Review of The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick
Overview from www.bn.com:
Who was THE MAN Who became THE LEGEND We know as KING ARTHUR?
“You are the Pendragon, rightful Lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord of less Britain. By all that is right, you ought be seated where Vortigern sits…You ought to be King.”
Here lies the truth of the Lord of the Summer Land.
This is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies, who captured Gwenhyfar’s heart, and who emerged as the hero of the Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all time.
This is the unexpected story of the making of a king — the legend who united all of Britain.
The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick looked promising to me as I downloaded it, one of Barnes and Noble’s Free Friday offerings that I just couldn’t pass up. In the end though, it was a disappointment.
In fact, it disappointed me many time. I thought about turning off the book many times but then the characters would do some small thing that would make me think that maybe they will redeem themselves but in the end, they didn’t.
That is not to say that I disliked all the characters. In fact, I like the character of Gwenhyfar a lot. She was strong and brave and seemed to always try her best even though her feelings often confused her. Also, she seemed to learn from her mistakes.
Unlike another main character: Arthur. This story is based on the now famous character of King Arthur. In this story though, he is not yet king. He starts off as some tag-along boy who Uther keeps with him on his quests to regain his lands in England.
But the quest goes badly and Uther is killed battle. All seems lost until Gwenhwyfar’s father Cunedda reveals the secret of Arthur’s parentage—he is Uther’s son. It was kept secret from all but three or four people to keep him safe from Vortigern, his father’s mortal enemy.
Arthur seemed to start out as somewhat likeable. He was the silly misfit who was trying to make his way in the world; to make something of himself despite what thought were his humble origins.
Then he becomes a man and everything seems to change. He loves Gwenhyfar sure, but he doesn’t tell her and maybe that is for the best for it seems that there is one thing that he loves even more than her, much more than her: his crown. He admits throughout the story that he will do anything for and proves it with his actions.
First, he joins up with his father’s enemy Vortigern in an uneasy alliance but admits he will break it when it suits him. Then he marries Winifred, Vortigern’s half-Saex daughter to obtain her dowry and although he at first declares that she will be his wife in name only he impregnates her with a child.
He worries that she will have a boy and take him to her Saex family to use as a pawn against him. He takes her away to “Less Britain” so that she can’t use his son against him but she has a girl who dies shortly after the birth. All the while he tells anyone who listens that he doesn’t love his wife and wants to divorce her.
But then later in the book he gives into his wife and impregnates her again. He just doesn’t seem to learn his lesson. All throughout the story he is guided by his impulses—both sexual as well for war. They seem to be running the show, not him. This made him a less than sympathetic character for me. If it weren’t for Gwenhwyfar, I wouldn’t have kept reading. I kept wondering what she saw in him though. Her story was worth reading, her courage admirable though I think she could have done without him.
Contains: war violence, sexuality, some language