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Who was the man
who became the legend
we know as
Pendragon's Banner is the second book in...
Who was the man
who became the legend
we know as
Pendragon's Banner is the second book in Helen Hollick's exciting King Arthur trilogy, covering 459-465 A.D. This is not a fairy tale or fantasy. There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot. This is the most accurate Arthurian legend ever written, based on historical evidence and meticulous research.
At age twenty-four, King Arthur has the kingdom he fought so hard for and a new young family. But keeping the throne of Britainand keeping his wife and three sons safeproves far from easy. Two enemies in particular threaten everything that is dear to him: Winifred, Arthur's vindictive first wife, and Morgause, priestess of the Mother and malevolent Queen of the North. Both have royal ambitions of their own.
In this story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of early Britain's dark ages, author Helen Hollick boldly reintroduces King Arthur as you've never seen him before.
PRAISE FOR PENDRAGON'S BANNER:
"Hollick's interpretation is bold, affecting and well worth fighting to defend."
"Weaves together fact, legend, and inspired imagination to create a world so real we can breathe the smoke of its fires and revel in the Romano- British lust for life, love and honour."
Historical Novel Review
"Camelot as it really was... a very talented writer."
Sharon Kay Penman, bestselling author of Devil's Brood
PRAISE FOR THE KINGMAKING:
"Hollick juggles a cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill."
"If only all historical fiction could be this good."
Historical Novels Review
"Stripped of its medieval trappings, the story of Arthur's rise loses none of its legendary power… this [is a] well-researched, skillfully constructed trilogy opener."
The world is a dangerous place and the strength of their relationship is tested time and again. Through heartbreaking grief and constant malicious attacks, they strive to maintain the happiness that they had when they were young. But at times, that seems impossible.
When Arthur finally founds his own hall at Caer Cadan, the peace and security that Gwenhwyfar has been longing for finally seem within reach. And for a few months it does seem as if the outside world has stopped its relentless interference and slumbered quietly.
It doesnt last long. Beset on every side by the vengeful and greedy, including Arthurs ex-wife Winifred and the witch Morgause, Arthur desperately tries to maintain the peace treaties that are in place. He finds how impossible it is to be two men at once, loving husband and ruling King.
Once again, the author delivers a vividly alive portrait of England in the Middle Ages, complete with the complex political struggles of a tribal nation. This is one of my favorite Historical Fiction series, it is filled with excitement and drama, human heroes and truly wicked villains. Highly, highly recommended. You can read my review of the first book, The Kingmaking, here.
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.
A Readers Respite has grown rather smitten with Arthurian literature over the past few years. Or rather, well-written Arthurian literature.
How many ancient legends have persevered so long? Theres something magical about the knights of the Round Table and the quest for the Holy Grail.
The first historical mention of King Arthur popped up in the 9th century, where Arthur was depicted as a garden-variety soldier in 6th century Britain who bravely fought against those pesky invading Saxons.
Arthurs legend changed dramatically over the centuries (we like to think of it as a Dark Ages version of The Telephone Game) until 1138 A.D., when Geoffrey of Monmoth put pen to paper and came up with Historia Regum Britanniae, or History of the Kings of Britain.
Geoffreys version of King Arthur looks much more familiar to modern-day readers. In it, we find the wizard Merlin, the famous sword Excalibur, and even the mythical isle of Avalon.
Wizards, magic, romance, betrayal and a crazy lady who lives in a lake bestowing legendary swords. What more could a reader ask for?
Modern authors have re-written Arthurs tale countless times. There are romance versions, fantasy versions, even sci-fi versions of the legend. Many of these novels turned out trite or tedious at best.
Our favorite re-tellings are those who treat it as pure historical fiction. No magic. No fancy-schmancy romance. We like realism.
Helen Hollick is one of those authors who manage to brilliantly create a real-life Arthur as he may have been. (After all, there is no definitive proof that he did or did not exist.) In 1994, Hollick published the first novel of what came to be called The Pendragon Series, entitled The Kingmaking, which Sourcebooks (God bless their cotton socks) re-released this past March.
Hollick gave us a nitty-gritty, flawed, courageous, even - inadvertently perhaps - sexy Arthur. Perhaps, in our opinion, one of the very best portrayals of this legendary warrior King. We admit it: A Readers Respite fell a little in love.
Okay, a lot in love. With Hollicks writing and interpretation and even with Arthur himself.
Now comes the re-release of the second installment of the series: Pendragons Banner. We were delighted to find this novel as gripping as the first. Arthurs character is still as flawed as ever, but Hollicks research of this time period is phenomenal. The realism that permeates the entire story puts her series in a class by itself.
And the best part? Theres still a third installment yet to come when Sourcebooks re-releases the third novel in the trilogy, The Shadow of the King, this coming spring.
If you havent seen this series first, start with the first book. Wed be willing to wager that these books will find a place into your permanent library.
Pendragon’s Banner is the second in Helen Hollick’s King Arthur trilogy (the first is The Kingmaking, reviewed earlier). I read and enjoyed the trilogy when it was first published, and am pleased to see it back in print. Many thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy and organising the blog tour (details of the other stops on the blog tour at the foot of the post).
Arthur, the illegitimate son of Uthr Pendragon, is now Pendragon and High King of Britain, after the political and military struggles recounted in The Kingmaking. But Arthur is still young, aged only 24, and his position is not secure. Other lords, such as Amlawdd in the south-west and Lot and Hueil in the north of Britain, fancy themselves as High King. The Council of Britain and Arthur’s uncle Ambrosius hanker after a return to the Roman Empire. Winifred, Arthur’s ex-wife, is scheming to get the kingship for the son she had with Arthur, Cerdic. Morgause, Uthr’s cruel mistress who has hated Arthur since his childhood, is plotting his destruction and has laid a curse on Arthur – that if he pursues her, none of his sons will live. Arthur, his beloved wife Gwenhwyfar and their young children are beset with dangers, and defending Arthur’s position as High King demands a heavy price. Will it be too high for their relationship to bear?
