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Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dr Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dreams of uniting Wales. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales--and Llewelyn--Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love. A sweeping novel of power and passion, loyalty and lives, this is the book that began the trilogy that includes FALLS THE SHADOW and THE RECKONING.


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Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dr Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dreams of uniting Wales. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales--and Llewelyn--Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love. A sweeping novel of power and passion, loyalty and lives, this is the book that began the trilogy that includes FALLS THE SHADOW and THE RECKONING.

30 review for Here Be Dragons

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cassy

    I used to have a rule: You will read at least 50 pages before you decide to quit a book. Then a few years ago, I vowed to completely finish every book I start. The unintended consequence of this stricter policy is that my “currently-reading” shelf exploded. I am up to 13 books – most of which I lost interest in a few months (or even a year) ago, but feel pressure to pick back up. Honestly, looking at that shelf fills me with dread. Just when I was considering reverting to my fifty-pages rule, alo I used to have a rule: You will read at least 50 pages before you decide to quit a book. Then a few years ago, I vowed to completely finish every book I start. The unintended consequence of this stricter policy is that my “currently-reading” shelf exploded. I am up to 13 books – most of which I lost interest in a few months (or even a year) ago, but feel pressure to pick back up. Honestly, looking at that shelf fills me with dread. Just when I was considering reverting to my fifty-pages rule, along comes Here Be Dragons. And it takes 183 pages to get started. Meaning I pushed through that many pages before the two main characters even meet. To be fair, this story needs a set-up, but does it really have to take that long? Oh boy, I am glad that I stuck it out. Once I reached that 183rd page, I was captivated. Utterly captivated. This book reminds me of two other books I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’ll mention in case they help you put this book in perspective. Imagine Outlander with less sex (hey, where are you going?). There is probably the same amount of violence here, but it is less immediate. Instead of fist fights, there are battles being fought off in the distance. It also brought back memories of Daughter of the Forest, yet with more sex and much more violence. So, smack this book right in the middle! In fact, I found it to be more mature than either Gabaldon or Marillier’s novels. Penman imbued her book with rich emotional complexity. The female lead, Joanna’s loyalty is torn between her father, the English King John and her husband, the Welsh Prince Llewelyn, who are always facing each other in battle. And as the story progressed, Joanna has difficulty reconciling the rumors of her father’s cruelties with the doting figure from her childhood. If this all sounds angst-ridden, it is. Sometimes I just wanted to scream, “PICK LLEWELYN AND BE DONE WITH IT!” Did I mention this book is heavy on the history? It is honest-to-goodness historical fiction. Joanna, John, Llewelyn, and the other big players are the real deal. Sometimes Penman’s commitment to accuracy and completeness bogs down the story. There would often be a gap of years between chapters. And characters would give these odd monologues to catch readers up on what happened. What a beautiful day. It reminds me of last June when my father, the Earl of Whatever made a pact with Duke of Wherever. Of course, Papa would only consent to such an alliance, because Prince Whoever was taken hostage by Evil Guy. It was exhausting, but I loved it. Meeting Penman last week confirmed the obvious: this woman knows her stuff. She was out promoting her latest book, Lionheart. Most authors start off talking about their writing process. Penman rather dove into a history lesson. When someone from the audience asked her opinion on a couple of obscure historical figures, she knew exactly who they were and broke down their life in great detail. And trust me, no one was yawning. She was really fascinating. Wait a second. Or are the facts fascinating? Royal women held captive for years, secret alliances, scandalous marriages, battles, even more scandalous divorces, rescues by ship, crusades. Medieval Europe had considerable drama. For a moment, I questioned how much credit I can give Penman as a writer when her salacious plots are taking directly from the past. But the moment quickly passed and I gave Penman her full due for (a) recognizing the novel-potential in these events and people, (b) doing the difficult research, and (c) filling in the gaps and bringing everything alive so vividly with her writing. Eventually the audience questions got Penman talking about her writing process. She recommends not jumping around when writing. During her early years, she would focus on a scene until she hit a problem. Then she would set it aside and focus on an entirely different scene forward or backwards in the timeline – only to realize later that, as a result, her characters lacked any development. Then she had to add a caveat. Penman described how she was giving this advice at an event in Scottsdale, Arizona when the audience started grinning. They were familiar with Diana Gabaldon, who lives near Scottsdale, and apparently Gabaldon is a jumper. So now Penman tacks onto the end of her suggestion that it doesn’t work for her, but it can work for certain authors. Penman also spoke about how her first manuscript was stolen out of her car when she was in her second year of law school. She was so shaken that she would try, but just couldn’t write for the next six years! Later, after receiving an insurance claim, she quit her job as a tax attorney, moved to the United Kingdom, and devoted herself to writing. I only gave the book four stars, because I cannot find it in my heart to forgive the slow start. But if you prefer your historical fiction to be painstakingly accurate, with a complex love story, this is the book for you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leila

    I really don't think I need to write a long involved review for the truly magnificent and very well known novel 'Here be Dragons' by Sharon Penman. I have read it quite a few times over the years. I love it and it is my favourite of all Sharon's historical novels. Anyone looking on Amazon will see lots and lots of reviews with most of them giving glowing accounts of this meticulously researched and written books. Even though it is a very long book I never want it to finish for it maintains my fu I really don't think I need to write a long involved review for the truly magnificent and very well known novel 'Here be Dragons' by Sharon Penman. I have read it quite a few times over the years. I love it and it is my favourite of all Sharon's historical novels. Anyone looking on Amazon will see lots and lots of reviews with most of them giving glowing accounts of this meticulously researched and written books. Even though it is a very long book I never want it to finish for it maintains my full interest and fascination throughout and leaves me always wanting more. I would recommend it most highly for anyone who enjoys top quality historical novels. You won't regret it! Thank you Sharon for years of thoroughly exciting and wonderful reading of all your books but especially this one!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    An extremely compelling and memorable novel-one of the best in it's genre , about love and lust, passion and power , and the high politics of 13th century Wales and England. It will stay in your memory , as it brings the subject matter alive. It is the story about Welsh nationalist hero , Prince Llewelyn Ap Iowerth , who united Wales , and faced up to the corrupt and vicious King John of England , and of Joanna , John's unforgettable daughter, who was married at a young age , to Llewelyn , and who An extremely compelling and memorable novel-one of the best in it's genre , about love and lust, passion and power , and the high politics of 13th century Wales and England. It will stay in your memory , as it brings the subject matter alive. It is the story about Welsh nationalist hero , Prince Llewelyn Ap Iowerth , who united Wales , and faced up to the corrupt and vicious King John of England , and of Joanna , John's unforgettable daughter, who was married at a young age , to Llewelyn , and who is the key figure in this epic. It is impossible not to fall in love with the spirited , dark-haired beauty, Joanna. Definitely one of the best mediaeval historical novels out there-a real page turner , that you won't be able to put down. You really get to know the characters ,and live the narrative

