Shadow of the King by Helen Hollick
Length: Full (651 pages)
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Camellia
The final book in the most historically accurate Arthurian legend trilogy, The Shadow of the King is not just a wrap-up novel, but an engrossing story of its own. Arthur Pendragon, King of Britain, sets sail for Gaul to defend territories there—leaving his country vulnerable and leaderless. When word comes that he’s has fallen in battle, the powerful Council, headed by Arthur's power-hungry uncle, threatens to overthrow Gwenhwyfar and her young daughter. Gwenhwyfar is also opposed by Arthur's ambitious ex-wife Winifred, keen to advance her own son as rightful heir. But, events abroad mean a far mightier battle for the Pendragon throne, and for the future of Britain.
SHADOW OF THE KING is a treasure for Arthurian legend lovers. Helen Hollick sprinkles well-researched historical facts and well-known legends into her exciting tale of the life and times of King Arthur and Gwynhwyfar. SHADOW OF THE KING, chocked full of bigger-than-life characters, teems with intrigues, power struggles, unshakable loyalties, unspeakable cruelties, and unwavering love.
Arthur and Gwynhwyfar, soul mates in every way, complete each other. No other can meet their deep-down needs; yet, they both falter in their fidelity when circumstances separate them. While they strike sparks off each other at times, they ride shoulder to shoulder into battle, each depending on the other, as they defend their holdings.
Arthur’s defeat in Gaul and his sojourn there while Gqynhwyfar strives to hold his kingdom together creates high-tension reading with foreshadowing of the trouble brewing that will test their resolve.
Ambrosius, the inept leader in charge while Arthur is absent, incites discontent as he tries to revert to the Roman way of ruling rather than looking forward. He is not a warrior like Arthur and does not command the respect needed to be a good leader. Consequently, Arthur’s once cohesive kingdom begins to fracture.
Arthur’s courage and self-esteem are wounded as was his body at the defeat in Gaul. Gwynhwyfar puts her all on the line to rehabilitate Arthur and reestablish his kingdom. Arthur’s children, legitimate and illegitimate, play important roles in the struggle for power that ensues. The struggle for power is a constant undercurrent throughout the novel.
Helen Hollick’s writing style brings the characters to life and creates an environment so real that the reader vicariously experience the smells, the cold, and the heat along with the pain, the angry, and a myriad of other emotions that grip the reader’s senses.
SHADOW OF THE KING and its two companion books are a splendid addition to one’s library.