As with the previous book in the trilogy, Pendragon’s Banner is free of supernatural powers. No Merlin, no enchanted sword, no magic, no sorcery, no Round Table, no knights in shining armour. This is a good thing in my view, but readers looking for the fantasy aspects of the King Arthur legends will not find them here.
Pendragon’s Banner is a story of human love and conflict, centred on the two main characters, Arthur and his wife Gwenhwyfar. Gwenhwyfar, a princess from Gwynedd (modern north-west Wales), is the descendant of a long line of warriors and something of a warrior herself. She is beautiful, clever, hot-tempered, passionate and as strong-willed as Arthur, leading to frequent quarrels as their opinions and desires clash. Arthur is a military genius, but his skill on the battlefield is not matched in the council chamber. He makes no secret of despising his councillors as a bunch of irrelevant old fools, he antagonises his uncle Ambrosius, he provokes and belittles his loyal but strait-laced cousin Cei, and his jealousy over other men’s attentions to Gwenhwyfar (real or imagined) gets him into more than one fight. The stormy marriage between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, their private family tragedies, and the intolerable stresses resulting from the conflict between Arthur’s position as High King and his role as husband and father, form the core of the narrative.
The novel spans a period of about seven years, giving ample opportunity for a lot of warfare and political scheming as well as the personal relationships. It also incorporates numerous legends attached to the King Arthur story, such as the tale of Ider fighting a giant on Brent Knoll near Glastonbury and a quarrel between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar at the Queen’s Crags on Hadrian’s Wall. Perhaps as a result of including so many legends, the book is a lengthy read and I found the plot rather sprawling. Arthur has to face not one but two rebellions in the north, Morgause and Winifred are constantly hatching schemes, Arthur and Gwenhwyfar quarrel and make up, become estranged and reconciled and quarrel again. Some plot threads, such as Arthur’s alliance with the Saxon leader Winta, are introduced in detail and then disappear, perhaps because this is the middle part of a trilogy and they may be setting up for something in the third book.
Detailed descriptions of landscape and weather, among other aspects, make for a leisurely pace. This is accentuated by the elaborate prose style (e.g. “had the wanting of” instead of “wanted”), which sets a consciously archaic tone and sometimes requires more than one reading to disentangle the meaning. Keeping track of everything takes concentration, and readers may like to take note that typos in some of the dates in the chapter headings can be confusing (e.g. Chapter 43 in Part 1 is headed “April 456”, but is a continuation of the battle in the previous few chapters headed “December 462”). Although the backstory from Book One is explained where necessary, the trilogy works best if read back to back as a single long story.
A helpful Author’s Note explains some of the background, and a family tree at the front of the book helps in keeping track of the family relationships between the large cast of characters. There’s also a very useful list of place names with their modern equivalents (but note that Wroxeter and Winteringham have been mistakenly reversed in the list), and a list of questions for reading groups to consider.
If you’re a fan of the Pendragon lore, you will like the spin that Helen Hollick has taken on this story. At first you’ll miss some of the elements that you may have gotten used to, but this tale is so intriguing that you will soon forget that there is no Excalibur or Merlin on this version; but the backstabbing, the political machinations, battles, triumphs and tragedies… they are all still here.
In this version, which is the second installment in the Pendragon saga following The Kingmaking, the newly crowned King Arthur and his second wife, Gwenhwyfar struggle to maintain the kingship while also keeping their growing family safe and their relationship intact. Yes, you heard right, in this version, Gwenhwyfar is the second wife, and yes they do have kids, and yes they do have problems in their marriage. How very human, eh? Arthur’s first wife, besides from his old nemesis Morgause, who is not the lady of the Lake we are familiar with, is also one of the characters conniving to destroy him and claim the kingship for her own son whom Arthur has turned his back on when he divorced the boy’s mother, Winifred.
I know, I know! Confusing! I just love that all the elements of convoluted relationships and kinships is still in this version. I think that’s one of the more fascinating facets of the Pendragon tales; how the characters are inter-related one way or another and sometimes too close for comfort!
This novel portrays the Pendragon tales in a more human and realistic form. This is how the story would have gone in real life.
This story picks up right after Arthur has been made King, October 459. Rome has long since fallen and all of her lands are up for grabs. It is a ruthless and lawless time. Arthur is 24, has a young family, but no place to call home. Arthur must constantly patrol his new kingdom squashing brash upstarts, while making treaties with the Saxons and appeasing those leaders who still believe Rome may come back into power. Gwenhwyfar is his beautiful wife and the perfect mate for him. Gwen is very strong, willful. She fights for what she believes in and cherishes her family.
What strikes me most about this book is the realness of these characters. Their emotions and thoughts are so gut-wrenching at times. You feel their love for each and their pain. Believe me, Arthur and Gwenhwyfar probably have more than their fair share of grief, however, given the times they live in, its probably par for the course. I have read or watched several incarnations of the Arthur and Gwenhwyfar story, but never before have these characters been represented in this manner. Arthurs love for Gwen, his pain and sorrow over personal losses are palpable. Arthurs immense loneliness at times makes you want to hug the guy. Its not easy being King in the early Middle Ages. You have no one to trust but yourself and your wife of course. (hopefully)
With respect to Gwenhwyfar, she has her own hopes and fears. She knows her husband is King, and must constantly battle to keep peace and stability in the land. However there is a part of her that despises his title and the choices that come with it. Being King takes Arthur away from her and their children. Gwen is fearful that one day Arthur may not come home. All Gwen wants is safety, security, and a home. Arthur does too, deep down, but he loves his country as much as he loves his wife. He wants to do what is right by all the peoples of the land. Gwenhwyfar is a warrior wife, and by the end of this tale you will be amazed at what she can do. Dont do wrong or try to come between a woman and her family. You will certainly pay the price, as Morgause finds out.