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Most medieval fiction, other than Follet's PILLARS OF THE EARTH, fell short of my expectations so I never went out of my way to read much in the genre. But then, a few different people recommended Penman, I tried her out and she's now on my list of authors worthy of reading! Here are some good reasons to read Penman: (1) EVOCATIVE IMAGERY: the words flow with apparent ease, opening the reader's mind to a new world; you can see this mentioned in some of the more popular reviews below; (2) VIBRANT, I Most medieval fiction, other than Follet's PILLARS OF THE EARTH, fell short of my expectations so I never went out of my way to read much in the genre. But then, a few different people recommended Penman, I tried her out and she's now on my list of authors worthy of reading! Here are some good reasons to read Penman: (1) EVOCATIVE IMAGERY: the words flow with apparent ease, opening the reader's mind to a new world; you can see this mentioned in some of the more popular reviews below; (2) VIBRANT, INTERESTING CHARACTERS: while Penman may have added some components to some of the Historical figures, she did keep the known personality elements of each character. This seems especially so of King John; (3) FLOW: unlike some Historical novels, the author doesn't try to push too many facts on you at the expense of the story pacing; (4) HIGHLIGHTS THE BIG CONFLICTS OF HISTORY: some authors gloss over the big moments b/c they're trying to get everything into the Historical novels. Penman doesn't necessarily feel obligated to do this and puts more emphasis towards the structure and flow of the story. For instance, it isn't unusual for her to cover a year in one chapter and then start three years later.; and (5) INTEREST: obviously, you want to know about this period; all the intrigues; the Plantagenet line; the royal Welsh line; how people lived and thought back then; the importance of honor today, etc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    I love to read other people's favorite books. Amy M. recommended this to me, although I don't think she described it as her favorite. Just a book she had read a long time ago that she remembered loving. Having never even heard of it before, I pulled out my super reading powers and gave it a whirl. First, this is NOT an easy read. The edition I checked out contained more than 700 thin pages of small print. Second, it's historical fiction about a time in history I had no prior knowledge of - 13th c I love to read other people's favorite books. Amy M. recommended this to me, although I don't think she described it as her favorite. Just a book she had read a long time ago that she remembered loving. Having never even heard of it before, I pulled out my super reading powers and gave it a whirl. First, this is NOT an easy read. The edition I checked out contained more than 700 thin pages of small print. Second, it's historical fiction about a time in history I had no prior knowledge of - 13th century England and Wales. Lastly, there are many, many characters to keep track of, most with unusual names and many being interrelated. All these difficulties aside, I really enjoyed this story. At its heart is the love story between Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales who later became known as Llewelyn the Great, and his bride, Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of England's King John. Its development and conflict anchors a story that is forced to span war after war after battle after skirmish after war. Really, these ancient leaders never stopped fighting. The title, Here Be Dragons, describes a map making technique used long ago. When map makers had limited or no knowledge of certain areas, they wrote, "Here be dragons" on the area with drawings of the mythical creatures to describe this unknown danger. Both the Welsh people and the Norman-french, who currently held the English crown (really, it's all very interesting) were suspicious of the other and held strong prejudices against any of its citizens. The marriage, which could have and should have brought about peace between the two nations, only put Joanna, who loved both her Norman-French/English father and eventually her charismatic Welsh husband, in the middle. After I finished reading, I spent a good deal of time researching the accuracy of the facts presented in the book. Many, if not most, are true. Obviously, the fiction comes from the interplay between characters and description of feelings, which can't ever be wholly known, but I think the author did a great job of infusing historical figures with life. The struggles over choosing heirs and the family feuds that any transfer of power creates, were believable and likely. Most importantly, when applying this history lesson to our current times, I realized human nature doesn't change much...even eight-hundred years later. The names of the countries may have changed but we still believe there are dragons over in the unknown. We still use power and ignorance to fuel our wars and pride and wounded egos to justify them. Will the human race ever grow up? Time with continue to tell. In the meantime, I'm happy I read this smart, complex and excellent book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Mac

