Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Reckoning - Sharon Penman

"The Reckoning" is the third book in the trilogy concentrating on the final days of Wales as a truly independent country from England. It links most closely to "Falls the Shadow", continuing the tale of the de Montfort family and the princes of Wales.

In this tale - once again sweeping through years of historical events - we see Edward tightening his hold on Wales. Most of his predecessors had looked to the continent - to take control of Anjou and Poitou and Aquitaine, and the many other principalities that now form modern-day France. Edward was more than happy to consolidate his hold on the other countries that now form the United Kingdom - at the time, the Scottish King already paid homage to Edward as a liege lord and he was looking to Llewelyn to do the same.

Edward uses heavy-handed methods to achieve his goals, including imprisoning Llewelyn's bride - Ellen, the daughter of Simon de Montfort - and turning Davydd (Llewelyn's ambitious and loyally ambiguous brother) against him.

This was a much improved story (although I do dislike using the word 'story' when referring to historical fiction, since the events have at least a basis in fact) in comparison to "Falls the Shadow". There were strong and memorable characters, and the central love story between Llewelyn and Ellen is very sweetly written - since you end up feeling much empathy for the characters due to the way in which Edward deals with them, the very tragic ending to their relationship is all the more heartbreaking.

I had some minor complaints about the story - having said how sweet the love is between Llewelyn and Ellen, it is also a little cloying at times; the characters that Penman wrote herself with no basis in fact can be easily told from those who actually inhabited history; and sometimes Davydd's motives can be hard to comprehend being as he was from such a different age.

Having said that, these are very minor issues and overall this is a very strong novel from Penman.

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