Ah Morgause, another strong willed woman who wants control of England and her own destiny. She uses whatever and whomever she can to her advantage. Morgause is the great manipulator. You have to give the woman credit for trying.
There are many factions vying for control of England. Each one is as brutal and conniving as the next. There are several battles fought in the book but Hollicks writing makes them interesting and suspenseful. I must admit, I was a little nervous from time to time about the outcome and the fates of the characters. I was sad to see some of them pass away.
All in all this was an excellent book about characters who have been hotly debated, probably for centuries. Hollick has made both Arthur and Gwenhwyfar real and down to earth. I did not read the first book, The Kingmaking, before this one, and I had no difficulties in picking up the story or its characters. This can be a stand alone book, although it will leave you wanting more. Pendragons Banner is a great story of a charismatic leader during Britains infancy. It is easy to see why people are always so fascinated with Arthur and his story. Hollicks version brings an added dimension to the King Arthur tale and will fascinate you as well.
This is one of the better Arthurian books Ive read in while. While Im a huge fan of T.H. Whites classic The Once and Future King, Im probably a bigger fan overall of Arthurian books based on historical fact. Hollick has clearly done her research and kept this Arthur solidly based in a real time.
On a side note, I also appreciate that the author decided to write dialogue in a more sophisticated and style. Much as I loved The Mists of Avalon, I always felt taken out of the time period when so much of the dialogue was written in a modern syntax. At the same time, Hollick writes her dialogue in the way that Sharon Kay Penman does: stylistically, but not distractingly-old-fashioned. Its enough to help engross you in the period, but also easy enough to read through quickly.
I have to say that Gwenhwyfar ("Guinevere" from the traditional tales) was my favorite character. She was strong and made her opinion known whenever she had one, and it made her sections of the book particularly interesting. I think some criticism that might come her way would be that Gwenhwyfar is anachronistically spunky, but I think that shes rather more historically accurate by being portrayed this way. We dont know a fraction of what life was like for medieval women because of the lack of written information about them. Modern writers have to work based off of scant material, and as such its easy to make mistakes or strange suppositions. However, I think that Hollick is fully justified in her characterization of Gwenhwyfar; after all, women didnt just turn "spunky" in the 1970s when they became much more equal to men in the official views of society. There have always been fierce ladies, no matter their social position or their period of time, and the Guinevere of legend, if there is any historical base, must have been one of them. She was descended from royalty, educated, and believed she was destined to marry the greatest king of all time; why wouldnt she speak her mind? For all intents and purposes, she and everyone around her believe her to be one of the most influential women of the age. Plus, reading about a lady like her is always entertaining and makes you turn the pages as fast as you can.
And yes, I did just use the word "fierce."
Arthur is noble and easy to like. The action scenes are great fun, too. One of the most beautiful and horrible parts of Arthurian literature, for me, has always been the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, and immensely hard to understand. Hollick approaches this part of the lenged from a different angle that is more satisfying.
While this definitely feels like the "middle" part of the trilogy that it is, I read it without having read the first one and was able to follow along and enjoy it without feeling like I was missing something. I look forward to the next book in this series, and to going back and reading The Kingmaking.
King Arthur is in a constant struggle not only on the battlefield but also amongst his council. Arthurs attempt at creating alliances and providing land rather then battle is a weakness to them. For years, Arthur is without a stronghold, always on the move to defend his Kingship.
Arthur not only has to fight on the battlefield, he has two women scheming for the throne. Winifred, King Arthurs first wife and mother to his son Cerdic, is determined her son will be next in line and refuses to acknowledge their divorce. Morgause, his fathers mistress, is a manipulative woman constantly plotting against Arthur.
Over the years King Arthur and his wife, Gyenhwyfar, struggle with the time apart, having children (and losing them). Gwenhwyfar is a beautiful and clever women who can put up a good fight (just ask Arthur!). Helen makes Arthur and Gyenhwyfar come alive with passion and I love that we get to see Arthur in a different light.
Helen Hollick has an amazing ability to paint the perfect picture with her descriptive prose. Though I had not read the first book of the trilogy (which is about to change soon!), I had no problem following the story. The third book,Shadow of the King, is to be released in March 2010 and I look forward to continuing the journey.
When I was asked to review the second volume in Helen Hollicks King Arthur trilogy, I did a little poking around to see what the book was like before I agreed. I love Arthur stories, but I wasnt really in the mood for dragons and magic spells and Merlin in a pointy hat. So I was stoked to find that not only is this trilogy pointy-hat free, but its centered around the world in which a real Arthur would have liveda world of Romano-British remnants, trying to reshape itself with a mix of cultures and religions. This is the earliest Arthur, the post-Roman warlord instead of the remodeled medieval crusader. In other words, its right up my alleyand not only that, but I saw it had received a blurb from none other than Bernard Cornwell himself.
Helen Hollick’s The Kingmaking was an incredibly creative novel about King Arthur, and its sequel doesn’t disappoint. Pendragon’s Banner continues in the vein of its prequel, portraying Arthur as a real man with serious flaws and no access to magic. There is no Merlin in this novel – most of the tales within legend are there, but their explanations are based in reality. Additionally, Arthur is not the king of shining moral example that legend portrays him to be. He seems to sleep with every woman he comes across and his temper is something to cower from. He can be incredibly frustrating at times, but he is real. Hollick does a wonderful job of making Arthur a three-dimensional, true to life character.
