Pendragon’s Banner by Helen Hollick
“Pendragon’s Banner” is the second book in Helen Hollick’s ‘Pengdragon’s Banner’ series and follows the story of King Arthur from where “The Kingmaking” left off, so there are naturally some spoilers in this review, although not any more than if you already know the basic legend of King Arthur. Heck, the fact that I’m calling him ‘King’ Arthur is already a spoiler for “The Kingmaking,” but then so is the title of “The Kingmaking” itself. Sorry, you’ll just have to deal with the spoilerliciousness.
At the beginning of “Pendragon’s Banner,” Arthur has indeed become King of Britain and, surprisingly, has begun making peace and alliances with the Saex. I was initially shocked by this, since Arthur’s big problem with Vortigern in “The Kingmaking” was his relationship with the Saex, but Hollick won me over with this as something that Arthur would reasonably decide to do, even if he couldn’t fully convince his supporters that it was a wise choice.
So much personal drama for the Arthur and Gwenhyfar! Their marriage definitely hits some rocky patches with the pressure of the whole King of Britain thing going on. Like the rest of Arthur’s followers, Gwenhyfar doesn’t always understand why he is making the decisions he is making. I noted in my review of “The Kingmaking” that there seemed to be quite a lot of violence against of negative attitudes towards women. Although Hollick doesn’t try to bring 21st century attitudes into the 5th century, I was pleased to note that there seemed to be far less of this in “Pendragon’s Banner.”
I really appreciate that, while these books are Arthur as he would have been as a post-Roman war lord and are fantasy-free, they also show you glimpses of where the more mystical legends could have developed. Definitely a worth-while series if you’re interested in Arthur.
Thank you to Paul at Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of this book to review.