    [...loading unpopular opinion...] I didn't like this book. I didn't like the author's writing style, treatment of the period, or copious infodumps that were awkwardly wedged into the prose (which was pedestrian at best). Despite the piles of glowing reviews for SKP's medieval books, I kept my expectations low -- but alas. Here Be Dragons plunged through such tissue-weight optimism like a brick through toilet paper. I really did try, guys. I hoped it would improve, or at least hook my attention. It [...loading unpopular opinion...] I didn't like this book. I didn't like the author's writing style, treatment of the period, or copious infodumps that were awkwardly wedged into the prose (which was pedestrian at best). Despite the piles of glowing reviews for SKP's medieval books, I kept my expectations low -- but alas. Here Be Dragons plunged through such tissue-weight optimism like a brick through toilet paper. I really did try, guys. I hoped it would improve, or at least hook my attention. It never did. Clearly this author's research is considerable. No doubt yours truly would be impressed by the reams of paper, index cards, & notepad documents to support this & every other novel she's written. But why even classify this as FICTION? Why not just write a series of in-depth nonfiction tomes about the medieval period? Because that's what Here Be Dragons wanted to be -- NONFICTION. Refusing to deviate even slightly from anything that's not documented, dissected, or footnoted leads to prose that's bloated, dry, & lacking personality. As if that wasn't bad enough, the characters stood around & discussed every little thing written on said notecards. The endless parade of stilted infodump conversations made me want to throw the book at the wall. (Example: "He was some 13 years older, treated me like a daughter until I was ready to be a wife. Yes, I was happy enough. But at 36 he died, leaving no heirs, & as you know, his bastard cousin Tancred seized the throne. Tancred not only denied me my dower rights, he put me in close confinement at Palermo. I sometimes wonder what would have become of me, Johnny, if not for Richard." ...And that's only half a paragraph.) Cardboard mouthpieces with familiar historical names question each other & discuss everything while doing nothing -- because how else will the reader learn everything there is to know about medieval Welsh marriage legal procedure?! ENTHRALLING! -- before rushing to another backdrop to do the same thing, because hasn't Llewelyn taken yet another castle in BlahBlahWhatever, Wales? Let's talk about how this does or doesn't affect us right now. Over & over & over. (And yet the oh-so-tragic death of Llewelyn's mistress happens between chapter gaps, causing everyone paroxysms of grief...everyone except the reader, who never even met the woman. *facepalm*) Such refusal to speculate -- or, god forbid, create fresh plots -- made for extremely flat reading. It was epic, pedantic telling with only the barest sprinkle of showing, & even those moments lacked any real zip -- the few scenes that happened "here & now" were overheard through a wall (literally) or cluttered by purple descriptions that jarred with the bulk of the narrative. (Example: To diminish her pain & prolong their enjoyment, he sought to keep physical needs under mental thrall, making use of all the tricks he'd learned in the twenty years since he had, as an awed fourteen-year-old, discovered how sweet the fruits of the flesh could be, drawing out their lovemaking until he dared delay no longer. She stiffened under him, but did not cry out, & he felt the barrier give way with his second thrust. Joanna was gasping his name. He covered her mouth with his own, & she clung tightly, then turned her head from side to side on the pillow, shuddering, all but blinding them both with the wild tossing of her hair. Yielding to his own need, he let it take him toward satisfaction, toward that ephemeral moment of release, so fleeting & yet so overwhelming in its intensity, in its peculiar union of pleasure & pain. ...Call me crazy, but isn't that the same breed of overwrought sex0rs that's jeered & pelted with soggy lettuce when it's beneath a bosom-clutching Zebra cover? Just sayin'.) Maybe I'm reading it wrong -- but IMO, this was an overrated snooze. And seeing as how SKP readers rave about how her style remains pure & true to history throughout multiple books, I won't be trying any others. One final clipping: "It is easy to understand how people came to use the term 'manhood'," she said, rather breathlessly, "but how explain 'privy member'?" "How explain any of them, Joanna: cock, shaft, codpiece, pizzle, sword? And in Welsh: bonllost, gwialen, cal...and those are just the polite terms." "Bonllost," she echoed, amused by the unfamiliar phrasing, and then began to giggle. "I do hope none of our children ever ask me which Welsh word I did learn first!" Llewelyn had taken her into a closer embrace; she could feel his hands under her bedrobe, and she sighed, said softly, "I think, though, that I shall call it Merlin, in honor of the miracles it did work last night." ...I'm not sure which is worse: the linguistic infodump itself, or the cheesy schmoop that's wedged into an otherwise pedantic nonfiction tome. (C'mon, y'all. MERLIN? *barf*)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Historical fiction writing at its best! This is an epic, sweeping story of 13th century England and Wales. Following Eleanor of Aquitaine’s children fighting for power with a Game of Thrones feel, this is fast paced and thrilling! I felt completely immersed in Medieval life and I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    How refreshing it was to read this book after the dreadful The Virgin's Lover. Here is well-written, wonderful, historical fiction at it's best!! Sharon Kay Penman is a fantastic author and she took me to a time and place that I haven't read much about...13th Century Wales. The book tells the story of Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales, and his rise to power and fame as Llewelyn the Great and his great love, Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John. In the quest for Wales Llewelyn and King How refreshing it was to read this book after the dreadful The Virgin's Lover. Here is well-written, wonderful, historical fiction at it's best!! Sharon Kay Penman is a fantastic author and she took me to a time and place that I haven't read much about...13th Century Wales. The book tells the story of Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales, and his rise to power and fame as Llewelyn the Great and his great love, Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John. In the quest for Wales Llewelyn and King John become bitter enemies and Joanna is forced to choose between loyalty to her beloved...but ruthless...father or the husband she was commanded to marry for political reasons but with whom she ended up falling in love. This book was over 700 pages of fantastic reading!! It was like Pillars of the Earth only REALLY GOOD!! :) And lucky me it's the first book in a series. Yay!! I am currently 120 pages into the second book in the saga Falls the Shadow and loving it. My rating: EXCELLENT

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: purchased used on Amazon. This is the first book I’ve read by Sharon Kay Penman, and it was a product of the Goodreads Effect—I’ve heard so many good things about Penman on Goodreads that I realized I was going to have to get acquainted with her work. This, I believe, was the second book she wrote, after The Sunne in Splendor, and the first book in her Welsh Trilogy. It covers the years from 1183 to 1234 and tells the story of Llewelyn, a Welsh prince determined to keep Wale Where I got the book: purchased used on Amazon. This is the first book I’ve read by Sharon Kay Penman, and it was a product of the Goodreads Effect—I’ve heard so many good things about Penman on Goodreads that I realized I was going to have to get acquainted with her work. This, I believe, was the second book she wrote, after The Sunne in Splendor, and the first book in her Welsh Trilogy. It covers the years from 1183 to 1234 and tells the story of Llewelyn, a Welsh prince determined to keep Wales Welsh by keeping the English (well, Norman French really) King John out of his country, and his wife Joanna, who was John’s illegitimate daughter. Given its subject matter, it won’t surprise you to learn that the movement of the novel is chronological rather than thematic; it’s basically a straight telling of what happened during the period, primarily from the point of view of either Llewelyn or Joanna (but see below). If you’re the kind of reader who reads historical fiction to learn history, you will learn a great deal about the period, about Wales and about the personalities involved, and since I’m not a historian I can’t tell you whether it’s accurate or not. Penman writes well, puts words into the characters’ mouths that don’t generally sound either too modern or too deliberately olde-worlde, and covers, as far as I can see, a great deal of the known history of the time. I can’t fault her on any of those points. And yet…I wasn’t overly impressed. I read this book a few pages at a time over a very long period, which admittedly isn’t probably the best way to do it, but at no point did the story grab me enough that I wanted to bring this book with me wherever I went. I even tried starting it over after the first 50 pages or so, because I’d let a long time lapse, and then after that I kept doggedly perservering, determined to give Penman a fair try. I should admit, though, that Welsh settings have never appealed to me much, and I had trouble dealing with so many names, character or place, with L or G or W in them. I kept trying to pronounce the names in my head, and since I haven’t spent much time in Wales this was a frustrating bit of OCD that hounded me constantly as I read. But maybe that’s just me. I spent much of the 700 pages of this book wondering why I simply couldn’t work up any feeling for any of the characters, and it was only toward the end of the book that the answer began to dawn on me. I had a problem with the narrative voice. Penman writes in the third person omniscient point of view which, admittedly, is probably the best choice for a novel involving a great many characters and a large chunk of history—she is able to show us the inside of the heads of any character she wishes at any point in time. I have nothing against the omniscient POV when it’s done well, but I don’t think that Penman had really mastered it in this book. We are very often deep in Llewelyn or Joanna’s head, and I found it disconcerting to suddenly hop into the head of a minor character, as quite frequently happened. It’s like holding a telescopic device when someone else is playing around with the zoom, so that one second you’re looking at things from miles away, the next second you’re right up close, and then WHAM, back to miles away again. To make things worse, every so often she resorted to historian mode to get over long periods of time in which not much happened, or at least not much happened that she intended to show in the book. So suddenly we weren’t in any character’s head—we were listening to a disembodied storyteller. And that, I figured, is why I couldn’t get to like any of the characters—the narrative technique made them all seem a bit like a cast of marionettes, not acting under their own free will but at the mercy of the narrated Historical Imperative. And that’s a shame because there was a lot of family drama that also, because of who that family happened to be, was historically important. The abiding impression of what I did like turns out to be King John, who doesn’t appear often enough for my liking but casts an awfully long shadow over Joanna and Llewelyn’s lives. I grew up with an impression of King John taken from the Robin Hood stories, and am glad to have received a more nuanced picture of this much-maligned monarch. All this makes it very hard to rate this book, but I’m going for three stars because of the sheer struggle I had to stay engaged with the story. Which doesn’t mean I’m giving up on Penman—I have another of her books somewhere in the TBR pile, and I’ll admit that if I want to learn something about a period via historical fiction, she seems like a good author to go to.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Krista Claudine Baetiong

