May 2024
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Review: Shadow of the King, Helen Hollick

ShadowCoverUSAThis 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.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review.


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