Rating: 5/5 stars
I’ve been asked in the past why I consider Sharon Kay Penman the standard when it comes to historical fiction. I’m gonna try to put it into words.
If you try to verify an incident in one of her books, no matter how unbelievable, you will find it happened. To me, she doesn’t tie together a series of events and look to create a believable or even palatable narrative around it, she writes what happened while painting you a possible picture of why. What that means is that if a character dies in a random place in history because of time and unforeseen occurrence – that is what will happen in her book, regardless of how jarring it is to the reader or the narrative. I have learned when reading her books not to become too attached to any character – and I mean ANY ( or at least I attempt not to- I have cried during her books) and it gives every battle, interaction, and sickness an underlying suspense you just can’t have otherwise. Also if your main character did something out of character- it’s not left out to make the hero narrative fit. So you are left with flawed, well rounded characters.
Falls the Shadow is the story of Simon De Montfort. As the blub says, he is :
‘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 story is a continuation of Here Be Dragons which is another 5 star read I HIGHLY recommend and yes, you should read that book first. You find out the fates of the main characters of that novel while reading this book.
This book took me through soooo many emotions. I LOVED picking it up to read and seeing where the story took me. The battle sequences were riveting – there was one towards the end of the book where I couldn’t breathe. The characters are well done. I loved De Montforts’ wife Nell and the different personalities of his sons and his friends. Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, is a strong secondary character and we see him as a little boy in the beginning of novel and watch as he grows into his role. He will be the main character in the third and final book in this trilogy. The dynamic between Wales and England is a huge part of the novel. Of course I know what ultimately happens, but I am looking forward to seeing how we get there.
Definitely recommend. One of the best books I’ve ever read. If you have not checked out Sharon Kay Penman’s body of works, trust me, you are missing out.