    Gratifying. There was never a moment in this book when I felt bored getting lectured on the history of 13th century Wales and a great Welsh prince named Llewelyn. Miss Penman has vividly captured the action, gore, romance, intrigue and whatnot of this medieval period...and what more can I say? I’m entranced.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    My God! I do not think I have ever read such a more heart-rending and beautiful story in my life! And that is saying a lot as I am 40+ and have been reading since elementary school. I know I will not do this review justice as there are no adequate words for this book and I am writing on high emotions and no planning of my thoughts. I am sitting at work and I cannot concentrate for my mind keeps going back to these characters, one minute I am smiling the next tearing up. SKP has a way of making m My God! I do not think I have ever read such a more heart-rending and beautiful story in my life! And that is saying a lot as I am 40+ and have been reading since elementary school. I know I will not do this review justice as there are no adequate words for this book and I am writing on high emotions and no planning of my thoughts. I am sitting at work and I cannot concentrate for my mind keeps going back to these characters, one minute I am smiling the next tearing up. SKP has a way of making medieval England and Wales come alive. This was my first introduction to historical Wales and I am devouring google for more information of their history and people. This is the first book in a trilogy and I am diving into the second and have ordered the third. Historical fiction is my first love and I have a feeling in the future I will measure all historical books to SKP’s writing. If you love a good romp through medieval times then I strongly suggest picking this magnificent book up. I will say it’s a little slow going the first 50-100 pages but do not be discouraged and hang in there for you will be rewarded.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Moody

    I can't say enough good things about this book. Sharon Kay Penman is absolutely amazing. The characters in Here be Dragons live and breath like I would never have thought possible for people that died almost 800 years ago. Almost all of the major characters are factually based, and Penman says that she also cast her secondary characters from real-life molds. Maintaining historical accuracy in how these people thought, spoke and lived makes their vivid reality even more amazing. There are dozens o I can't say enough good things about this book. Sharon Kay Penman is absolutely amazing. The characters in Here be Dragons live and breath like I would never have thought possible for people that died almost 800 years ago. Almost all of the major characters are factually based, and Penman says that she also cast her secondary characters from real-life molds. Maintaining historical accuracy in how these people thought, spoke and lived makes their vivid reality even more amazing. There are dozens of characters in Dragons, yet I managed to remember them all, because their personalities were so well defined. Her portrayal of the English King John is the most objective and rounded that I've read. She states (in the afterward) that she tried to strip away the myths that surround John and allow him to be judged on the facts. As a result, she made him sympathetically human - something that no other author I've read has done. Joanna is a perfect heroine - the kind that makes mistakes and has insecurities. I loved her. If Joanna is the perfect heroine, Llewelyn is beyond perfect as the hero. Their love for each other and their life together is such a fantastic story - one that I will read again, I'm sure. The writing is superb. I laughed, I cried, I sat on the edge of my seat...I hated to put this book down for the entire 700 pages. Here be Dragons has it all.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I really liked this. Penman is a meticulous researcher, but in some of her other books, I’ve thought she’s been too fact-heavy at the expense of great storytelling. For me, she got the balance right in this book, it’s an equally entertaining and informative read. I read a lot of English history books, whereas this is my first foray into Welsh history. Perhaps that's why I preferred the goings-on in King John’s court to that in Llewelyn the Great’s - I was more familiar with the people and events I really liked this. Penman is a meticulous researcher, but in some of her other books, I’ve thought she’s been too fact-heavy at the expense of great storytelling. For me, she got the balance right in this book, it’s an equally entertaining and informative read. I read a lot of English history books, whereas this is my first foray into Welsh history. Perhaps that's why I preferred the goings-on in King John’s court to that in Llewelyn the Great’s - I was more familiar with the people and events at the English court. I also liked this slightly more sympathetic portrayal of John. Yes, his bad deeds are all there, but it was interesting to see more of the man behind the tyrannical myth. Back in Wales, I also enjoyed the story of Joanna and Llewelyn, although they both began to irritate me after a while - she became too whiney, and he was too earnest and two-dimensional. To be fair though, I always tire of the good guy, finding their multi-layered adversaries far more interesting. There were a few surprising twists in Joanna and Llewelyn’s story, and in the hands of another author, I would assume that they were pure fiction, but with Penman, I knew I’d find confirmation that the twists were true. This is my fourth Penman book, and although The Sunne in Splendour is my favourite, Here Be Dragons has had the most fluidity for me so far. Despite the 800 pages and vast attention to detail, I zipped through it in a matter of days, and had the second book in the series arrived in time, I’d have picked that one up as soon as I put this one down.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rio (Lynne)