There is a foreboding through Pendragon’s Banner, a sense that things aren’t as rosy as they seem. There’s a lot of tragedy in this book. At the beginning of the novel, it’s clear that Arthur barely has a grasp on his kingship and that it could slip through his fingers at any given moment. However, as the novel progresses, Arthur settles down and the reader really sees the king of legend shine through. It’s almost tragic because the reader knows it won’t last, and that everything will fall apart in the final novel of this trilogy. Still, it’s nice to see some peace in Arthur and Gwenhyfar’s lives, even if it is fleeting.
Pendragon’s Banner is a long novel, and a complicated one. There are a lot of characters and different storylines, which can be hard to keep track of at times. However, Hollick does an excellent job keeping the reader hooked. Despite the length, this is a book you won’t want to put down. But because of the complicated nature of both these books, you should read them in order. It’s been awhile since I’ve read The Kingmaking, so there were times I was a little lost because I forgot who a character was or couldn’t quite recall a storyline. I can’t begin to imagine how lost you would be if you didn’t read these novels in order.
Pendragon’s Banner was a wonderful read, and I simply can’t wait until the final novel in the trilogy. That being said, knowing how badly it will all end, I almost don’t want to read it just so I can live in Hollick’s world for a little bit longer!
Arthurian legend has never really been my thing. It was always too fairy tale for me. Or even worse, a really bad movie. I was pleasantly surprised with this book because it really transformed the Arthurian legend for me and made me very interested in the history, the romance and the action.
I was a bit nervous when I picked this book up because I am always nervous what I pick up a series in the middle. I get a bit twitchy and skittish and worry that I am missing something. I found that this was not really a problem with this book. I honestly did not feel like I was missing anything. I was thoroughly impressed with the historical detail and richness in this book. I love historical fiction where you can tell the amount of research that went into writing the book. This is definitely one of them.
The relationship between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar was also a highlight for me. I did feel like I had jumped into their story in midst of it but it’s not like I won’t buy the first book in the series because I can’t help myself. You could feel the push and pull between them. Gwenhwyfar was such a leap beyond the typical heroine we see in the Arthur fairy tales and legends. She is strong, intelligent, and willful not like the simpering, whimpering damsel in distress. I really liked that because I hate damsels in distress with a passion.
Pendragon’s Banner did have one small issue for me. It jumped a lot between different time periods. Each chapter is marked with the year it takes place in but sometimes I had to go back and check what I was missing. Not really a big gripe and you can expect something similar in most historical fictions.
I liked this book a lot. It has become one of my favorite historical fictions and I will play catch-up with the first book in the series and buy the last book the minute it comes out.
A novel of Arthur as he really was.
In the first book of this exciting trilogy, author Helen Hollick brings to life Arthur Pendragon as he really might have been. Leaving behind the fairy-tale element of Merlins magic and the improbable existence of Lancelot, Hollick instead transports the reader to the early years of Britain circa 455 AD and tells the Arthurian legend in a solid and believable way.
For one, Arthur does not pull a sword from a stone using superhuman strength; rather, he is named heir to Britain (if he can win it from the tyrant Vortigern) while standing near a "hallowed stone, the symbol of a warriors strength and the chieftains right of leadership." Later, a sword won in battle signals his place as Britains King.
This is a story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of the dark ages of early Britain. Intertwined through it all is the often-tested love of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere in Welsh - her name as it really would have been) as they struggle to survive and conquer to see Pendragon become King.
Helen Hollicks novels have been on my wishlist since my obsession with historical fiction began. Until now, I havent had any luck getting my hands on one, but that was before Sourcebooks Publishing came along and started re-publishing some excellent historical novels, including the Arthur Pendragon series.
Hollicks Arthur is not the usual halo-crowned, knight in shining armour. No rose-colored version here! He has flaws, fears, a roving eye and is stubborn as a mule! But, he has the heart, strength, cunning and courage necessary to excel as King. And you cant help but have a little crush on him!
Gwenhwyfar (or Gwen as I called her throughout the novel for sanity purposes - I just could not figure out how to pronounce!) is a girl after my own heart. A tomboy all the way - she is also strong-willed, tenacious and intelligent.
Arthur and Gwen are first bonded through a mutual suffering of abuse at the hands of evil, female caretakers. Both have a chance to save each other from these witches! Arthur & Gwen were a joy to read, these two have some great exchanges of words and make quite a pair!
The Kingmaking has everything without having too much. I much prefer this "real" Arthur to the "fairy tale" Arthur. What I like about historical fiction is that the people you read about were actually living, breathing human beings and that makes it so much easier to relate to their shortcomings or concerns or emotions. The Kingmaking was a fabulous novel, hard to put down and now on my list of all-time favorites! Helen Hollicks writing is fantastic and I am very much looking forward to reading the next two in the series!
Helen Hollick’s Pendragon’s Banner is a wonderful and moving look at the life of Arthur, Gwenhwyfar and their children. She brings him to life in a way I haven’t read before. If you are looking for a book that keeps you glued to the pages and up all night, this is the one for you. It’s a fat, juicy book packed full of exceptional storytelling. Even if you haven’t read the first book (like me), Pendragon’s Banner holds it’s own as a stand-alone.
King Arthur has married his second wife, Gwenhwyfar. His first wife was determined to overthrow her husband and place her son in his seat of power. One minor problem is that Arthur has impregnated several other women. Will he be able to weed out the traitors and make it to the top at all costs?
King Arthur has always interested me. I love sword fights and battles with courageous men. This is an action-packed book that includes blood, guts, gore and tons of lies, lust and greed. This is a book that has a little bit of everything and the writing is superb.
Ever since I saw the movie with my favorite actor, Clive Owen, I’ve been intrigued by the story of King Arthur and Pendragon’s Banner filled my craving for a more behind the scenes story. This is definitely not a fairy tale telling of magic and triumph. It’s a realistic portrayal complete with fighting, jealousy, lust and tragedy.
