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The Reckoning by Sharon Kay Penman
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The Reckoning (1991)

by Sharon Kay Penman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Welsh Trilogy (3)

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1,1801810,643 (4.37)93
From the bestselling author of Lionheart and The Sunne in Splendour. This book completes the splendid sequence of novels on the struggle between the independent Welsh Princes and the growing English strength which began with Here be Dragons, continued with Falls the Shadow and is now completed with The Reckoning. The major figures in The Reckoning are the splendid dominant King of England, Edward I, and The Great Llewellyn II, Prince of Wales. His long love affair and eventual marriage with Ellen, daughter of Simon De Montfort, provides the strong emotional interest in the book, while the political machinations of Edward against the Welsh and the Scots, together with Llewellyn's struggle to control the recalcitrant Welsh Princes provides the political and military drama.… (more)

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Summary: Brings to a close the struggles between Wales and England under Edward I, the complicated relationship between brothers Llewellyn and David ab Gruffyd, and tells the story of the women who loved them--a true tale of love and loss.

Last month, I reviewed the second volume of the Welsh Princes Trilogy, Falls the Shadow, which focused on Simon de Montfort and his campaign for the rights of the people with their king. In that book, the ongoing power struggle between the English and the Welsh remains in the background. In The Reckoning, Penman brings the history of conflict between England and Wales to its culmination.

Much of the story is told through the eyes of a young man, Hugh, who becomes squire to Bran de Montfort until his death of tertian fever in Italy, after which he serves Bran's sister Ellen, who had been betrothed to Llewellyn ab Gruffyd, Prince of Wales, until the death of her father Simon and the family's flight to France.

Llewellyn has his own troubles. His mercurial brother Davydd has always coveted his power, even while Llewellyn, as did his grandfather, Llewellyn Fawr, understood that only a united Wales could have any hope of standing against English might. It is an odd relationship of brothers strangely drawn to each other, despite Davydd's betrayals, and alliance for a time with their hated enemy, Edward I, who, with the death of his feeble father, Henry III, is exerting his reign. Davydd marries Edward relation, Elizabeth at Edward's behest, a relation that blossoms into genuine love.

Meanwhile, Llewellyn, fighting for Wales survival, and without an heir beside his betraying brother Davydd, revives his betrothal to Ellen, Simon and Nell's daughter. Ellen, her priest brother Amaury, and Hugh take a perilous sea voyage and are seized by "pirates" who are in fact in Edward's employ, and becomes a bargaining chip in the struggle, In the end, Llewellyn relents, is humbled and pays homage to Edward in return for the chance to marry Ellen. He continues to hold Amaury to keep Llewellyn on his best behavior. Edward encroaches more and more on what were once Welsh domains and prerogatives, doing what Llewellyn had been unable to do--to unite Wales against the English and under his leadership.

The story reaches a high point at Dolwyddelan in December of 1281. Despite an earlier plot to assassinate Llewellyn, foiled only by a freak storm, Davydd and Llewellyn have drawn close, and the other lords of Wales are ready to follow Llewellyn into rebellion. There is one other wonder, and it is that Ellen is with child--an heir for Llewellyn! Was this what goaded Davydd into initiating the rebellion before Llewellyn was ready?

Edward I is a relentless foe, and the remainder of the story is one of heartbreak that I will leave to the reader. Only the love of the Squire Hugh, and Caitlin, the daughter of Davydd (a fictitious element) survives. Let us just say that it is from this period of time that the heir to the English crown is the Princ(ess) of Wales.

Penman writes a gripping tale of two men, Edward and Llewellyn, who each love a country and idea. Only one could survive. Her characters and their relationships are complex, especially the relationship between Llewellyn and Davydd. So many of these people are related by blood or marriage and we see in Edward especially the tension of love and the ruthless use of power to achieve his ends. She paints a time where love could be passionate, especially in the knowledge that life was fragile and death could come in many guises, and often before one was ready. This is an older series, yet one that I hope remains in print. Penman, over these three volumes, tells the story of the ascent of the English kingship, and what was lost in the process.

My review of Here Be Dragon: https://bobonbooks.com/2015/07/17/review-here-be-dragons/

My review of Falls the Shadow: https://bobonbooks.com/2018/01/09/review-falls-the-shadow/ ( )
  BobonBooks | Feb 5, 2018 |
This writer speaks to me as a history facts first consumer of the genre. In fact she's illuminated my more academic reading on this period. So i recommend the last novel in the Welsh Princes trilogy. David gets his, and Edward I as a good english king, is hard on the neighbours. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 3, 2017 |
I can now say I've read all of Penman's novels, a baker's dozen of them, and my favorites remain The Sunne in Splendour and the first novel in the Welsh Princes trilogy, Here Be Dragons. I'd say this ranks just the next level down--a four and a half, rather than a five. Not to be counted among my favorite books of all time and it didn't move me to tears--but great as historical fiction nevertheless. I'm newly impressed with Penman's skills as a historical novelist. Her research is evident, she definitely conveys how alien the medieval mindset was compared to our times but makes her characters relatable. It can't be easy, fleshing out these stick figures we get mere outlines of from chroniclers, putting actions and words that fit.

If anything, that was the problem as I reached the end of the book. I dreaded that ending and it made me drag my feet those last hundred pages. In fact, I had deliberately avoided the last two books in this trilogy for years. Here Be Dragons is a true life love story--among the most moving I'd ever read, all the more for being based on real people. As a love story, it's has it's share of the bitter among the sweet, but of all of Penman's books I'd say its the most upbeat. But the other two? Well, anyone who knows anything about British history would know that it wasn't long after the events of that book that Wales was swallowed into England. The very titles of the books gave me pause: "Falls the Shadow" and "The Reckoning." If that weren't enough, well, Penman is all to good at showing the flaws and foibles of the characters that doomed them--and poor Wales. All at the same time making medieval Wales terribly appealing to a modern reader. At the same time she doesn't demonize Edward I--but you want to damn him thoroughly anyway!

And now, if you'll excuse me I think I'll begin the process of Penman withdrawal by finding the fluffiest, more sickening sweet and upbeat story I can. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Jun 22, 2016 |
The Reckoning successfully concludes Penman’s England/Wales trilogy. Once again Penman completely draws the reader into the lives of people, places and events of long ago. I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in historical fiction. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
read again 2014 ( )
  VictoriaJZ | Sep 25, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sharon Kay Penmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leister, BryanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
“Never forget, Llewelyn, that the world’s greatest fool is a Welshman who trusts an English king.”

His father’s words haunt Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, who has been ruling uneasily over his fractious countrymen. Above all else, Llewelyn fears that his life and his own dream—of an independent, united Wales—might be lost to Edward I’s desire to expand his English empire.

Alive from the pages of history, this is the hauntingly beautiful and compelling tale of a game poised to play itself out to its bloody finale as English and Welsh cross swords in a reckoning that must mean disaster for one side or the other.

For anyone who has ever wanted to experience the rich tapestry of British history and lore, this bold and romantic adventure must be read.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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