Shadow of the King by Helen Hollick
At the opening of “Shadow of the King,” we join Arthur on his way to Gaul to fight the Goths before they overrun his lands in Less Britain. However, when he receives notice that Gwenhwyfar is gravely ill – and fails to receive word of her healing – suddenly nothing seems as important any more, and events are set in motion that will change the future of Britain. As Arthur ages, he must look towards the future of his country and who will follow him, which is a crisis in and of itself.
It has been awhile since I read the first two books in this trilogy, so at the beginning of the book I was somewhat disconnected from the characters, and the way Hollick jumps from character to character in each of her short thriller-like chapters didn’t help. I was drawn into the story as some of the misunderstandings came to light and the characters’ emotional responses were explored more, but by the end of part 2, around page 400, I started thinking that perhaps 400 pages would have been a good length for the book. For the next 30 or 40 pages, I was still grumbling about the excessive length of Hollick’s story, but – almost without me realizing it – I suddenly became extremely engaged in the last 150 pages or so, staying up until 1:00 this morning because I was so determined to finish and find out how Hollick was going to end Arthur and Gwenhwyfar’s story.
I like where Hollick went with her version of Arthur, a realistic story without any magic or elements of fantasy, but laying out events that could have been a real-life basis for the myths and legends that would later surround the story of King Arthur. If you enjoyed the earlier books in this trilogy, I would definitely recommend finishing up the story of the Pendragon with “Shadow of the King.”