    This book was so packed with years of information where do I begin with a review? First all of I was excited when the book came in the mail and it was a version I had not seen. I loved the cover and the fact that it was the imported paperback. I know this has nothing to do with the writing, but I'm a sucker for a nice cover. When you read this book, you need a quiet corner with no distractions. You need to be able to emerge yourself into Penman's saga to enjoy it to it's fullest. The main chara This book was so packed with years of information where do I begin with a review? First all of I was excited when the book came in the mail and it was a version I had not seen. I loved the cover and the fact that it was the imported paperback. I know this has nothing to do with the writing, but I'm a sucker for a nice cover. When you read this book, you need a quiet corner with no distractions. You need to be able to emerge yourself into Penman's saga to enjoy it to it's fullest. The main characters are Joanna "King John's illegitimate daughter" and Llewelyn The Great. King John marries Joanna off to his rival and into Llewelyn's Welsh world. This book is so big and informative that I feel like I read 3 books! Penman covers 1183-1234. We re-live through 3 kings and endless wars. There are so many characters that at times it is hard to keep up. My only complaint is that I would have enjoyed a list of characters at the beginning, just to help keep everyone in line. I've already bought the next 2 books in the series Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning. If you truly want to learn history, this is the book. If you enjoy Elizabeth Chadwick and Susan Higginbotham you will love Sharon Penman. There is no fluff here.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    OMG. I LOVE historical fiction. I LOVE this period. But I cannot for the life of me get into this book! And that's disappointing b/c this author wrote many and I was hopeful of having lots of nice, long books to read. It's hard for me to put my finger on what I don't like -- basically, as soon as one gets interested in a character or a situation, the scene shifts dramatically. There are too many characters and too much going on. And YES, it's history, and there WERE a lot of characters and a lot OMG. I LOVE historical fiction. I LOVE this period. But I cannot for the life of me get into this book! And that's disappointing b/c this author wrote many and I was hopeful of having lots of nice, long books to read. It's hard for me to put my finger on what I don't like -- basically, as soon as one gets interested in a character or a situation, the scene shifts dramatically. There are too many characters and too much going on. And YES, it's history, and there WERE a lot of characters and a lot going on. But writing historical fiction means CHOOSING what to focus on and then, well, FOCUSING on it. Penman doesn't give you enough time with any given person or issue for you to be able to give a damn about it. I'm not finished with the book, but I think I'm gonna call it quits. I almost never do that, but I'm finding continuing painful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    There was one aspect of successful kingship, however, that John had always utterly lacked - luck. 4.5 stars. Many people has recommended that I try a Sharon Kay Penman, but I felt a bit intimidated for two reason - firstly by the size of the books and secondly I was worried it may be too highbrow for my taste. But I'm happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned so much about thirteenth-century England and Wales, but it never felt forced. The characters were all fully developed, and even at th There was one aspect of successful kingship, however, that John had always utterly lacked - luck. 4.5 stars. Many people has recommended that I try a Sharon Kay Penman, but I felt a bit intimidated for two reason - firstly by the size of the books and secondly I was worried it may be too highbrow for my taste. But I'm happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned so much about thirteenth-century England and Wales, but it never felt forced. The characters were all fully developed, and even at their worst I still felt sympathy for them. We see them growing up, and so we understand their choices. This is one of the few 700 page books I've read where I didn't feel it could have been any shorter. I even enjoyed the romance and war strategy aspects of the story. I can't wait to read more of her books. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Philippa Gregory. The story: England's power-hungry King John arranges a marriage between his youngest daughter, Joanna, and his rival, Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, a young leader who intends to unite all of Wales, in a saga set against the vivid backdrop of thirteenth-century Wales.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    I have a bit of a dilemma with this book. It's not the first historical fiction novel I've read that deals with "real" people - historical figures, that is. But it is the first I've read to this scale, and it left me a bit ... perplexed. It's set in 12th and 13th century Wales and England, and is the story of a Welsh prince, Llewelyn, who from the age of fourteen fought to reclaim his father's domain and then, throughout the rest of his life, unite the Welsh princes - a united Wales, he could se I have a bit of a dilemma with this book. It's not the first historical fiction novel I've read that deals with "real" people - historical figures, that is. But it is the first I've read to this scale, and it left me a bit ... perplexed. It's set in 12th and 13th century Wales and England, and is the story of a Welsh prince, Llewelyn, who from the age of fourteen fought to reclaim his father's domain and then, throughout the rest of his life, unite the Welsh princes - a united Wales, he could see clearly, would keep England's kings from absorbing it into England. It is also the story of his young wife, Joanna, King John of England's beloved but bastard daughter, and her struggle to be loyal to be her husband and her father - both of whom she loved. All of these people were real people, as are most of the other characters. The setting, the customs and laws, the details, the attitudes - it's all been splendidly researched I'm sure. I'm not here to quibble with Penman's story, either the construction of it or the accuracy. What troubled me was how awkward I felt reading it. I vacillated between being deeply engrossed, emotionally effected and full of admiration; and finding it stilted, confined, and depressing because these people's lives have already been lived, their fates decided, their deaths already determined. It put a damper on things, especially when the story got intense on the personal front. It's like reading a mystery that's a true story and knowing how easy it would be to simply look up the facts, find out whodunnit and who died a horrible death etc., and also feeling wretched because here you are sympathising with people long dead. It's not a feeling I've ever had before while reading a book, and I'm not sure how to explain it. But it did effect my enjoyment of the novel and, to be truthful, might influence me against reading similar books in the future. But maybe not. Perhaps the problem here was that Penman stuck too close to history? But how would I even know without studying the period myself? It's irrelevant. I would get nasty little reminders every time Penman had to tell us, her readers, about things that were happening. She made a valiant attempt to incorporate this exposition into conversations, but it never quite managed to sound realistic. It was like a slightly dry, academic historian was giving a voice-over during a reenactment-documentary, which has the effect of pulling you back to the present and reminding you that it's 2010 and all this is, literally, history. This completely contradicts the aim of a story, to make you sink into it and bring the characters to life - and sometimes you are so engrossed you even forget where you are and nearly miss your subway stop (my apologies to the lady in the red coat who I barged into as I dashed through the closing doors). It wasn't the neat little paragraphs that would summarise events for us at the beginning or end of a chapter. It was when historical explanations were inserted into dialogue. You just know that these people already knew that. They often say so. And it's hard to get across the information we need without sounding like you character's a mouthpiece for your history lesson, giving us a lecture. So yes, this bugged me. Regardless, I did get into the story and I did enjoy it. Penman did a marvellous job with such a big chunk of history, bringing it to life and making the characters seem real. Sometimes I couldn't help thinking that they were too real. Their ups-and-downs started affecting my moods. Especially in regards to Joanna and Llewelyn's relationship, which was good and strong and loving but had its moments of misunderstanding (and since they're nobility, misunderstandings can have terrible repercussions), divided loyalties, mistakes. Even though I would have liked Llewelyn to be more fleshed-out as a man (he was too often a prince, a leader of the army, a political figure, or a husband - but who was he?), his emotions still got to me. I had to almost verbally remind myself that he wasn't my husband and these emotions weren't really mine, and I didn't need to apply Joanna's feelings to my own husband! It did my head in sometimes, it really did. Now, I have to confess that, as well constructed as Joanna was, I didn't like her much. It was interesting to hear her daughter give voice to her own impression of her mother, towards the end, because it made me think "Yes! Glad I'm not the only one!" She was too good, too ... prideful? Not mean, not at all, but too self-indulgent while at the same time too distant from others, from those who would be her friends. Yes, the problem was her divided loyalties - I would not like to be in her position. But she wasn't a woman I could really admire, and my sympathy was almost the pitying kind. I have to say, reading historical fiction like this is one of the best ways to learn about history, especially since it gains context, is comprehensible, you get to know the people and remember who they are and where they fit into the bigger picture. On that score, I would gladly read more heavy works like Here Be Dragons. But I'm not sure I'll read any more Penman. I'm not sure her style is for me. I may have been expecting something slightly different, because so many people recommended this to me and raved about it. Sadly, I can't rave, though I was impressed, and I'm glad I read it. At 701 pages, it took me the entire month of February to read (I had to read Catch-22 this month as well, which is not a great mix; it was hard to switch back and forth!), but it was worth it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lady of the Lake

