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They knew what was coming.
Man and beast knew what lay ahead.
After the war cry.
Bitter the grave.
At long last, the peace King Arthur was born to usher in ha...
They knew what was coming.
Man and beast knew what lay ahead.
After the war cry.
Bitter the grave.
At long last, the peace King Arthur was born to usher in has settled over the realm. But Arthur was also born to be a warrior… and all true warriors are restless without a fight. Yearning for battle and ever-loyal, Arthur is easily deceived into setting sail for Gaul to defend its territories—leaving his country vulnerable and leaderless.
A beacon of hope in a land of desolation, he was to be the Lord of the Summer Land for now and forever. But first, the Pendragon must face the ultimate test, one that will take all his courage, strength of will, and honor to survive.
Because once destiny is fulfilled, can you ever truly win again?
“Helen Hollick has it all. She tells a great story…”
“Hollick’s interpretation is bold, affecting, and well worth fighting to defend.”
Who was the man Who became the legend We know as King Arthur
About the AuthorHelen Hollick lives in northeast London with her husband, daughter, and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats, and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman / Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy—the early eighteenth century.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Above the great height of Caer Cadan, the sky swept blue and almost cloudless. The bright, sparkling blue of an exuberant spring that was rushing headlong i...
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Above the great height of Caer Cadan, the sky swept blue and almost cloudless. The bright, sparkling blue of an exuberant spring that was rushing headlong into the promised warmth of summer. The flowers along the already dry and dusty lane that ran around the base of the stronghold were massed in a profusion of splendid colour. Gwenhwyfar was gathering healing plants—bugle for bruising, poor robin, a renowned cure-all—and flowers for their colour and scent to brighten her chamber: campion; the meadow goldfinch, that some called broom; wild parsley; cuckoo pint…She darted forward to snatch her fifteen-month-old daughter’s hand from clutching a butterfly. The child’s wail of protest heaved like a cast war-spear up to the soaring sky, hurtling past the defensive earthworks of high banks and deep ditches.
The guard on watch, slowly pacing the wooden rampart walkway, heard and looked down, concerned. Grinned to himself as he watched Gwenhwyfar hug the child and soothe her. It was a glorious day, and all seemed well with Arthur Pendragon’s Kingdom of Britain.
Archfedd, a fat-as-butter child, was much like her mother: copper-bright, unruly hair; green eyes flecked with tawny sparks of gold; set, determined expression. She reached again for the butterfly, the sobs coming louder as it fluttered out of harm’s way.
Gwenhwyfar chided her. “Hush child! They are not for catching; you will tear the wings.” And she had the temper and mule-stubborn pride of her father,
Arthur, the Supreme King. Gwenhwyfar neatly deflected the rising anger by giving the child a handful of flowers to hold. The girl’s squawks subsided into a few half-hearted, tearful breaths as she absorbed herself with the new occupation of systematically shredding the petals. Gwenhwyfar left her to it. Better petals than wings.
Horses! The thud of hooves, jingle of harness.
The lane twisted away from Gwenhwyfar’s line of sight, slipping between earth banks topped with wattle fencing made from entwined hawthorn and hazel. In the pasture beyond, mares grazing content on the new spring grass lifted their heads and began to prance, snorting, into a bouncing, high-stepping, exaggerated trot. Their foals, those that had them, ran at heel, long-legged and gangling, with bushed, fluffy tails twirling in a frenzy from this sudden excitement. A stallion answered the mares’ showing-off with a trumpeting call, and the sound of horses approaching came closer, nearer. They would be around the bend, in view, soon.
Gwenhwyfar lifted her daughter, settled her comfortably on her hip, legs around her waist, and stood looking along the hoof-rutted, narrow lane; waiting, expectant, and hopeful, her heart thumping. The banner she saw first, bobbing above the fenced, man-built banks; the bright white of the linen and the proud, bold, red dragon with its gold-embroidered eye and claws. Arthur! Her husband was home!
Running a few steps with initial pleasure, Gwenhwyfar halted, suddenly undecided, a great clasp of insecurity and fear gripping her. She stood, again waiting, apprehensive, chewing her lower lip. What had he decided after this week of discussion with his uncle? Had Ambrosius Aurelianus persuaded him?
Ah, but then, the Pendragon would not need much convincing. Wherever there was the prospect of a fight Arthur would find some excuse to be there.
