This book completes the splendid sequence of novels on the struggle between the independent Welsh Princes and the growing English strength which began with Here be Dragons, continued with Falls the Shadow and is now completed with The Reckoning. The major figures in The Reckoning are the splendid dominant King of England, Edward I, and The Great Llewellyn II, Prince of Wales. His long love affair and eventual marriage with Ellen, daughter of Simon De Montfort, provides the strong emotional interest in the book, while the political machinations of Edward against the Welsh and the Scots, together with Llewellyn's struggle to control the recalcitrant Welsh Princes provides the political and military drama.
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As a publisher I have been lucky to be able to visit bookstores all over the country, independent and chain alike. What interests me first about these stores is what titles are being displayed in the 'Staff Recommends' section of the store. It is here that you can find treasured, beloved books quite dear to someone who works in the stores, someone waiting quite eagerly for the chance to hand sell their recommended titles.
It is in these Staff Recommend sections that I kept on seeing our Penman's titles, HERE BE DRAGONS, FALLS THE SHADOW, THE RECKONING and also SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR and WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT.
It's funny, you can sell something for years before you notice that the author has been quietly making a powerful impact on people everywhere.
I started with HERE BE DRAGONS and I have never looked back. Her trilogy of the decline of the Welsh kings ( DRAGON, FALLS THE SHADOW and THE RECKONING)is a holiday gift I give year after year, and I'm happy to say they have always been embraced and loved. From my 15 year old niece to my 70 year old mother and many ages in between, all readers are enchanted and transported to a land and an age gone forever. But Penman makes them live forever in our minds and hearts with fantastic, unforgettable characters and wonderful history. HERE BE DRAGONS is such a great title--medieval mapmakes would write those words across any part of the map that was unknown.. a wonderful metaphor for how little the Welsh and English knew of each other.
SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR--Warning: This is not Shakespeare's Richard III. In this novel, Richard is a victim of circumstance and man vilified by the Tudors, but here presented as a decent and normal man, a man of conscience.
AND he is not a murderer. Yes, those princes did die, but not by Richard's hand.
WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT
Another wonderful title, for it refers to the 15 years of England's darkest time-the civil war between the cousins Queen Maud and King Steven. England was deserted, for Christ and his saints were sleeping. I had never even heard of these royals. Queen Maud was the legitimate heir to the throne, but a woman, and there fore not fit to rule. She is also the mother of Henry, who later married Eleanor of Aquitaine . Pretty heady stuff, more incredible men and women, another book to get totally lost in.
Although it has been years since all these books were first published, I can name 5 stores I have been in in the past 3 months that have one of these titles in the Staff Recommends section.
-Alice Kesterson, Ballantine Regional Sales Manger
"Penman's characters are so shrewdly imagined, so full of resonant human feeling that they seem to be on the page....Most compelling is the portrait of the Welsh as wild and rugged as their landscape."
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Here, alive from the pages of history, is the compelling tale of a Celtic society ruled by Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, on a collison course with a feudal realm of Edward I. WIth this last book in the extraordinary trilogy that began with HERE BE DRAGONS and continued in FALLS THE SHADOW, Sharon Kay Penman has written a beautiful and moving conclusion to her medieval saga. For everyone who has read the earlier books in this incomparable series or ever wanted to experience the rich tapestry of British history and lore, this bold and romantic adventure must be read.
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