    This is one of my favorite books ...I don't believe the story she has fabricated within the web of historical figures and happenings but I loved d it none the less. This brought joy toe but it also had me crying my eyes out. I fell in love with the characters most had lived a life similar to what goes on here but much it far from the truth I am certain. I was so sorry to reach the last page. This was the first book in the trilogy and the best of the 3 IMHO. It was the great love she was able to This is one of my favorite books ...I don't believe the story she has fabricated within the web of historical figures and happenings but I loved d it none the less. This brought joy toe but it also had me crying my eyes out. I fell in love with the characters most had lived a life similar to what goes on here but much it far from the truth I am certain. I was so sorry to reach the last page. This was the first book in the trilogy and the best of the 3 IMHO. It was the great love she was able to bring to life for me that had this one standing out from the other two. Sigh... I wish I was just starting this book..re reading it never has the same impact for me. Ah well...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Opening: July 1183, Shropshire, England He was ten years old and an alien in an unfriendly land, made an unwilling exile by his mother's marriage to a Marcher border lord. His new stepfather seemed a kindly man, but he was not of Llewelyn's blood, not one of the Cymry, and each dawning day in Shropshire only intensified Llewelyn's heartsick longing for his homeland. #61 TBR Busting 2013 Why did I wait so long before reading? This was lovely. Opening: July 1183, Shropshire, England He was ten years old and an alien in an unfriendly land, made an unwilling exile by his mother's marriage to a Marcher border lord. His new stepfather seemed a kindly man, but he was not of Llewelyn's blood, not one of the Cymry, and each dawning day in Shropshire only intensified Llewelyn's heartsick longing for his homeland. #61 TBR Busting 2013 Why did I wait so long before reading? This was lovely.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    A wonderful book, Here Be Dragons is definitely one of my favourite novels ever. I very rarely cry reading books but the tears were definitely there for this one ...and I have read the book multiple times before. Sharon Penman brings the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to life and her characterisations seem so plausible. If you like historical fiction then I highly recommend this book. It is a modern classic.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mela

    A brilliant historical fiction. Exactly like I love. --> Soaked with historical events, characters - even more, there were few fictional characters. Barb in Maryland summarized it perfectly: Sweeping fictionalized history on a grand scale. --> Written in a way that allowed me to feel, to see, to be there. Although to the west a few stars still glimmered, the sky was slowly and inexorably paling, taking on the dull pearl color of coming dawn. The bailey was enveloped in an eerie quiet, men just begi A brilliant historical fiction. Exactly like I love. --> Soaked with historical events, characters - even more, there were few fictional characters. Barb in Maryland summarized it perfectly: Sweeping fictionalized history on a grand scale. --> Written in a way that allowed me to feel, to see, to be there. Although to the west a few stars still glimmered, the sky was slowly and inexorably paling, taking on the dull pearl color of coming dawn. The bailey was enveloped in an eerie quiet, men just beginning to stir, to crawl, groaning, from their bedrolls. A few castle dogs prowled about. A sleepy soldier relieved himself against the chapel wall, provoking curses from some of the blanket-clad forms downwind. Up on the curtain wall, guards dozed by empty wine flasks. The aroma of roasting pigeon wafted across the bailey from the gatehouse --> Asking questions, rarely giving simple answers. ...nothing in life turns out as we thought it would, nothing... Just because something has always been done a certain way does not make it right. --> The story of Llewelyn and Joanna... much much better than most of the popular love stories, and so much entwined with 'big politic' of those times. --> And how heartbreaking were the choices people had to make! Penman wasn't judging them. She 'just' showed us how hard was to be them. How hard it is to imagine what they were going through. Must-read to every fan of the genre. PS I admit that I got confused many times with all those people, names, battles. To help myself, I printed even a map to be able to check where were the places.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anneliese Bennion

    It has taken me a month to read all 700 pages. I haven't taken that long to read a book since The Lord of the Rings trilogy. At first I wasn't really impressed with it. It wasn't getting to the romance quick enough for me and it was a little confusing to remember all of the characters. It also was a little disturbing to have older men marrying very young women. Most of them were still girls. Eventually, I wrapped my mind around it. My friend Jill told me the romance between Llewelyn and Joanna w It has taken me a month to read all 700 pages. I haven't taken that long to read a book since The Lord of the Rings trilogy. At first I wasn't really impressed with it. It wasn't getting to the romance quick enough for me and it was a little confusing to remember all of the characters. It also was a little disturbing to have older men marrying very young women. Most of them were still girls. Eventually, I wrapped my mind around it. My friend Jill told me the romance between Llewelyn and Joanna was one of her top favorites. In the top five. I have to say, that thought kept me going. I really got into the story when Joanna burned Llewelyn's bed. By then I was hooked, but that was at least 250 pages into it. There is a lot of battle in the book. Not so much blood and gore, but political strategies. I wasn't sure by page 600 that I would be able to rate it as high as my friend. I just was not so hooked to J & L. The last hundred or so pages made me change my mind. I loved that last little bit. It was kind of what the whole book was building up to. I don't know if I'd put it in my top five romances, but it would definitely be in the top ten. I am glad I took the time to read it, but it definitely was a commitment.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Pickstone