The lead horses came into view, the king’s escort, the riders wearing the uniform of the Artoriani, white padded tunics, red cloaks. Then the Pendragon’s banner and the turma’s own emblem—and Arthur himself, riding easy in the saddle, his face lighting with pleasure as he saw Gwenhwyfar and his daughter waiting for him. The happiness faded as he drew rein, looked directly into his wife’s eyes. He waved the men on, watched impassive as they jog-trotted past and began to make way up the cobbled track that sprinted steeply to the gateway into the king’s stronghold.
Shifting Archfedd to her other hip, Gwenhwyfar returned Arthur’s stare. He ran his hand down his stallion’s chestnut neck, almost an uneasy gesture.
“You are going then?” she said, more as a statement than question. He nodded, a single, brief movement. “I have to, Cymraes.”
As he knew she would, Gwenhwyfar flared a retort. “Who says you have to? Your men? Me? No, Arthur, you do not have to answer this asking for help. Gaul must look to its own defence—as we have had to all these years.”
The Pendragon dismounted, throwing his leg over the two fore-pommel horns of the saddle, and slid to the ground. With the coming of summer, he would be thirty and three years of age—but he wore the ragged eye-lines of a man ten years older. It had been a long and often bitter struggle to place the royal torque around his neck and keep it there. Arthur had been king for eleven years. And he intended to stay king for, at the very least, twice as many more.
“I am not answering Gaul. I need to give aid to Less Britain, for Armorica is also of my Kingdom. I personally own an estate three times the size of Aquae Sulis there—do I turn my back on British people because their land happens to lie across the sea?” He stepped forward but made no attempt to touch his wife, knowing she would shrug aside his hand. “The Roman Emperor himself is pleading for my help—personally asking for my Artoriani to join with his loyal allies against the barbarians who seem intent on destroying what remains of Roman Gaul.”
Archfedd was too young to understand the distress in her mother’s eyes, the determination in her father’s. She was wriggling against Gwenhwyfar’s hold, her chubby arms stretching for her father to take her. Arthur reached for her, tossing her high as he took her up, catching her in his strong hands, her dimpled smile rippling into giggles of delight. All the while he held Gwenhwyfar’s eyes.
“If Gaul falls to the plundering of Euric’s Goths, Less Britain may be next. I cannot allow that threat to happen.”
“And Britain?” She retorted. “Who will see us kept safe while you are gone?”
Her father’s attention no longer on her, Archfedd was demanding to be put down. Arthur set her beside a clump of bright-coloured flowers, showed her how to pick the stems, gather a posy. He straightened, turned, and took up the reins of his stallion, hauling the chestnut away from cropping the rich grass. It was difficult for him to spit the answer out, for he knew Gwenhwyfar’s response. His own heart held the same uneasy misgivings. He mounted, said the one name.
Ive been lucky enough to read the whole trilogy starting with The Kingmaking (my review here) and Pendragons Banner (my review here). Its been an amazing journey watching Arthur and Gwenhwyfar move through their lives having children, being separated and fighting battles together.
Shadow of the King finds Arthur, Gwenhwyfar and their daughter Archfedd at Caer Caden. Arthur is now 33 years old and has been King for 11 years. All is not well though. Trouble is brewing as plots are being unfolded to try and take over Arthurs Kingdom once again. Arthur is still dealing with his uncle Ambrosius wanting to bring the kingdom back under Roman rule; they have never seen eye to eye. However, this isnt Arthurs only problem this time - his son Cerdic also has his eye on what he believes to be his rightful birthright.
We meet many of the characters once again in Shadow of the King that have come before in previous novels. Some of my favorites being Bedwyr and Ider among a few. There were others introduced in this novel that I grew to really like as well - Cadwy and Ragnall being one couple but there are so many more. With Cadwy and Ragnall they both have a disability of sorts and Hollick writes of them coming together and finding a peace in each other that they hadnt known before; it was a nice story.
Then there are those that we will dislike no matter what like Winnifred. Age hasnt mellowed this woman at all and she is still bent on destroying Arthur. Her goal is to have her son Cerdic take over being King from Arthur but as the story progresses she gets a rude awakening in terms of what she really made her son into.
I liked that in Shadow of the King we got to see a more human side to Arthur; one that hurts and grieves and feels he cant go on. The majority of the time Arthur is this big strong man that can take care of everything for everyone. This time the grief hits harder than even he can handle. He ends up disappearing out of Gwenhwyfars life for a while; she fears him dead. What he really is, is afraid - afraid to come back and face life as it may be and even more terrified of having to go into a battle once again. Can he come back and face a battle in order to gain control of his lands again? Can he again make a life with Gwenhwyfar?
