The Sunne in Splendor – Book Review

The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman

Okay Ms. Penman, I’m sure you’re not reading this but, just in case you are, may I say that you rock.

“The Sunne in Splendor” is an historical novel of over 900 pages, spanning nearly the entire life of England’s Richard III, and it held my rapt attention for the entire book.  In fact, I picked it up because I wanted to alternate something with more of a narrative with another book I was reading.  It did not alternate well, because I basically dropped the other (quite good as well) book until I was completely done with “The Sunne in Splendor.”

Besides focusing on Richard III, “The Sunne in Splendor” tells the story of the War of the Roses, although primarily from the Yorkist perspective.  From St. Albans to Bosworth Field, we are privy to the entire scope of this conflict, gaining along the way information about its origin.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the successfully ambitious “The Sunne in Splendor” is that it was Penman’s first novel, written over 25 years ago.  It has amazing depth both of information and of character for a first published novel.

Sad thing about “The Sunne in Splendor.”  I was unable to put it down, particularly near the end, and I carried it into a restaurant my husband and I were in on a trip last weekend.  After finishing the book, I set it down next to him on the windowsill to actually eat the food the waiter had brought to our table.  Thirty or so minutes into our 45 minute drive back to where we were staying, we both realized that I had left the book on the table (thank goodness I had finished it!).  It was a used copy anyway, but I would have liked to keep it.  I guess it is time to add it to my BookMooch list and hope to obtain another copy.

Anyway, loved “The Sunne in Splendor” and Ms. Penman is now 2 for 2 with me (“The Devil’s Brood” was also fantastic), so I will be actively seeking out basically everything else she’s ever written.

Buy “The Sunne in Splendor” on Amazon.

15 comments to The Sunne in Splendor – Book Review

  • I’m hoping to get to this one this year. Glad to hear it’s this good!


  • Kathy, that’s what I’m hoping as well. We thought about going back for it, or trying to get ahold of the restaurant so we could pick it up as we went back through the town on Monday, but I figured since it was used anyway, I was instead going to hope that someone would find it, read it, and enjoy it.

  • That is a pretty ambitious undertaking for a first novel! I love historical fiction. This book would definitely qualify for the Chunkster Challenge!

  • This is my favorite book by Penman (and one of my favorites overall). I remember at the time I had two books on the train, one was a fantasy novel written by a quite derivative author (I won’t say who to avoid offending anyone) and being bored with it, started this one and was just floored by the beautiful writing, characterization, and everything about it. And I’ve read all of her historicals now, it’s amazing that this is the first. I’m glad you feel similarly!

    Interestingly, I’ve since read the biography that she based the book on (it isn’t the most historical biography ever, let’s say, but I had to give it a shot), and it’s amazing how the book and the biography get across the exact same points, but Penman just does it better. Okay, I will now stop gushing.

  • Kathy

    I know that was a good book if you carried into a restaurant to finish. Hopefully someone else is enjoying it now.

  • Ooooh, I’ve heard of this one before but for some reason I’ve never picked it up. I’m going to go put it on my wishlist now before I forget. It sounds awesome -pretty big chunk of a book though. lol. Glad you loved it!

  • SKP is just too cool for words. She rocks this genre!

  • This was definitely one of the best books I read last year. Good review.

    And the story of how she lost the original manuscript of the book is legend! (basically, it was stolen out of her car, so she had to go and and rewrite THE WHOLE THING!).

  • That’s quite a compliment to say such a long book held your attention the entire way! This does sound interesting. Thank you for the great review!

  • This was my first Penman novel as well and her other works (especially her Welsh Trilogy) are excellent too.

  • I loved this book! I hav en’t read a penman that I haven’t loved.

  • Wow.. great review. I didn’t know of this book. I want (must) read it.

  • Yeah, she’s a rockstar. My mom and I actually have multiple copies of several of her books, because we BOTH want them at hand at ALL times. (We live less than 2 hours away from each other.) She’s one of the few authors I re-read, which is saying a lot since most of her books are huge. Glad you found her!

  • Sharon Pneman is one of my favourite, favourite authors, and this is on of my favourite, favourite books! She is awesome!

  • Luciana

    This is the best fictional book that is “discussing” the Richard III-topic. I´ve read some of books treating this theme- in german, english language because i have to say- the Wars of Roses are my special personal weakness. So based on my read books with ricardian topic i say: this is the best fictional book about it. the characters in this book are described very realistic without trying to make someone better or worse. And the historical facts are too very precise and true. Good done. Because the worst what can be done by writing some fictional books is to make one person (in this case it would be Richard III) saint and its enemy or defeater (in this case Henry VII Tudor)sinner or devil. We all know that nobody is only and just saint or sinner. Awesome book.