway. :)

Kelly B

enroutetolife(at)gmail(dot)com

kalea_kane said...

I am a new follower, though I am surprised, because I have read a number of your reviews. :) What took me so long?

enroutetolife(at)gmail(dot)com

Kelly B

Thanks again!

Bingo said...

This looks like the kind of book I could just sail off into a fantasy world for a few hours! I'd love to win. I am now a follower of your lovely blog! Thanks for the super choice for your giveaway!

MOMFOREVERANDEVER said...

love your reviews..this looks great

Linda said...

Since I prefer reality to magic and mysticism, this one sounds like my kind of King Arthur. Thanks for the giveaway.

Marie Burton said...

MARIEBURTON2004 @ YAHOO . COM IS PEEKING IN TO SAY I WOULD LOVE A COPY OF THIS BOOK! It is already on my expanding amazon wishlist. Too many books, too little time and money. I have always read things that have ELUDED to the Arthurian legend and this is an area I have yet to explore. I am fixated on British history at the moment and probably will be for a long time since the genre is exploding with no books these last few years! AWESOME! Thanks for your generosity as well, it is very kind of you. (I am in USA) MUAH
How's that in place of just "pick me" etc.
Keep up the good work.

Valorie said...

I like a 'this is how it would have happened' real life take on a legend. Sounds like a really good read, though I am curious about that conversation that made you put the book down!


Valorie
morbidromantic@gmail.com

ikkinlala said...

I'd love a chance to read this book because the emphasis on history rather than fantasy would be an interesting spin on the Arthur story and, possibly, an enjoyable way to learn some more about the history. I'm in Canada.

ikkinlala AT yahoo DOT ca

okbarbie5 said...

Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance to win it!

Dar said...

Sorry you didn't like the novel Serena. I wish you had liked it as much as some of the rest of us. Would have made for much better reading right.

Janel said...

It's been awhile since I've taken on a book this big, but I'm up for the challenge. Please enter me!

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

Chantele said...

I'm interested!;)

alwayssomething2read(at)gmail(dot)com

bettyd said...

I've read different books relating to legend of Arthur. If you take away the magic, maybe you have a book closer to truth. I really appreciate that your review is honest to the point of telling us when and why you stopped reading. Some times the only way to get thru a book is to skip thru a particularly ackward or boring part.

sweetsue said...

I actually do like reading about battles. Sounds great to me!
smchester at gmail dot com

toohotforturtle said...

This is such a fresh perspective on Arthur. Sounds enjoyable.

Meg89 said...

I love Arthur books--I devoured the Mary Stewart's series! Thanks for the great giveaway!

meh471 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Qwill said...

One of my favorite books is the once and future king so I would love this.

Linda said...

I really enjoy reading about King Artur. The Mary Stewart books and TH Whites's The Once and Future King are books in my home library that I will never get rid of.

Elsie said...

Dear Wise One,

I would be most humbled and enchanted to have the chance to read of Arthur, I knew him a very long time ago in my youth, and wonder what kind of life he has followed, where has time taken him?

Please be sure, I wish you glad tidings.

pumpkinlady430@yahoo.com

Ladytink_534 said...

Oh I've been wanting to read this since I first heard of it! I've never read anything in the Arthurian legend but I've seen tons of the movies :)

Ladytink_534[at]yahoo[dot]com

Deedles said...

I loved The Once and Future King. Would love to give this book a try.

olympianlady said...

I love Arthurian tales. Please enter me for this one. Thanks!

tiffanyak1986(at)hotmail(dot)com

Anna said...

No need to enter me, just wanted to let you know I put your contests in my sidebar. Also, I appreciate the honest review. I never was much into stories about King Arthur, so I know this isn't my cup of tea.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Anna: even though this one wasn't for me, others seem eager to try it for themselves. I guess I've accomplished something!

Marie said...

This is one of my favorite time periods -- I was a history major in college -- I love stories about Arthur! It sounds wonderful!

vmlay@artsci.wustl.edu

Sara said...

This sounds great. The names are a bit weird though. Hopefully that's not distracting. I read a lot of my books out loud, so I'm sure I'll stumble through it.

Thanks! Sararush (at) hotmail (dot) com

demmi said...

sounds like a good read con5459(at)gmail(dot)com

teabird said...

(sigh) the Internets ate my first response... I read the interview where she says Sharon Kay Penman (one of my favorite writers!) is a friend, and that Mary Stewart was an inspiration. Those books are magical! Please enter me - thank you!

teabird 17 *at* yahoo dot com

Melissa said...

I love historical fiction and have heard good things about this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

rachel0 said...

I love arthurian fiction--this could be good. Thanks for hosting this giveaway!
belligator (at) Yahoo DOT (Com

Paula said...

I love the King Arthur legend and have been waiting for a Helen Hollick book on PBS forever! Thanks for having the givewawy!

Amanda said...

I would love to be included in the draw to win the ARC copy (international draw).
nellista(at)yahoo (dot) com (dot) au

S. Krishna said...

No need to enter me, but this is a great review! I can understand why you didn't like it though.

deltay said...

I've always been fascinated by stories from the Arthurian era - there's just something so majestic about that time!

lucidconspiracy[at]gmail[dot]com

a real librarian said...

I've recently been really getting into historical fiction, so I'd love to read this! Thanks for the chance!

areallibrarian[at]gmail[dot]com

heatherlo said...

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this when I first saw it around, but I've been seeing SO many glowing reviews that now I definitely am interested!

naida said...

great, detailed review serena, I like the passages you quoted.
And great giveaway too.
I liked this book, my review will post tomorrow :O)
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Valerie said...

great review
I'd probably enjoy it
KawaiiNeko2008 (at) aol (dot) com

Candie said...