Its impossible to put this book of 672 pages into a review that will do it justice. In its entirety this is a series that you want to just lose yourself in and experience to the fullest. Helen Hollick writes in a way that takes you to the battlefield and just as fast takes you back to the romance of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar. I found myself holding my breath at times in battle and smiling over the bickering between Arthur and Gwen at others. As always, Arthur and Gwenhwyfar are my favorite characters - I liked them from the beginning and always rooted for them to stay together. They have a strong bond with each other that was always a pleasure to read about. Helen brings this story to life for her readers - you feel as though you are there - you are experiencing this story first hand and thats really what makes it so wonderful.
I have to admit Im sad to see the trilogy end but as anyone knows the legend of Arthur must end but Helen Hollick has put her own spin on the ending and its a great finish for the series. I will say that I did actually shed a tear or two over some losses in this novel that I wasnt expecting but really, all that says is that this is a really well written and fantastic novel! To anyone who loves historical fiction you dont want to miss the Pendragons Banner Trilogy. All of the books stand alone without a problem but I dont think a person gets as much out of it if they dont read all three and grow with the characters throughout.
I am so completely and thoroughly obsessed with this author right now. As you all know I am an Arthurian Legend obsessed nut, so I was so thrilled to get this book for review. SOOO thrilled. Shadow of the King is a the third book in the Pendragons Banner Trilogy, and the copy I have is the reprint of this trilogy.
This whole trilogy is just beautiful, amazing, wonderful, and I could go on and on but you get the idea. I love how the author turns King Arthur into a man and then the King of legend. Its amazing to see the transformation in the characters and to read a story that shows King Arthur as he truly might have been as opposed to the magically enhanced version of the story that is so popular (nothing wrong with those either). The amount of research Ms. Hollick must have done is astounding because the detail in this book is wonderful. I highly recommend this trilogy to any Arthurian Legend nuts or anyone who just likes a great read.
My thoughts: What can I say about Helen Hollicks books that I havent said before. She has truly made me a fan of King Arthur and I want to learn more about him and that time period. As in the second book, much of this material was new to me. It is not a book for "light" reading (no pun intended as it weighs in at 672 pages.) Helen Hollick really brings King Arthurs story to life and shows him with all his faults and imperfections as well as his strengths and great romances. Even though this book is the final in the series, it could easily be read as a stand alone - but I recommend the entire trilogy! You can also visit my reviews of The Kingmaking and Pendragons Banner.
This is the final book in the Pendragon’s Banner trilogy. See my reviews for The Kingmaking and Pendragon’s Banner.
Arthur has had an incredibly successful career overall, triumphing over adversity to become the Pendragon, virtually king of Britain. His vassals are kept in line by their fear of the Artoriani, Arthur’s supreme mounted force. But all is not perfect in his kingdom. Arthur’s uncle, Aurelianus Ambrosius, and the Roman faction are sure that they’d be happier under a renewed Roman government. Arthur’s former wife, Winifred, never stops her meddling, and her son Cedric grows to become a real threat. Worst of all, Arthur has to overcome the fear of defeat for the first time in his long career, and must question truths he has always held dear.
I’ve enjoyed all of Hollick’s works so far and this conclusion to a great trilogy is no exception. I really like a lot of these characters, even the sometimes-villains, although I think anyone would struggle to like Winifred or Cedric, who is so governed by his violent impulses. I think he’s today’s serial killer. But I did in a fashion like Ambrosius, who has doubts about taking the kingdom, and I really liked his son and daughter-in-law. Arthur and Gwenhwyfar are still favorites and their relationship stays strong.
The conclusion to this trilogy is fairly obvious for anyone who knows anything about the Arthurian legends, but Hollick twists it a bit to give her characters the ending that they’ve gained, good or bad. So while it’s predictable, there are aspects of it that are outside the typical Arthurian box.
I will say that Hollick’s prose is a bit unconventional and I found at times that the story required a lot of concentration. I couldn’t keep track of what was going on while the TV was on, for example, but I normally prefer reading in silence with no distractions, so this wasn’t a hindrance for me. I think that patience will certainly be rewarded in this case, and I’m happy to recommend Shadow of the King, and the entire trilogy, to historical fiction fans.
Peace has fallen over King Arthur and his men. King Arthur, in his restlessness, hopes for another battle. He gets his wish when he heads to Gaul but he soon realizes that he was drawn in by false pretenses. King Arthur will finally have the chance to achieve the goal that life has set for him. Will he win or will the battles of the past prove fruitless?
