Shadow of the King (Pendragon's Banner Series #3)

Shadow of the King (Pendragon's Banner Series #3)

by Helen Hollick


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Shadow of the King (Pendragon's Banner Series #3) by Helen Hollick

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..." -Bernard Cornwell
"Hollick's interpretation is bold, affecting, and well worth fighting to defend." -Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781906236663
Publisher: Silverwood Books Ltd
Publication date: 10/18/2011
Series: Pendragon's Banner Series , #3
Pages: 542
Sales rank: 323,453
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.21(d)

About the Author

Helen 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.

Read an Excerpt

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.

Table of Contents

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Shadow of the King 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
cathelms More than 1 year ago
The Pendragon's Banner series is by far the best telling of the man we know as King Arthur that I have read to date. Helen's 'Arthur' is a real man with faults while still being the most charismatic war lord and King of his time. The plotline is heartbreaking, engaging and holds a steady course throughout the novel. All the characters are well developed and draw the reader in with every scene. When I first picked up The Kingmaking (book one in this series), I wanted to pommel Arthur for his chauvinistic mannerisms, but I must say that this is the 'true' Arthur. He would not have been a knight in shining armor or godlike in any way. Thus Helen has truly given us a realistic telling of who this great man might have been. Any historical fiction reader will find themselves thoroughly entrenched in this intricate tale of Arthur and all those who were touched by his life and ambitions. Bravo to Ms. Hollick for giving us this Arthurian treasure to enjoy for generations!
readtomuchMN More than 1 year ago
I could not wait for the US release of the final book so after much searching I found it. Hollick ends the series with all the splendor that she started with. I fell in love with the characters and felt their loss and pain. It was hard to finish this book not because it was poorly written but because it was the end. The end of King Arthur was no surprises but the way Hollick tells it will leave a lasting memory. A series to add to any collection!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the first two books of this series, but this one could have had a tighter narrative. It is telling that the previous novels covered only a few years each, but this one covered over 30 years. Hence the second half feels like the author is trying to cram it all in. The ending feels abrupt. Still an enjoyable series and worth finishing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series has good flow and although no one has proven the personage is from reality it is a good read.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
In this final book of Helen Hollick's 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 Arthur's 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 Arthur's 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 Arthur's 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.
MsDollie More than 1 year ago
Shadow of the King is a different take on the story of King Arthur and was exceptional reading as was all three novels in the Pendragon Trilogy. Highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish the books were better. I review the book in depth on Goodreads.
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