Thursday, March 5, 2009

Review: The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

About the Book: A novel of Arthur as he really was.

In the first book of this exciting trilogy, author Helen Hollick brings to life Arthur Pendragon as he really might have been. Leaving behind the fairy-tale element of Merlin's magic and the improbable existence of Lancelot, Hollick instead transports the reader to the early years of Britain circa 455 AD and tells the Arthurian legend in a solid and believable way.

This is a story of harsh battles, secret treasonous plots, and the life-threatening politics of the dark ages of early Britain. Intertwined through it all is the often-tested love of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere in Welsh - her name as it really would have been) as they struggle to survive and conquer to see Pendragon become King.

My Review: I was admittedly slightly uncertain how I'd feel about this book. The history goes waaayyy back. And I'm not a huge Arthurian legend fan. From what I can remember, the story always annoys me when Lancelot comes along.

Hollick casts Lancelot aside and opts for a more realistic possibility of what might have happened. Lots of darkness, fighting, betrayal and war...all the great elements of historical fiction. For the most part, this book is engrossing. The story was all new to me, but there were times when it dragged on just a bit too much for me.

I do have another gripe, though, and that's that Hollick bounces back and forth between points of view within a's terribly distracting. It's one of my pet peeves in books, and a good argument for first person point of view!!

Even having said that, I did enjoy the book and learning more about Arthur and Gwenhyfar. If you are interested in learning more points of view and also reading some interviews with the author, please refer to the blog tour list below!

Rating: 3.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: There's some sex and violence and Arthur and Gwenhyfar are not fans of the Christians. 2/21 and interview 2/27 2/23 2/23 2/23 2/23 and guest blog 2/25 2/24 2/25 2/26 and guest blog 2/27 2/26 2/26 3/1 3/1 3/1 3/2 3/2 3/2 / 3/2 and interview 3/3 3/3 and interview on 3/5 3/4 3/4 3/5 3/5 3/5



Anonymous said...

Hi Amy,
there wasn't anywhere to leave a comment on the other post about the comments not being made. For some reason unless i go ahead and refill my info out on google to sign up for leaving comments i have to go under anonymous and i hate leaving a comment like that. I apolojize for not leaving comments because i really do read your reviews and i really like your web site. I can understand that obviously you do put alot of thought in writting your reviews and it has to be disapointing when you get no feed back. but i got a feeling they are getting read i know i do i just get frustrated to keep signing up for goodgle to post comments every time i log back in It's been like this since i switched computers.I'm gonna try and get this fixed. But do know people are reading and i'll try and do better about commenting and hopfully i'll get it fixed soon. I'm comp. illiterate lol!! You do a wonderful job on your site Amy hope things will turn around for you : )
Lori Barnes

Meghan said...

The bit about Christians is unfortunate but historically accurate - when the Anglo-Saxons took over what is now England most traces of Christianity vanished until Pope Gregory sent St. Augustine to convert people. I don't think it had ever been a full conversion in the first place. They kept it up in Ireland though. :)

Nice review, I think you always balance positive and negative well.

bermudaonion said...

After your review, I think I'll skip this one. I'm not a huge fan of King Arthur either. I can't stand when the point of view changes in one scene.

Serena said...

I wasn't to fond of this rendering, though I am also not a fan of lancelot

Melissa said...

I've heard great things about Hollick's book, but this one has gotten some mixed reviews.

samantha.1020 said...

I just read and reviewed this one as well. I enjoyed it a bit more than you did although it was a gritty novel at times. Great review!

J.C. Montgomery said...

Historical Fiction and Authurian legend. Sounds good to me. I appreciate the insight into what worked and didn't work for you. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, but I agree, sometimes the narrative can drag on.

Still, this sounds interesting. Thanks Amy.

Lisa Dale said...

I too have mixed feelings about the whole love triangle plot. There's just no good way around it--though lots of authors have tried spinning it all kindsa ways.

But I suppose there's reason to be glad for it. Maybe if A & G had a perfect, neat little love story, that part of the tale wouldn't have taken on such a huge life of its own. I mean, it certainly is a challenging plotline to work with. And we writers do love a challenge...

Just thoughts.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Good review. Nothing to add except, I never liked Lancelot either! But I was thinking of you when I just started to write a comment on someone else's review on a blog, then backspaced it all out because I thought my comment was too stupid. I do that a lot! (backspace, that is!) Maybe lots of people do! :--)

Jenny Girl said...

Good review especially since the material is not your normal thing.
I like all that King Arthur stuff so I'll check it out. Mists of Avalon was a nice spin on this legend. Big book though.

ibeeeg said...

This book is on my TBR list. I have it on my list with high expectations. Thanks for review. It helps to keep a book in perspective. Sometimes when a book seems to "hyped" in good favor it can ruin it for me...KWIM.
I am hoping, because I do like history waaaay back, that I will enjoy this book. Only time will tell. Thanks again. You have got a good way with words.

S. Krishna said...

I totally agree with what you said about Lancelot - everything seems to fall to pieces when he comes along! I appreciated Hollick's decision to leave him out when she reinvented the legend.

Amy said...

Lori..thanks for your comment! I'm going to work on fixing the comment feature. was more that the characters who did have faith were portrayed as the weak evil characters. This is of course every author's choice, I just wanted readers who are sensitive to that to know it was in the book.'s a long book if you're unsure!

Serena..I know I read your review!

Melissa..indeed, but you may still enjoy checking it out!

Samantha...well we all have different taste! :)

J.C. Montgomery...I think you might enjoy it! know there are times when I really love love's all about how they're written I does lead to some great tension. leave great comments! You shouldn't be shy too! :)

Jenny Girl...maybe I'll check it out sometime.

ibeeeg...thanks! I hope you enjoy it, especially since you like the time period., too! :)

Helen said...

Hi Helen Hollick here - thank you for your view, it's nice to read an honest opinion (and I can't stand Lancelot either, one of the reasons I wrote the book :-)

Regarding P.O.V., this was my first novel - I wrote it 16 years ago - I have learnt my craft as a writer a little more since then and try not to "character hop" as much as I used to with the novels I write now, although the way I write is also my style and as I feel comfortable, maybe it is not a good idea to change it too much.

I did have the chance to re-edit the Trilgy, and I could have played around with the P.O.V. a little but I decided not to as I felt too much fiddling would spoil my own "flow" and maybe alter the book.

Thanks again for your honest opinion.
Helen Hollick

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Nice review, Amy (and Helen's comment proves her to be one very classy lady!). I certainly understand where someone would be bothered by the changing viewpoints...normally that's something that would drive me buggy. I guess Helen's writing was so superb that I didn't notice that as much while reading it.

Agree re: Lancelot. One of my favorite things about this book is that Arthur can be such a pain in the butt that no Lancelot is needed, LOL.

Nice job!

Steven Till said...

I liked Hollick’s depiction of Arthur: much more real-to-life than the traditional legend. I felt the author did a good job of blending history with myth, and creating an accurate picture of post-Roman Britain.

Arthur definitely had moments where you disliked him, among his other good qualities. Gwenhwyfar was the same way. There were times where I questioned her, but overall, she was more like-able than Arthur.

What did you think of the antagonist characters? Did you think they were well-rounded and complex? What did you think of Winifred? Did she have any redeeming qualities in your mind?

Also, now that I think about it, I would have liked to see Morgause as a more regularly character throughout the novel. What do you think? I thought she was an interesting, conflicting character.

Also, I agree with you about switching back and forth between points-of-view. I made the same comment in my review.

Nice review.

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