I have always loved stories about King Arthur. I was really impressed with Helens descriptions and plot twists. I must admit that is one of my favorite trilogies. I felt like I was right there swinging a sword and fighting for honor.
Shadow of the King is the third book in Helen Hollicks Pendragon Series, which opens with King Arthur, his wife Gwenhwyfar and their daughter Archfedd living at Caer Caden. Arthur is now 33 and has been King of Greater and Lesser Britain for 11 years and while Winifreds second husband, Leofric, has passed away, she continues to remain a threat to Arthur even though they have been legally divorced for 13 years. Their son Cerdic has run off to his step-fathers lands hoping to one day claim his rightful lands held by Arthur but Cerdic is not alone when it comes to plotting and scheming for the throne and the lands owned by King Arthur. Helen Hollick does a superb job in this third novel, picking off where her second in the trilogy, Pendragon, left off. Political battles replace the more physical battles of her previous novels. King Arthur is summoned to help the Romans and what he believes will be a swift trip for him and his Artoriani turns out to be not at all what it first appeared. To say much more would give away the surprises that lie in store for Arthur, Caer Caden, as well as the reader. Suffice it to say, Hollick once again has written a novel that not only engages the reader, but keep the reader busy thinking with all of the politics, scheming, and plot twists. Shadow of the King is an excellent book in its own right and a brilliant finish for the trilogy. The Shadow of the King is a wonderful rendition of Hollicks view of the final battle for Camelot.
The third and final installment of Helen Hollick’s Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, Shadow of the King, finds Arthur and Gwen at Caer Caden, their kingdom in Britain. Arthur has been king for 11 years and though they are both still grieving over the deaths of their sons, they are basking in the love of their baby daughter.
Arthur is sent on a fool’s errand to Gaul under the pretext of war, but this turns out to be a ploy to get him away from his kingdom, leaving it vulnerable to invaders. Namely, his uncle Ambrosius, whose ultimate goal is to bring Britain back under the fold of Rome. But, Ambrosius is not the only one gunning for Arthur’s downfall and he again must prove that he is the Pendragon.
It’s rare that you find a trilogy where all 3 books hold up against each other. There’s bound to be one that‘s not quite as good as the others ….not so with this trilogy. I loved every one of them and I can tell you right now that I will be re-reading them again.
What I liked most about Shadow of the King was how we saw Arthur dealing with defeat for the first time and how he comes to terms with it. Hollick has a talent with bringing her characters to life – no one-dimensional people here – but I feel like I really got to know Arthur, faults and all and it made me love him even more. And who could not like Arthur’s queen, Gwen, who is the quintessential heroine …strong, courageous and fierce! And Arthur’s band of Artoriani are brave, loyal men who live to serve their King with everything they have. With their help, Arthur is able to shed his cloak of self doubt and return to Britain, to fight for his kingdom.
We meet up again with Winifred, Arthur’s first wife who he set aside to marry Gwen. Still calling herself Lady Pendragon, she will do anything in her power to get the crown for their son Cerdic. This tenacious ambition of hers will ultimately lead to her downfall. Cerdic, who loathes his father, the Pendragon and who has made it his lifelong mission to kill Arthur and take his lands has teamed up with the Saxons and invades Britain.
There isn’t one thing about this book that I didn’t like. Hollick’s writing is one of the best I’ve come across and her descriptions are so vivid that it seems as if there’s a movie screen in front of you, playing out the scenes as you’re reading. The characters emotions are very real and so relatable that you feel yourself empathize with them even if they are one of the villains! How I would love to see this novel on the big screen, but then again, I don’t think anyone could do it justice. (besides your own imagination).
Now, for those of you that may be put off by the size of this book…don’t be! It may seem huge, but with the chapters at 2-3 pages each it flows really quickly. I know I was so enthralled that I didn’t even look at the page numbers. Well, that is until the end when I knew I only had a few left and then I was like NOOOOOOO and read really slowly until the last page, savoring every word like a priest savors meat before lent.
Oh, and let me warn you – make sure you have some Kleenex handy and also, make sure your loved one isn’t in the room with you, so that they can’t make fun of you for crying about people you didn’t even know! Heehee.
In this final book of Helen Hollicks Pendragon trilogy, the reader follows the story of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar through their final years. The book begins with Arthur and his men going to Gaul to help his allies there. He is betrayed by them and forced into a battle where his army is massively outnumbered. A few of his men escape and take the body of their beloved king with them. As they are followed by the victorious enemy, Morgaine, the pagan healer who also loves Arthur and who followed him to Gaul, convinces them to move on and leave her to bury the King.