The story pulled me in from the very beginning when Arthur ordered his nine-month pregnant wife to caravan to the land of a man looking to challenge his leadership. He was so dedicated his people that he knew bringing his wife along with would show good faith in his quest for peace. I thought to myself “Who does that?” and was hooked.
This was book two in the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy but definitely stands alone as I have not yet read The Kingmaking. I plan to read it soon and follow it up with Shadow of the King. I highly recommend this one for all historical fiction lovers.
Pendragons Banner is the second novel in Helen Hollicks Pendragon Trilogy and while I did not read the first book, The Kingmaking, I will be reading the third, Shadow of the King. Pendragons Banner is an engrossing novel with a refreshing twist from the usual legends surrounding King Arthur. The characters are well written and the novel, while complex, is a definite page-turner. Throughout this face paced novel, the reader is privy to various different narrators, primarily, King Arthur, his wife Gwenhwayfar, Arthurs first wife, Winifrid, and Morgause. What the reader will not find in this novel is reference to Merlin or the round table. Rather Hollick chooses to humanize King Arthur and make the reader care deeply for the characters, cheer with their victories and cry with their heartbreaks. As with any good legend, Arthur has numerous enemies both cunning and traitorous. I found this to be a brilliant twist on the traditional lore and an excellent read. I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who wants a face paced, exciting read.
Once again, Helen Hollick gives us a wonderful addition to King Arthurs story. Arthur started in The Kingmaking as a teenager - not even knowing that he was the heir to the throne. In Pendragons Banner, he is not only King, but husband and father - and battling to do justice to all those roles.
Arthur has married Gwenhwyfar and with their children they have traveled, eventually settling at Caer Cadan. The traveling and Arthurs "wandering" have taken a toll on his and Gwenhwyfars marriage. Add to the fact that Gwenhwyfar was also very intelligent and was somewhat a warrior herself - coming from a long line of warriors - there was bound to be conflict between the two. Even though they were estranged, they manage to come back together. Arthur is also battling his first wife, Winifred, and Morgause who has cursed his children if Arthur should ever come after her.
This book covers about 6 years but it does not lack for political struggles, battles, infidelity, romance. What you will not find though is Merlin or Excalibur or the Knights of the Round Table. This is historical fiction without all the fantasy - a King Arthur we can believe might really have lived.
I enjoyed this second installment of Pendragons Banner as much as I did the first - but I found it hard to try to sum up. Most of this information is new to me, as I was never a big fan of the King Arthur stories. I am, however, a big fan of Helen Hollicks books and am looking forward to the re-release of the third book in this series next year.
Pendragons Banner is the second book in Helen Hollicks exciting King Arthur trilogy, covering 459-465 A.D. This is not a fairy tale or fantasy. There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot. This is the most accurate Arthurian legend ever written, based on historical evidence and meticulous research.
At age twenty-four, King Arthur has the kingdom he fought so hard for and a new young family. But keeping the throne of Britainand keeping his wife and three sons safeproves far from easy. Two enemies in particular threaten everything that is dear to him: Winifred, Arthurs vindictive first wife, and Morgause, priestess of the Mother and malevolent Queen of the North. Both have royal ambitions of their own.
In this story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of early Britains dark ages, author Helen Hollick boldly reintroduces King Arthur as youve never seen him before.
I have been a naughty girl, I arrogantly thought I could study for my midterms and finish 5-6 books that all have over 300 pages each in two weeks. I have learned my lesson because as today is my day to post my review for Helen Hollicks fantastic book, Pendragons Banner, I am only 250 pages in. I am going to go ahead and post my review on the book up to the point that I am at and I do want you to stay tuned for the remaining part of my review. I am thinking that what I will do is just create a new post over the weekend with the complete review. Let me tell you, this book is worth each and every page.
I do not pretend to know much about Arthurian legend. I love the movies like King Arthur, Merlin, Excalibur, Mists of Avalon and even Disneys Sword in the Stone. I love the fluff however, I am glad that the first book about Arthur Pendragon I read is "Pendragons Banner". This is Book Two of Helen Hollicks Pendragons Banner Trilogy. Although this is the second book of a trilogy, it has been able to stand alone. (I am DEFINITELY going to read book 1, The Kingmaking, thats for sure!). Helen Hollicks world of Arthur is dark, gritty, bloody, tumultuous, and gripping. There is no glamor in war, there is blood and death, and no holds barred. Even having to put a child to death to maintain Pendragons rule. The British and English fighting and Arthur trying to maintain control. Hollick has created a strong Gwenhwyfar. I felt through Gwenhwyfar I was able to feel her pain, her frustrations, anguish and strength. A true queen without a castle who is holding her husband up, her children together and dealing with betrayal. Morgause is perfectly evil. This time in history, worldwide, was rocky and hard, and I feel that if I were to dream about Arthur, Hollicks is realistic.
Each chapter is short but powerful, Hollicks descriptions will open up all of your senses to which you will smell blood, feel stress, lift with power, and see the battles and watch the children grow. If you enjoy a gritty, realistic, dark and powerful book, this King Arthur is for you. I have, so far, enjoyed each and every page of this book and as I said, watch for my complete review over this weekend as I finish this powerful book.
Set from 459 to 466, Pendragons Banner is the second book in Helen Hollicks Pendragons Banner Triology. It tells the story of Arthur of Britain, who fought, conquered enemies and brought peace to England. It also tells of the love between Arthur and his wife, Gwenhwyfar, better known to most readers as Guinevere.
A kings life was one of war, of alliances and betrayals. There were few families of royalty, and the balance of power between them and the desire for more power fuels much of the action in this book. Arthur had many enemies, men who wanted the kingdom he had carved out. Some of these included Lot, husband of Morgause, Arthurs stepmother; Hueil, a Northern ruler who attempted to defeat Arthur and even his own uncle, who persuaded Arthurs council to split the kingdom.
