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 ExampleHe 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 RichardAnd 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 griefeveryone 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 clippingIt 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, caland 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 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 LoveA 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 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 containedthan 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 mucheven 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.
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 about13th 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 belovedbut ruthlessfather 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 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 onwill 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 wantingI 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 Where I got the book purchased used on .
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 anuanced 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.
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 periodand whatcan I say I m entranced.
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