What she knows is that there is still life beating in Arthurs body. She nurses him back to health and he then remains with her and their son, Medraut, for three years. Arthur has lost his confidence and feels he has nothing to return for, as he believes that Gwenhwyfar had died of illness before the battle.
A Saxon slave was granted freedom by Arthur before the battle and is intensely loyal to him. When he learns that Arthur is alive, he travels to England and tells Gwenhwyfar and her court. She travels to Gaul to find Arthur, who leaves with her and brings his son.
But he comes back to an England where his kingdom is in tatters, with many scheming for his former position and alliances broken. The book follows Arthurs campaigns as he once again brings England together under his rule.
This book is recommended for historical fiction readers. Helen Horrick has created a historical masterpiece, taking a different route with Arthurs life than that which came down through history, but with enough touchpoints that the reader will be constantly reminded of those legends. The history rings true, and the relationships and battles transport the reader to another time.
The Shadow of the King is the third book in the Pendragon’s Banner series. But it is not just a wrap-up, but an entire story (and a good one), I never read the first two, but that didn’t make me feel Iam missing something.. the book can be read as a stand alone too..
Helen Hollick’s writing skill amazed me. Helen has taken the King Arthur Pendragon of our childhood fairy tales and written a gritty, realistic work that depicts Arthur as a human being, with the strengths and weaknesses that we all have in some form or fashion. This is historical fiction at its finest, with true-to-life writing of the people and times in Britain circa 500 A. D. This is a historical fiction with a plot that twists and turns through a wealth of characters of the time brought to life! It’s really visible the massive amount of outstanding research that Helen did preliminary to writing the entire book, I guess in writing the entire trilogy.. Hers was no easy task since source works on Arthur and his times were both biased and dismally missing much information!
I highly recommend this excellent work to those who value realistic, well written historical fiction. I can’t wait to read the first two sets from the trilogy..
In the final volume of Hollicks Pendragon Banner trilogy, King Arthur finds himself restless in his new role as ruler of a peaceful kingdom. Missing the clash of swords and the glory of the battlefield, it doesnt take much to lure him from his quiet life in Camelot. After Arthur departs for war-torn Gaul, his kingdom, watched over by Gwenhwyfar and the high council, stands vulnerable. When Arthur is mistakenly presumed dead and Britains future lies in the balance, the vultures descend, viciously vying for the throne and the power it represents. Of course, when the rumors of his demise prove false, the real complications-both personal and political-begin. Because Hollick adds her own unique twists and turns to the familiar mythology, Arthurian devotees will be eager to see how she wraps up her version of the legend.
Rating: 5 Books
SHADOW OF THE KING is a treasure for Arthurian legend lovers. Helen Hollick sprinkles well-researched historical facts and well-known legends into her exciting tale of the life and times of King Arthur and Gwynhwyfar. SHADOW OF THE KING, chocked full of bigger-than-life characters, teems with intrigues, power struggles, unshakable loyalties, unspeakable cruelties, and unwavering love.
Arthur and Gwynhwyfar, soul mates in every way, complete each other. No other can meet their deep-down needs; yet, they both falter in their fidelity when circumstances separate them. While they strike sparks off each other at times, they ride shoulder to shoulder into battle, each depending on the other, as they defend their holdings.
Arthur’s defeat in Gaul and his sojourn there while Gqynhwyfar strives to hold his kingdom together creates high-tension reading with foreshadowing of the trouble brewing that will test their resolve.
Ambrosius, the inept leader in charge while Arthur is absent, incites discontent as he tries to revert to the Roman way of ruling rather than looking forward. He is not a warrior like Arthur and does not command the respect needed to be a good leader. Consequently, Arthur’s once cohesive kingdom begins to fracture.
Arthur’s courage and self-esteem are wounded as was his body at the defeat in Gaul. Gwynhwyfar puts her all on the line to rehabilitate Arthur and reestablish his kingdom. Arthur’s children, legitimate and illegitimate, play important roles in the struggle for power that ensues. The struggle for power is a constant undercurrent throughout the novel.
Helen Hollick’s writing style brings the characters to life and creates an environment so real that the reader vicariously experience the smells, the cold, and the heat along with the pain, the angry, and a myriad of other emotions that grip the reader’s senses.
SHADOW OF THE KING and its two companion books are a splendid addition to one’s library.
Length: 9 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 31.00 oz
Page Count: 672 pages