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Falls the Shadow (1988)

by Sharon Kay Penman

Series: Welsh Trilogy (2)

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1,5162811,930 (4.34)99
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 would eventually clash in a storm of violence and betrayal--an irresistible saga that brings the pages of history completely, provocatively, and magnificently alive.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Here's what I wrote in 2008 about this read: "Yet another medieval fiction; a good one! From Library Journal online at amazon.com: "For her third historical novel, Penman focuses on the mid-13th-century reign of England's Henry III and stories of those who opposed that inept king. A main detractor is French-born Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who leads the fight for parliamentary restrictions on the monarch, and later becomes Henry's brother-in-law through marriage to Eleanor, Countess of Pembroke." Was obviously on a medieval reading course during this time of life; check out other books read during the years 1995-97. And, interesting that they were all written by women. ( )
  MGADMJK | Sep 11, 2022 |
Falls the Shadow picks up where Here Be Dragons left off, with English and Welsh relations at a stalemate, at least until Welsh prince Llewellyn dies and Henry III's sister marries Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman whose star is on the rise. Simon's emerging influence among the peasantry, as well as an increasing number of nobility, proves to be an unexpectedly dangerous rival to the wimpy English king.

Whoa. This was a crazy interesting time period. The frequently changing allegiances are dizzying, and Simon de Montfort seems like such an implausibly larger-than-life character that it's surprising his name and legacy aren't better known into the present. About halfway through the book it occurred to me that there had been minimal focus on the Welsh perspective and the Welsh princes themselves, despite the title of the series. Penman does a fair job in the Author's Note justifying her choice to focus on English goings-on and what amounts to "filler," but I nevertheless feel that a thorough understanding of Davydd or Llewellyn and their personalities, motivations, exploits and foibles, was noticeably lacking. Looking forward to the third and final installment, with hopes that the focus returns to Wales. ( )
  ryner | Aug 17, 2022 |
In her author’s note to this book, Sharon Kay Penman explains that her plan to follow up Here Be Dragons was to cover the lives of both Simon de Montfort and Llywelyn the Last. But Simon’s story proved to be much larger than half a book would allow, so Penman wisely ceded the stage to him for this second book.

Simon, born in France, married to the English king’s sister, proves to be the staunchest believer in an English king’s obligations to his people. Unfortunately, Henry III was the sort of person who really shouldn’t have been king: petulant, easily led by whichever follower he spoke to last, and definitely not a battlefield champion. Simon seems to fit the mould of kingship more, with his charisma, decisive battle tactics, and concern for the welfare of more citizens than earlier kings had considered. But his promotion of the Oxford Provisions smacks of treason to Henry…

I liked this even more than Here Be Dragons, probably because there weren’t any awkward sex scenes between people with large age differences (like Llywelyn Fawr and Joanna in the first book). I enjoyed reading about the dynamics of the de Montfort family and their various exploits, as well as the struggles Simon faced in attempting to get people on board with the Oxford Provisions.

In my head I was comparing this with Edith Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd quartet—those books don’t go into quite as much detail but move a bit more quickly, from what I recall. They would complement each other nicely.

Side note: I was reading this when the news broke that Sharon Kay Penman had died, and the title seemed fitting. A shadow had fallen over the world of historical fiction with her passing. But what a rich legacy she has left. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 24, 2021 |
Book Version: St. Martin's Press, 2008, PB, 580 pages
Part of a Series: Welsh princes, #2
Language Difficulty Level: Contains less common (terms of) items, tools or actions in medieval society
Reading Difficulty level: Easy to follow, not too technical
Character Depth: High
Historical Accuracy (if applicable): Less poetic version can be read on Wikipedia
Illustrations: Minimal - maps and family trees at start of the book
Amount of POV: No strict structure, minimal but multiple
Type of POV: Third person, occasional narrator commentary
CAWPILE Score: 9.14/10
ESRB would rate it: Mature 17+ - Contains violence, blood and gore and/or strong language

Although this book is part of a series called “Welsh Princes”, there is not much focus on them for the majority of the story. This book, I feel, could be split into 2 distinct parts – 1st one with young Simon, that focuses mostly about wrapping up the story of Llywelyn Fawr, his family, succession of Davydd and later Llywelyn the Last. Second and larger part deals almost entirely around Simon de Montfort, his wife, his sons and his struggle with the English Crown and reforms that were attempted all too early by a few centuries.

Anyone who knows even a tiny bit about these turbulent times will come to this book knowing that there was no happy ending to be had for any party involved. Simply put, this book is tragic – friendships broken, families torn asunder, betrayals, scheming and a lot of deaths. When someone of Sharon’s caliber comes writing about it, you will be transported to this era, you will fall in love with all the characters she managed to bring to life…, and you will feel for their plights and wish history could be changed. I should have hated a lot of the characters in this book…but I could not. They were all so vivid and multi-dimensional that all their actions had logic behind them - all of them were reactions to events that happened in the book (and as such in history).

Speaking of historicity of the text – Sharon has a very strict adherence to historical fact and is very responsible with handling such information. Due to the age of the written text, some of it may be disproved/expanded in recent research and thus not be reflected in the book. Even so, she does toy with the events somewhat (e.g. moving a conclave by 2 days for better flow of story) and tends to add characters that did not exist for another point of view on the main players of her stories. Each time it happens, she informs of such tampering in her author’s notes and I am glad for it, because it’s written in so well I never found it jarring or out of place. The minimal scale of it and the fact she is very transparent about it makes her stories one of the most historically accurate I have read so far, minus actual historical essays.

Thus to my last point – a few people criticize Sharon for her strict adherence to history and fact. I think this book suffers most from it. There was a lot of back and forth politicking, machinations and agreements here and there. It was rather late in the story when events started unfolding into an open conflict. As such, the book is extremely slow burn in the middle section. Another issue that underlined this problem was the very character of Simon de Montfort. It was very difficult to relate to a character who was so certain in what he was doing to a point of obstinacy. The characters around him were all vivid and colorful, but he was just…grey. The book picked up sharply for its last stretch though, including the ever-serious Simon, and the finale was heartbreaking.

Definitely recommend it if you are interested in this tumultuous era in English history. ( )
  Deceptikitty | Aug 4, 2020 |
Read almost 300 pages before tossing.
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
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Between the idea
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Falls the Shadow

T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"
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To Marion Wood
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They crossed the border into Brittany at noon, soon afterward found themselves in an eerily silent landscape, shrouded in dense, spectral fog.
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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 would eventually clash in a storm of violence and betrayal--an irresistible saga that brings the pages of history completely, provocatively, and magnificently alive.

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Sharon Kay Penman is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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