Monday, April 23, 2012
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
"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."
3 Reasons Review:
1.Reason(s) why I wanted to read this book:
To be honest, this book (along with 6 other Penman novels) has been sitting in my TBR pile for years. Sharon Kay Penman's books are considered the gold standard by many who love authentically written historical fiction and this book has received much acclaim. I read The Sunne in Splendour previously and knew I would have to invest time and attention to this rich and complex novel of 13th century Wales.
2.Reason(s) I liked (or disliked) the novel:
I know I'm in the minority here, but I had issues with Here Be Dragons. I found the first 250+ pages to be disjointed and there were many threads to the plot that weren't connecting for me. I understand that this is a very research-intense storyline, but I started it twice to get the momentum going and had a rough time making all the pieces of the plot "fit." At times, there was so much information and historical/political details that it seemed like retelling facts and not showing a great story through action.
On the other hand, I was fascinated with the story of Joan/Joanna, the illegitimate daughter of King John,and it held my interest throughout. Penman created many memorable scenes involving her loyalty to her husband, Llewelyn, and her father, the king, and I felt so badly for her at times as she could never please them both. Although she was used as a pawn by the king and her marriage was arranged, her relationship with Llewelyn became one of deep love over time despite periods of strain. The dramatic scene where she proudly stands by her husband and honors him by giving him a humbling curtsy in front of King John was beautifully written.
favorite quote: (p.352) "What I know, Papa, is that I love you and I love Llewelyn, and the two of you are tearing me apart!"
3.Reason(s) I'm recommending (not recommending) this
Sharon Kay Penman doesn't need me to recommend her books -- she has legions of fans! Although I wanted to love this book (as so many blogging friends highly recommend it and LOVE it), it was easy for me to put it down. I kept asking myself, "What's wrong with me? Why am I not swept up by this story like so many others?" It's superbly researched and I learned much about the relations between England and Wales and many historical figures, I just found it a bit dry. Everyone's reading experience is uniquely their own, and this was my experience. I absolutely plan on reading more of Penman's work as it truly is enlightening and expands my (woefully lacking) knowledge of English and Welsh history. (About the only thing I did love about the book was the title! Brilliant! I won't spoil it for you as you can learn it in the author notes, but it is symbolic of the relationship and misunderstandings between 13th century England and Wales.)
Title: Here Be Dragons
Author: Sharon Kay Penman
St. Martin Griffith Publishers
genre: historical fiction
**Thank you to Jenny @ Jenny Loves to Read for the brilliant Three Reasons Review.**