Title: Pendragon’s Banner
Author: Helen Hollick
Release Date: September 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
In this sequel to The Kingmaking, Helen Hollick returns to the world of King Arthur and his attempts to unify the land of Britain through war and strife. All of the characters from the previous book are here, from the lovely and strong-willed Gwenhyfar to the scheming Winifred, Arthur’s ex-wife who sees her son as Arthur’s heir, rather than Gwenhyfar’s three sons. This is a wonderful portrayal of a real historical Arthur, rather than one of fantasy and legend.
Helen Hollick’s The Kingmaking was an incredibly creative novel about King Arthur, and its sequel doesn’t disappoint. Pendragon’s Banner continues in the vein of its prequel, portraying Arthur as a real man with serious flaws and no access to magic. There is no Merlin in this novel – most of the tales within legend are there, but their explanations are based in reality. Additionally, Arthur is not the king of shining moral example that legend portrays him to be. He seems to sleep with every woman he comes across and his temper is something to cower from. He can be incredibly frustrating at times, but he is real. Hollick does a wonderful job of making Arthur a three-dimensional, true to life character.
There is a foreboding through Pendragon’s Banner, a sense that things aren’t as rosy as they seem. There’s a lot of tragedy in this book. At the beginning of the novel, it’s clear that Arthur barely has a grasp on his kingship and that it could slip through his fingers at any given moment. However, as the novel progresses, Arthur settles down and the reader really sees the king of legend shine through. It’s almost tragic because the reader knows it won’t last, and that everything will fall apart in the final novel of this trilogy. Still, it’s nice to see some peace in Arthur and Gwenhyfar’s lives, even if it is fleeting.
Pendragon’s Banner is a long novel, and a complicated one. There are a lot of characters and different storylines, which can be hard to keep track of at times. However, Hollick does an excellent job keeping the reader hooked. Despite the length, this is a book you won’t want to put down. But because of the complicated nature of both these books, you should read them in order. It’s been awhile since I’ve read The Kingmaking, so there were times I was a little lost because I forgot who a character was or couldn’t quite recall a storyline. I can’t begin to imagine how lost you would be if you didn’t read these novels in order.
Pendragon’s Banner was a wonderful read, and I simply can’t wait until the final novel in the trilogy. That being said, knowing how badly it will all end, I almost don’t want to read it just so I can live in Hollick’s world for a little bit longer!