Arthur had other enemies. Morgause was a sworn enemy and cursed him that she would see all his sons dead. Winifred was his first wife, put aside when he met Gwenhwyfar, and resentful of that, wanting to force Arthur to acknowledge her son and willing to join with his enemies to accomplish her goals. There were other women also, slaves he took, women he had affairs with and the Lady of the Lake, who bore him another son. Womens lives were hard; their children lucky to survive to adulthood. There were many ways to lose a child, war, accidents, illnesses, plots. Children were pawns in the power plays of the powerful, and as they grew, they learned to desire and scheme to gain power for themselves.
Hollick has created a realistic tale of this ancient history and this mythological man. Arthur is shown as a warrior first and foremost, quick to go to battle, to defend what was his or claim more. He is shown as a man greatly in love with his wife. But Hollick also shows the dark side of Arthur. That love did not prevent him from having other women. Reflecting the violence of his time, slaves were treated as chattel. Those who lost battles were maimed or blinded, or simply killed. In one gruesome episode, Arthur has Lot and Morgauses daughter killed after Lots defeat, to eliminate her as a problem in the future.
Readers of historical fiction will enjoy Hollicks tale and be eager to read the other books in her triology. Arthur Pendragons reputation has survived for centuries, and a glimpse into what life must have been like in his court is fascinating. This book is recommended for historical fiction readers as well as those interested in a complex tale of power, corruption, love and war.
“Pendragon’s Banner” is the second book in Helen Hollick’s ‘Pengdragon’s Banner’ series and follows the story of King Arthur from where “The Kingmaking” left off, so there are naturally some spoilers in this review, although not any more than if you already know the basic legend of King Arthur. Heck, the fact that I’m calling him ‘King’ Arthur is already a spoiler for “The Kingmaking,” but then so is the title of “The Kingmaking” itself. Sorry, you’ll just have to deal with the spoilerliciousness.
At the beginning of “Pendragon’s Banner,” Arthur has indeed become King of Britain and, surprisingly, has begun making peace and alliances with the Saex. I was initially shocked by this, since Arthur’s big problem with Vortigern in “The Kingmaking” was his relationship with the Saex, but Hollick won me over with this as something that Arthur would reasonably decide to do, even if he couldn’t fully convince his supporters that it was a wise choice.
So much personal drama for the Arthur and Gwenhyfar! Their marriage definitely hits some rocky patches with the pressure of the whole King of Britain thing going on. Like the rest of Arthur’s followers, Gwenhyfar doesn’t always understand why he is making the decisions he is making. I noted in my review of “The Kingmaking” that there seemed to be quite a lot of violence against of negative attitudes towards women. Although Hollick doesn’t try to bring 21st century attitudes into the 5th century, I was pleased to note that there seemed to be far less of this in “Pendragon’s Banner.”
I really appreciate that, while these books are Arthur as he would have been as a post-Roman war lord and are fantasy-free, they also show you glimpses of where the more mystical legends could have developed. Definitely a worth-while series if you’re interested in Arthur.
Pendragons Banner by Helen Hollick is a continuation of The Kingmaking and another fantastic example of Helen Hollicks amazing story telling. It is the story of King Arthur and granted I loved the first book as well but picking up this one was wonderful - being able to go back in time and learn more about Arthur and Gwenhwyfar, their lives together and the times that the novel takes place in had me completely engrossed. I was sucked into Pendragons Banner from the first page and let me just say that the 460 odd pages of this novel just fly by as youre trapped inside with battles raging both on the war fields and at home with Arthur and Gwenhwyfar.
Arthur is Supreme King for the past three years and he has been fighting battles and moving Gwenhwyfar and his three sons many times. Gwenhwyfar is plain sick of it; sick of living in tents and never having a place to call their own. Gwenhwyfar has not changed much with the years. She is still the feisty woman she has always been; a woman with her own mind and not afraid to use it or voice her thoughts. She is angry with Arthur as his need to settle is not as great as her own. Along the way tragedy strikes and Gwenhwyfar decides to take some time away from Arthur and go home to Gwynedd until finally their love wins out again and they are back together.
What I think I like best about Helen Hollicks writing is her ability to make me feel like Im living in the pages of the novel. Im on the battlefield seeing the bloodshed and feeling the fear. Im feeling Arthurs fears as he tries to do his best for his men and his family and Im feeling anger when he is unfaithful to his wife and needs a kick in the butt. Im feeling their sadness when things go terribly wrong and their happiness and hope when they dont. This book is hard to put into words because it is such an epic tale and one that needs to be experienced to feel the full impact of it.
Arthur again is a man who you just cant make up your mind about. Do you love him or hate him - well its both. Hes a good man who loves Gwenhwyfar more than anything and you can feel that completely and he loves his family and he is fiercely loyal to his men. At the same time he does things that just get my feathers in an uproar. He has some definite problems saying no to womens wiles and has been unfaithful more than once. He has a jealous streak that sometimes takes over before his brain does. All in all though I have to say once again that I like him.
By far my favorite character is Gwenhwyfar. She is the type of woman, especially for those times, who was very different. She is extremely willful and has the tendency to do things her way, not the way Arthur or anyone else may tell her to. Shes beautiful, strong and has no problem wielding a sword should the need arise. I could just envision her on the battle field with her hair flowing behind her and her sword at the ready. My heart just broke for her many times throughout this novel; she has suffered much heartbreak in her young life. She also made me laugh outright several times. When certain over zealous men try to put their hands where they dont belong they find the point of a sword awfully close to their equipment and back off quickly. lol.