My husband loves books relating to King Arthur. My oldest son is also developing this same interest. PLease add us to the mix. Thank you.

candieluster(at)gmail(dot)com

Neverwithoutabook said...

I enjoy the Arthurian legends, whether it be in a book, or a movie. I'd love to win this book. I'm in Canada.

kyrissaean(at)live(dot)ca

caseykelp said...

I have always been interested in the story of Arthur, this sounds like it would be a great read on that subject. Thank you for the giveaway.

Helen Hollick said...

thank you Serena for inviting me onto your blog - I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. And thank you for an honest review, all criticism is always welcome.

It would be a dull world if we all liked the same books!
Helen

Angiegirl said...

I would like to give this one a try. I love Arthur tales. I believe Mary Stewart's are my favorite. This sounds somewhat similar.

Serena said...

Helen: It seems that even though I didn't like the book, many others did and the entrants for this giveaway are not turned off my by review...I wish you luck with all of your writing...I think your pirates would have been a better fit for me.

Vickie said...

I have a keeper shelf of Arthurian legend books and this would make a wonderful addition!

VWinship at aol dot com

Please enter me in this drawing.

Theresa N. said...

I've always loved the legend of King Arthur and would love to read this book. I like history so it should be an interesting story with her research.
Theresa N
weceno(at)yahoo(dot)com

rottawa said...

I would like to read about the Arthur time period a history. I think it would be interesting.

rhondastruthers at yahoo dot ca

gahome2mom said...

Yahoo! Another chance at the same title. Thanks.

gahome2mom(at)gmail(d)com

Debs Desk said...

Please include me in your giveaway. I love reading about historical fiction and would love a chance to read this one.
Thanks
Debbie
debdesk9@verizon.net

Shannon said...

I love books about fantasy.

Bcteagirl said...

I have heard that this book portrays a more realistically about what life was likely like 'back in the day'. I would love to read about that :) Thanks for the contest!

Blodeuedd said...

I do love history so this sounds like the perfect book for me.

And I live outside the US, Finland to be exact

Nickolay said...

I have worked for The MN Renaissance Festival for 15 years and love this time period. I like King Arthur

jason@allworldautomotive.com

Cheryl S. said...

I enjoy reading historical fiction & like the legend of King Arthur. King Arthur was probably one of the first fantasy stories that drew me in & it would be nice to see the legend backed up by some historical fact.

Please count me in - Thanks!
megalon22 at yahoo dot com

Shelley said...

Who can resist a new take on King Arthur? I have read several good reviews about this!

saz AT chainreader DOT com

sarah said...

this looks like an interesting book. i'd love to read it! i'm from canada. thanks!

fertawert AT yahoo DOT com

Pam said...

Ohhh....Arthurian legends!!! Love all those pendragon books and can't wait to start the new series!!

Molly C. said...

I would love the chance to win this, I would totally share it with my sil, as she would love this book.

Heather said...

sounds like my kind of book would really like to read the whole trilogy!

Nona said...

I would love o win this as Hellen Hollick is a very gifted author, cannot wait to read The Kingmaker

Nona
san_peppy@hotmail.com

Anita Yancey said...

I am very interested in this book. It sounds great and I'd love to read it.
USA

ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

Qwill said...

It sounds somewhat like the once and future king which also had scenes that seemed out of place. Would be interested in reading this.

Meaghan F. said...

It sounds very neat. I really like reading books about Arthurian legend.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I love the sound of this series -- this is a favorite period of history -- whether real or imagined! Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this book.
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Candie said...

My husband would love to read this. He and my oldest son both love anything dealing with King Arthur. Thank you.

candieluster(at)gmail(dot)com

Homemaker said...

These are the types of books I'm just starting to get into. Before it was stict horror, thriller, suspense books. But my friend just borrowed me a different type of book then I am use to reading and I love it so far.

sallylynnsara@hotmail.com

Linda said...

I love reading about King Arthur so I'm sure that I would enjoy this book. Thanks

Daniel M said...

I like that whole era, think I was born in the wrong time - regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com

Donna M. Clark said...

I ould love to read this book because I have alwys been interested in the time of King Arthur and the Knights of The Round Table. Thank you for having this giveaway. litefoot873 at hotmail dot com

Steven Till said...

First of all, let me say that I like the honest review. I haven't read too many reviews in this tour that give positives and negatives. Given that you didn't get all the way to the end, you might not have responses to some of my questions/thoughts.

I liked Hollick’s depiction of Arthur: much more real-to-life than the traditional legend. I felt the author did a good job of blending history with myth, and creating an accurate picture of post-Roman Britain.

Arthur definitely had moments where you disliked him, among his other good qualities. Gwenhwyfar was the same way. There were times where I questioned her, but overall, she was more like-able than Arthur.

What did you think of the antagonist characters? Did you think they were well-rounded and complex? What did you think of Winifred? Did she have any redeeming qualities in your mind?

Also, now that I think about it, I would have liked to see Morgause as a more regularly character throughout the novel. What do you think? I thought she was an interesting, conflicting character.

Serena said...

Steven: Thanks for stopping by. I probably can't answer all of your questions, but I do agree I would have liked to have seen more of Morgause. I think she was a better antagonist than Winifred. I found that character whiny and shallow and not much depth there.

I think my main complaint was the narration...it plugged along and certain scenes appeared but did not propel the storyline for me, leaving the narration very flat.

I was not compelled to learn about these characters or see where their paths led.

With that being said, I did like the "real" Arthur as opposed to the legend.