This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: F

Whew! Again, just barely getting mine in on time!!

Each fortnight the ladies at Historical Tapestry will post a new letter of the alphabet and you do a blog post about a work of historical fiction that has that letter:
  • as the first letter in the title
  • as the first letter of the author's first or last name
  • the first letter of a character's first or last name
  • the first letter of a place where an historical event took place
So here is my post for the fourth letter of this challenge: F

Falls the Shadow, Sharon Kay Penman

Simon de Montfort was a man ahead of his time in the thirteenth century, a disinherited Frenchman who talked his way into an English earldom and marriage with a sister of the English king, Henry III. A charismatic, obstinate leader, Simon soon lost patience with the king's incompetence and inability to keep his word, and found himself the champion of the common people.

This is his story, and the story of Henry III, as weak and changeable as Simon was brash and unbending. It is a tale of opposing wills that woudl eventually clash in a storm of violence and betrayal - an irresistible saga that brings the pages of history completely, provocatively, and magnificently alive.

This is the second book in Penman's Welsh trilogy and covers the life of Simon de Montfort, a man who really was ahead of his time, thus causing him to be completely at odds with most of the nobility of his age. He helped bring about the start of Parliament in England which was not looked on favorably by Henry (what monarch would want to give up some of his power?). This book is full of very volatile characters with very big personalities, all very well described and their growth and change throughout very well documented. I was really amazed at how completely inept Henry was as a king and how he managed to keep his throne. I could fully sympathize with Simon in his annoyance with his monarch's complete lack of backbone, though I could see where he could have gone about things differently, thus not angering Henry quite as much. Simon really is a very human "hero" in this novel - he is championing a very noble cause and is a good, decent, and honorable man but he is also has quite a few flaws. I really feel it is his flaws that really made me cheer for him; he was so REAL. Henry's son, the future Edward I, made himself highly dislikable in my eyes with his constant betrayals and going back on his word. I can see now why he was such a powerful king. Interspersed with Simon and Henry's story is the continuing Welsh story - this time focusing on Llewelyn Fawr's grandson, Llewelyn, and his struggles against his brothers Owain and Davydd as he fights to keep alive his grandfather's wonderful dream of a strong and united Wales. I enjoyed this second book though not nearly as much as the first in the trilogy (but really, how can you NOT prefer reading about Llewelyn Fawr and Joanna?). I felt a bit bogged down in the middle with all the discussion about the Provisions and such, but things really picked up towards the end. I can not wait to read the last book in the series, The Reckoning, which truly focuses on Llewelyn and his final struggles in Wales.

*I will post a more detailed review next week.


  1. This sounds like a fascinating book. With the Shakespeare Theatre here in Washington doing both Richard II and Henry V, reading about these English royals and aspirants, even though they precede Shakespeare's subjects by over 100 years, would be fun. Thanks for the interesting review!

  2. This sounds great. I think I'd want to start with book one, which I haven't read.

  3. Sharon Penman is just an amazing, amazing author, and she give her characters such amazing depth. Great choice for F!