    I loved this book about one of my historical heroes (Llewellyn Fawr) when I first read it but on this re-read I was much irritated by the writing forsoothly, by the repetition of all the worst gossip about John and by the manifest acceptance of Richard I as a homosexual when there is no actual evidence that this was so (nor did the concept of sexual orientation exist in the Medieval world). I acknowledge that Ms Penman makes this point herself in her two later novels about Richard I (and damn fi I loved this book about one of my historical heroes (Llewellyn Fawr) when I first read it but on this re-read I was much irritated by the writing forsoothly, by the repetition of all the worst gossip about John and by the manifest acceptance of Richard I as a homosexual when there is no actual evidence that this was so (nor did the concept of sexual orientation exist in the Medieval world). I acknowledge that Ms Penman makes this point herself in her two later novels about Richard I (and damn fine novels they are, too) - this was one of her first and not as well-honed as her later novels became. That aside, there are not so many novels covering the very interesting history of Medieval Wales and this contribution is not to be sneezed at despite the above grumbles!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Let's just say I lost sleep to keep reading this page-turner of a historical novel. Set in England, Wales, and France, and starring the aristocracy and royal families of the late 1100's and early 1200's. The main story line surrounds Joanna, a daughter of John I of England. Most of us remember him as Robin Hood's nemesis... Robin supported John's brother Richard Lionheart. But old Robin's not in this tale. It's told from a wholly different viewpoint. A co-worker recommended this author. So far, I Let's just say I lost sleep to keep reading this page-turner of a historical novel. Set in England, Wales, and France, and starring the aristocracy and royal families of the late 1100's and early 1200's. The main story line surrounds Joanna, a daughter of John I of England. Most of us remember him as Robin Hood's nemesis... Robin supported John's brother Richard Lionheart. But old Robin's not in this tale. It's told from a wholly different viewpoint. A co-worker recommended this author. So far, I think I've found yet another "keeper". So many books. So little time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lady Mayfair

    Background: Wales in the late High Middle Ages, the life of Llewellyn Fawr, Llywelyn the Great, Achilles the Second, the man to have united all principalities of Wales and rule them as one, Prince of a united Wales. But there is much more going on; this book is also about the Plantagenets, the well famous Eleanor of Aquitaine ( Queen of France and England and Duchess of Aquitaine, imprisoned for 13 years, one of the most powerful and wealthy women in the High Middle Ages) and her sons King Richa Background: Wales in the late High Middle Ages, the life of Llewellyn Fawr, Llywelyn the Great, Achilles the Second, the man to have united all principalities of Wales and rule them as one, Prince of a united Wales. But there is much more going on; this book is also about the Plantagenets, the well famous Eleanor of Aquitaine ( Queen of France and England and Duchess of Aquitaine, imprisoned for 13 years, one of the most powerful and wealthy women in the High Middle Ages) and her sons King Richard I the Lionheart and his brother King John and eventually his son, King Henry II. This book is about Llywelyn’s infamous Norman wife Joanna, Lady of Snowdon, illegitimate daughter of King John. It provides with all the relevant characters to paint a reasonably realistic backdrop of the rule of Llywelyn and the creation of a first united Wales. Which is why I read it, for its historical context, a historical insight into the cultural, social, geo-political Wales and its familiarity, from Powys to Aberystwyth, Conwy Castle, Dolbadarn, Llandudno and Carmathen. The book sheds light on how the Welsh national identity developed, from facing Anglo-Norman continuous incursions, to developing and abiding to the Cyfraith Hywel, the Welsh law. For instance: should a Welsh woman (of any standing) find her husband with another woman, he would have to pay her a fine. Should she slap said woman, she would not have to pay anything. If she would find them together three times, this would be ground for divorce. Norman women had no right to divorce. Yes, Here Be Dragons is good historical fiction. Unfortunately, Here be Dragons is also a romance. A bit of a bad one. Much of the romance left me feeling rather uncomfortable, as the dialogue was poorly written, almost child-like and naive, which only made things feel unrealistic, the opposite of the purpose of a historical fiction. I am not much eager on it, this book simply follows a predictable ‘successful’ recipe for historical fiction, same as Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth or any Philippa Gregory. “Poor Wales. So far from Heaven, so close to England.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Annalisa

