YA-- A captivating story about Edward I's takeover of Wales that reveals the harshness of 13th-century Great Britain. Historically accurate and well written, the book is superb, with research that is detailed and history that is thoroughly compelling. Penman brings to life the people of the day, placing the romance of Llewelyn, the Welsh prince, and his bride, Eleanor de Montford, at the heart of the story. Destiny denies Llewelyn and Eleanor a ``happily-ever-after ending,'' and condemns their relatives, including the children, to a lifetime of imprisonment by King Edward. As in her previous books, Penman reveals the times, the customs, and the people of Great Britain through intriguing characters and circumstances.-- Linda Vretos, West Springfield High School, VA
Third in Penman's ambitious and admirable trilogy (Here Be Dragons, 1985; Falls the Shadow, 1988) centered on the medieval maelstroms of power, passions, and terror during the reigns of England's King John, weak Henry III, and, here, that "Hammer of the Scots," pounder of the Welsh and any others threatening the supremacy of the CrownEdward I. This is the story of the deadly reckoning, the final defeat of the descendants and allies of Simon de Montfort (whose rebellion against kingly power is chronicled in the first two novels) as well as the tale of the end of an independent Wales. The focus here, much seen through the eyes of a young squire, is on the tactics of two rulersEdward I of England and his cousinly kin (a genealogical tablea necessity!will be included) Llewelyn ab Gruffydd, Prince of Walesjudicious, devoted to his land and people, but not one to underestimate Edward's hunger for absolute English supremacy and his ability to achieve it. Around the two, and back and forth, is a motley group: dangerous-to-loyal kin, rumbling nobles and wily clergy, women in love and in terrible grief. Closest to Llewelyn is Ellen, daughter of Simon de Montfort, whose marriage to him is unconsummated for weary months, serving as she does as Edward's lure in a diplomatic game plan. Also, strangely close, is Llewelyn's brother Davydd, a charming, intelligent Cain, betraying again and againalthough love can survive. At the close, Davydd's rash action will precipitate the final battle and the deaths of two last Welsh Princes of Wales. Penman's easy narrative and dialogue (except for a "mayhap" here and there, mainly 20th-century all-purpose) move the readereffortlessly from chill prisons to the blaze of festivals, the coziness of women's quarters and in the beauty or punishment of capricious winds and weathers. With a large cast of sturdy characters, a gripping (true) story, and research that supports, rather than impales, good storytelling: a first-rate historical novel, crowning a solid series.
“A first-rate historical novel.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Packed with bold adventure, high romance, and large characters whose acts of bravery, self-sacrifice, brutality and treachery are part of history.” James Goldman, author of The Lion in Winter
“Full of brawling and plotting, murder and revenge and betrayal. . . . Another triumph for Penman.” The Seattle Times