There are many of the old characters back that I didnt find myself liking any more than the last time like Winifred who wants her son recognized as Arthurs and Morgause who just wants to destroy Arthur. There were others like Arthurs and Gwenhwyfars sons who touched your heart and Gweir, Arthurs new slave boy who was pretty amusing as well.
Pendragons Banner comes highly recommended for those who love a little history weaved in with a great fictional story. Helen Hollick has given real lives to these people and given us a glimpse once again into how they might have lived through her vivid imagination. Im already anxious for the third and final book in this trilogy being re-released this spring by Sourcebooks called The Shadow of the King so I can see how it will all end.
I read Pendragons Banner for Helen Hollicks book tour and again I have to say that I recommend both Pendragons Banner and The Kingmaking. Make sure to visit Helen Hollicks website and browse around and take a look at all of her books. You can buy Pendragons Banner here in the US and here in Canada.
I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Hollicks retelling of this early part of King Arthurs life. Unlike the medieval Arthur who seemed focused on the crusades and the older King who would hold festivals and jousts, the Arthur that we meet in Pendragons Banner is a young king occupied with winning battles - much of the book is devoted to wresting control of his territory and keeping the land from invaders. Hollicks Arthur is deep into the work of creating his kingdom. He does not yet have his own castle, his Camelot and his round table is just a glimmer of a thought. He must still go through a great deal before establishing himself as the King Arthur of legend, but we can see from the man that he is in Pendragons Banner the king that he will become.
It is easy to care for Arthur, his loyal and skilled Artoriani and his loyal wife Gwenhywyfar. When they face the cunning and treachery of Arthurs longtime enemy Morgause, it make for a gripping tale and a satisfying read.
Hollick weaves in bits of the Arthurian legend, details of the man that hint at his life and legend as king. Plus, Hollicks fight scenes are gripping and well done - and as enjoyable as those found in a good Bernard Cornwell tale.
After emerging the victorious king of Britain in the first book of the trilogy, Arthur now seeks peace with the many tribes and factions below him. His enemies have not vanished and he often is required to fight them, but he always offers agreeable terms, often allowing the belligerents to keep the land they’d contested for but under his rule. Some of Arthur’s Artoriani don’t understand this policy, and neither does Arthur’s wife, Gwenhwyfar, leading to conflict at home in addition to conflict throughout the country. Arthur’s most determined enemies have not vanished, however, and it is these whom he must face down if he intends to keep his kingdom intact.
I like this trilogy. There is really very little of the associated myths around Arthur, but it’s still easy to see how Hollick has worked with the evidence available to her to make a story that is both familiar and surprising at the same time. Characters who were introduced by the French in the high middle ages have vanished, for example, but Arthur is still plagued by Morgause, still sleeps with his half-sister and bears a child by her, and so on. This world is very rough, portraying a Britain caught between native Britons, Romans, and invading Germans, and gives a wonderful backdrop and feel to the story.
Nothing is easy for Arthur. He is portrayed as quite a brilliant warlord and wins his fair share of uphill battles, but when it comes to emotional matters, he tends to fall apart. Since he is both powerful and attractive, he appeals to many women, but he only loves his wife, Gwenhwyfar. Their marriage is fraught with trouble, just like a real marriage, which is a very nice touch. It’s obvious that they love each other, but some hardships are almost impossible to overcome. Arthur doesn’t hesitate to sleep around but is incredibly jealous whenever he thinks Gwenhwyfar might be attracted to another man, which is uncomfortable for the modern reader but is probably more suited to the time than fidelity on both sides.
I really liked the character of Gwenhwyfar; I believe she’s my favorite in the series. She is a strong, independent woman, but she also loves her husband and sons and makes space for everyone in her life. She makes mistakes, mostly driven by emotion, but they only make her more human. I definitely preferred her viewpoint and I am looking forward to more with the final book in the trilogy, Shadow of the King.
Pendragon’s Banner is an excellent continuation to a series about King Arthur that has an authentic feel to it, with great characters and a plot that will have its readers turning pages rapidly. Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction and Arthurian legend.
Pendragon’s Banner is the second book in an Arthurian trilogy by Helen Hollick. The first book, The Kingmaking, shows how Arthur as a young teenager grows and comes to power as the High King of Britain. The second book shows how Arthur handles the position once he is there, as he must manage the affairs of the entire realm and play the dangerous game of politics to hold onto his throne.
Arthur is rivaled on many sides by his enemies: his ex-wife, Winifred; his father’s mistress, Morgause; Lot (Morgause’s husband) and the Picti in the north; and his uncle Ambrosius.
Winifred believes her son Cerdic to be the rightful heir to Britain and will do anything in her power to bring down Arthur and his wife Gwenhwyfar and their three sons. Morgause despises Arthur and wants vengeance and uses her husband Lot to carry out her bidding. And Ambrosius, while not exactly an enemy of Arthur, still clings to the old Roman ways and makes life difficult for Arthur politically.
Hollick’s series attempts to portray the real life Arthur, not the man of legends. Arthur is, like any other warrior, hardened from war and skilled in battle, but this novel shows a more sensitive side of Arthur than did The Kingmaking. There are times when it seems Arthur wants to give up on being king, and his life as ruler makes things difficult on his marriage. Gwenhwyfar, who is more of a warrior herself in the first novel, seems only to want peace for her family and for Arthur to stay at home with them. They have three children, and Gwenhwyfar seems content to stay at home and raise her family. The constant traveling of Arthur and the threat on her sons’ lives by Winifred drives a perpetual wedge between her and her husband.
I enjoyed how Hollick rounds out her characters even more in this novel. Where I liked Gwenhwyfar more in the first novel, there were aspects about her in this one I did not care for. And vice versa with Arthur. I actually felt more attached to him in Pendragon’s Banner because I felt Hollick showed a more human side of him. Also for some reason - there were times in The Kingmaking I felt sorry for Winifred. Not so in this novel. Creating these reversals and fluctuations of feelings toward the characters is – in my mind what makes the sign of a good author. I also was glad Hollick brought back Morgause and gave her a more prominent role. Morgause’s character generates important conflict in the story.