    Although it took me 3 weeks to read this novel, I actually really enjoyed it. Unlike other historical fiction that seemed more fantasy that truth, I had a hard time pulling apart what was fiction and what was fact translated into dialogue. I believed these characters, that Penman selected personalities that were the obvious choice and the scenes could have very easily taken place. Despite a time period anchored and defined by war, Penman does a good job of giving you a few snippets of exciting w Although it took me 3 weeks to read this novel, I actually really enjoyed it. Unlike other historical fiction that seemed more fantasy that truth, I had a hard time pulling apart what was fiction and what was fact translated into dialogue. I believed these characters, that Penman selected personalities that were the obvious choice and the scenes could have very easily taken place. Despite a time period anchored and defined by war, Penman does a good job of giving you a few snippets of exciting war strategies instead of lengthy descriptions of tedious war so she could focus the bulk of her 700 pages on the conflicting passions and motives that drive war, particularly those of King John of England, Llewelyn the Great of Wales, and Johana, John's daughter and Llewelyn's wife. I related to Johana and enjoyed the complexity of her relationship between the two men in her life. I thought Penman very appropriately defined the difference between Welsh and English traditions with only occasionally sounding as if she were explaining history and not just following a story. I learned quite a bit from her recreation and became fascinated with a more accurate history of king John (beyond what Robin Hood would have you believe) and even more so Llywelyn whom I'd never heard of or even been that educated on the history of the Welsh and their battle to remain sovereign to a much larger England. I didn't realize until the author's notes that the book was named Here Be Dragons because that was the annotation mapmakers denoted on unknown territory and as the Welsh were misunderstood by the English (and it was the Welsh national emblem) it made a cleverly poignant title choice. Penman obviously did a lot of research and took great pains to hold to historical accuracy, which I greatly appreciated. My one complaint would be the description of the legitimization of Johana which she describes as obtained by her brother, king Henry, an illogical choice since it could potentially--though unlikely--give her claim to the crown. It was her husband Llywelyn who sought it out because of his great love for her and I would have enjoyed that expression of love in the story. At first I was doubtful of Pullman's idolization of Llywelyn's, particularly as a husband, but he was a skilled fighter and political schemer, he did love his wife tremendously, and he appeared to be kind and insightful. I think he made a fascinating historical figure to define and I grew to admire him as much as Penman seems to. I did find all the minor characters frustrating to follow. So many floating in and out of court and trying to track them down was dizzying. There were only a handful of names during the 13th Century so names like Will were credited to at least four characters and two of them with the same last name since children were given their parents' names (I can't even remember how many Rhys characters there were). Throw in interchanging titles and Penman's alternating between the two without a heads up reminder of which character each one was particularly when they were only mentioned once a 100 pages ago and many times I was completely lost on minor issues. But I'd rather she threw in so many authentic characters than make up a few false ones. If there were a list of characters in the index it would have been visited as often as the map with its ever changing borders to track down which castle was being conquered at the time. And now you understand why it took me so long to get through the book. I guess knowledge takes time. A worthwhile read, just know it is not a quick breeze, but one well worth the investment. So I dedicate a Brand New song the John and Llewelyn: we're concentrating on falling apart. We were contenders. We're throwing the fight, but I just wanna believe in us.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    After reading the many complimentary reviews, I almost couldn't sleep I was so excited to get my hands on this book. I've spent two evenings of my free time working my way into it, and I've finally put it down. I just can't read this any more. First of all (I'm on page 283), I can't tell whose journey this is. John's? Joanna's? Not Llewelyn's, he's (by far the most interesting character) barely been featured in the ten years I've covered. I feel like the writing is mediocre. I get kicked out by After reading the many complimentary reviews, I almost couldn't sleep I was so excited to get my hands on this book. I've spent two evenings of my free time working my way into it, and I've finally put it down. I just can't read this any more. First of all (I'm on page 283), I can't tell whose journey this is. John's? Joanna's? Not Llewelyn's, he's (by far the most interesting character) barely been featured in the ten years I've covered. I feel like the writing is mediocre. I get kicked out by the odd constructions, and the occasional modern cliché. (Okay, perhaps they did say "That is for me to know and you to find out" in the 13th century, but still... It's corny!). But more than anything, I keep waiting FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN! I mean things happen, but mostly I find out about them by characters discussing them afterwards rather than showing the characters living through the events themselves. Llewellyn spends years battling and conquering his uncles to become Prince of Wales and none of it is shown. Only discussed. I did enjoy my introduction to the Welsh language and the Welsh culture. I felt the devises used to help the reader pronounce the odd names were rather obvious though and would have preferred a pronunciation guide. To those of you who love this book so much, I wish you well. Personally, I'll pull out my beloved copies of Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles and reread that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I recommend the book.. It has been read and reviewed so many times that my testimonial is not needed. Ms. Penman is an excellent author who uses weird and repetitive sentence structuring in a positive manner for the reader. The book encompasses the border wars among England, France and Wales during the 12th and 13th centuries. Llewellyn, Princess Joanna, and King John of England are the main characters, each having made some contribution of historical importance. Llewellyn is known as the Great, I recommend the book.. It has been read and reviewed so many times that my testimonial is not needed. Ms. Penman is an excellent author who uses weird and repetitive sentence structuring in a positive manner for the reader. The book encompasses the border wars among England, France and Wales during the 12th and 13th centuries. Llewellyn, Princess Joanna, and King John of England are the main characters, each having made some contribution of historical importance. Llewellyn is known as the Great, John unwillingly signed the Magna Carta, and Joanna kept some modicum of peace between Llewellyn and John. Some might say her political moves and stirring of the home fires eclipsed all that John and Llewellyn accomplished. Joanna and Llewellyn's love story was spellbinding. Thank you, Ms. Penman, for a Good Read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I think what I love about Penman’s novels (aside from her obvious talent for sentence structure and superior vocabulary) are the many view points and characters who all have so much depth. One characteristic of Penman’s novels is occasionally (especially in the beginning) telling a chapter from a view point of a minor, almost insignificant character who is then never featured again. That can be a little misleading but I think it also adds to the dimension of the story. In the beginning, I often I think what I love about Penman’s novels (aside from her obvious talent for sentence structure and superior vocabulary) are the many view points and characters who all have so much depth. One characteristic of Penman’s novels is occasionally (especially in the beginning) telling a chapter from a view point of a minor, almost insignificant character who is then never featured again. That can be a little misleading but I think it also adds to the dimension of the story. In the beginning, I often felt like as soon as I got interested in one character, it switched to another in the next chapter! But Penman brings her characters to life so effortlessly that the reader can’t help but get involved with each one and the complexity of it adds realism to it. I had expected it to be more of Llewelyn’s own story but it was paralleled with John’s and Joanna’s too, in Penman’s style of portraying both sides of the story equally. This meant that as the stories of the three main characters came together to form one main storyline, it became more about the character’s relationships with each other and the relationship between Wales and England. It was a little more romance-y than I expected. I recall there being a romance in “When Christ and His Saints Slept” with a fictional character but it was one of many story lines whereas Joanna and Llewelyn’s marriage was the sole focus of the book at times. Still, I would not call it a romance novel, it is so much more than that (no offense romance fans). Before reading this novel, I didn’t know a huge amount about King John and had never even heard of his natural daughter Joanna or Llewelyn the Great. Though I never take fiction as fact (however accurate it may be), this definitely helped familiarize me with the time period and the historical figures involved and I love that. Penman has once again composed an epic classic in this genre, and seemingly so effortlessly (though I’m sure she painstakingly researched it).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    This is hands down my favorite book. Ever. It is multi-layered. On the one hand it's about the power struggle between England and Wales in the 1200s. On the other hand it's about the relationship between Joanna (illegitimate daughter of King John) and Llewelyn (prince of Wales). I have never read a book with better characterization. The people are real and complex. There isn't a bad guy, per se, and that adds to the reality. You can always see the situations through everyone's eyes, so you can s This is hands down my favorite book. Ever. It is multi-layered. On the one hand it's about the power struggle between England and Wales in the 1200s. On the other hand it's about the relationship between Joanna (illegitimate daughter of King John) and Llewelyn (prince of Wales). I have never read a book with better characterization. The people are real and complex. There isn't a bad guy, per se, and that adds to the reality. You can always see the situations through everyone's eyes, so you can sympathize with everyone. Ultimately it is a timeless love story, but not just between a couple. It explores the complex emotions of the relationships between father and daughter, mother and children, step-mother and step-children and ruler to people. I have forbidden myself to read this book during the school year as it never fails to keep me wholly occupied to the finish. I have learned the hard way that life goes on hold when I am in the grips of this magnificent story.

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