Overall even with the stronger development of the characters I enjoyed the story of The Kingmaking more. There were times in Pendragon’s Banner where the plot lumbered along a bit, and some of the scenes felt contrived to me, like they were put there for sole purpose of generating some sort of conflict or action but did not truly enhance the characters of plot in any meaningful way. Regardless, Hollick is a talented writer, and her trilogy is worth the read. She has a strong grasp on early medieval Britain and the man who was Arthur.
Pendragon’s Banner, the second book in Helen Hollick’s take on the Arthurian legend, follows closely behind The Kingmaking. Arthur has won his kingdom, but finds he must constantly look over his shoulder at the legions ready for him to lose control of his lands. Peace also eludes Gwenhwyfar as she raises her three young sons, knowing Arthur’s first wife Winifred is looming with her own son as rival heir. Mix in Arthur’s aunt, Morgause, whose sole evil purpose seems to be to bring Arthur to ruin, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for a royal disaster of epic proportions.
Pendragon’s Banner gives us a very different Arthur than the one made famous by so many others. He’s not Christian, or even particularly religious; while he loves Gwenhwyfar beyond reason, he’s not a faithful husband. This Arthur is not always a good person, but he is a brilliant military commander and a man whom others will follow even unto death. There is no magic to be found in Pendragon’s Banner, no Lancelot, no Merlin; instead we are given a fallible man striving to hold his kingdom together for the sake of his people and his sons. Likewise, Gwenhwyfar is no wallflower, waffling between two men. Indeed Gwenhwyfar steals the show late in the book when she takes matters into her own hands and decisively leads a charge in the face of incredible odds.
This novel is an ambitious twist on the well worn tale of Arthur Pendragon, and it succeeds because Hollick has made Arthur human and accessible. Written as history rather than myth, the story at times moves a bit slowly but builds very nicely toward the climax. While purists may not like Hollick’s take, I found myself enjoying the idea of Arthur as a real king facing distrust and doubt, both from himself and his vassals. I will definitely be waiting anxiously for the third installment in this excellent trilogy.
“I came across the Hollow Hills and Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart and discovered through her author’s note that if Arthur had existed he was more likely to have lived in the post-Roman era the 5th or 6th Century,” says Pendragon’s Banner author Helen Hollick. “I read avidly anything I could lay my hands on that centred on Arthur as a British Warlord of the Dark Ages.”
“I’d never liked the traditional tales of Arthur…the Knights in Armour, the Round Table, the Holy Grail stories,” says Hollick. “For me they did not seem real. Place Arthur where he belonged, not in Medieval England, but in Dark Age Britain, and I was hooked. The trouble was, after doing a lot of research I found that beyond a very few novels nothing fitted my perspective of Arthur. So I decided to write the novel I wanted to read.”
Pendragon’s Banner presents Arthur Pendragon and his wife Gwenhwyfar in a less romantic story than we’ve heard before of Camelot. In Helen Hollick’s novel, wars and family infighting are the norm for Arthur and his wife. Arthur’s ex-wife is one of their biggest enemies. She’s determined to dethrone Arthur and replace him with her son Cedric. The priestess Morgause wants to become queen in the north.
“I researched the armour, clothing, weapons, fighting and battle methods,” says Hollick. “The way of living…cooking, buildings, transport, leisure, and researched in detail the type of horses used at that period. My love of horses has never ebbed. I visited as many locations as possible. I and my husband made a 300-mile round-trip just to see a river crossing where I wanted to set a scene.”
“I’m co-scriptwriter for the proposed UK movie 1066 (the Battle of Hastings), based around my two novels, A Hollow Crown and Harold the King,” say Hollick. “I’m looking forward to working with the UK producer and crew on the movie 1066. We hope to start shooting in mid 2010. I think the Pendragon Trilogy would make a superb TV drama series.”
Helen Hollick was born in London. She currently lives on the London/Essex border. The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy was initially published sixteen years ago in the UK. Hollick is currently writing her tenth novel. The three books in the The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy are The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner, Shadow of the King. The Saxon Series includes A Hollow Crown about Emma, Queen of Saxon England, and Harold the King, the story of the Battle of Hastings 1066. The third book in the series is planned for release in 2011. Her Sea Witch Series is a pirate-based adventure fantasy for adults in three volumes, Sea Witch, Pirate Code, and Bring It Close.
Pendragon’s Banner is a vivid portrayal of the fighting taking place. Hollik focuses on the intricacies of families, particularly Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s sorrows and joys of parenthood. A great novel for those looking for a darker alternative history of Camelot.
This colorful second installment of Hollicks King Arthur trilogy (following The Kingmaker) continues the bloody legend as the young king of Britain tries to keep his throne amid traitors, rivals and deadly treachery. This is a period of savage brutality, deceit, feud, greed and lust for power, with Arthur, the Pendragon, as merciless and cunning as his challengers. Arthur is 24, married to his second wife, the beautiful Gwenhwyfar. His hostile first wife, Winifred, schemes to unseat Arthur and put her own son on the throne, but other women are also pregnant by Arthur, and familial royal murder plots abound. When Arthur is not bedding his wife, mistress, prostitutes or female spies, he is busy chopping up foes with sword and battle-ax, while doing his own scheming to outwit and destroy his arch enemy, Morgause, who harbors a bitter hatred for Arthur and his family and is the only enemy Arthur fears. Refreshingly, Hollicks Arthur is no Hollywood hero; hes a vicious opportunist, devious and manipulative, a lusty master of expedient decision and action. (Sept.)
Length: 9 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 23.00 oz
Page Count: 496 pages