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Welsh Princes Books In Order

Publication Order of Welsh Princes Books

Here be Dragons(1985)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Falls the Shadow(1988)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Reckoning(1991)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Welsh Princes is a series of novels by mystery and literary fiction author Sharon Kay Penman. She is an American of Welsh-English-Irish heritage who was born with a love for writing and reading. She wrote her first story when she was six and by the time she was a teen she had written her first novel which she asserts was an embarrassing read that she is happy did not live to see the light of day. Nonetheless, she did not have a story she wanted to write for much of her young adult life and hence her efforts were at best random and sporadic. Things changed when she read the history of Richard II and felt a strong compulsion to write his story. Much of that came from her friends becoming tired of having to listen to her preach about the historical injustice that had been perpetrated in the medieval monarch. The result of her efforts was her debut novel “The Sunne in Splendour” that she published in 1983. By this time, she had spent a dozen years studying and researching Richard and the fifteenth-century era in which he lived. As such, it never did occur to her to write of any other monarch or era. With her debut novel achieving critical acclaim and commercial success, she has been writing historical fiction from the medieval period ever since. Sharon has been lucky to make a living for nearly four decades and now has more than a dozen novels in the “Welsh Princes,” “Eleanor of Aquitaine,” “Justin de Quincy,” and the “Lionheart” series alongside several single standing titles. Her fiction is set in the middle ages and more often than not focuses on the Plantagenet dynasty of England often caricatured as the “Devil’s Brood.”

Sharon Kay was born in New York and spent much of her childhood in New Jersey. As a teen, she moved to Texas where she attended the University of Texas for a bachelor’s in history. She would later go to Rutgers University School of Law for her Juris Doctorate and then went on to practice as a tax lawyer before she decided to become an author. It was while she was still a student at university that she wrote her debut novel “The Sunne in Splendour.” While she has achieved much success over the years, it did not come easy. She nearly quit when her 400-page draft was stolen from her car and she did not write anything for five years. She would eventually rewrite the manuscript into a 936-page novel which by the time she was done had taken more than twelve years of her life. Sharon did all that while practicing as a lawyer something she considers a penance. In the 1980s she moved to Wales to research “Here Be Dragons,” the first novel of the “Welsh Princes” series. She currently lives in New Jersey but still has a home in the Welsh mountains since she gets her inspiration from the rich history of her surroundings.

The “Welsh Princes” series by Sharon Penman is set in 12th century England, a few generations before the time of Richard. The debut novel of the series “Here Be Dragons” tells the story of King John, an unpopular regent upon whom the English barons foisted the Magna Carta. It is one of the most significant documents in the constitutional history of Britain as it granted the citizens rights and protection from authoritarian rule. In the story, John is an overwhelmed king who had tried but failed to maintain respect for the law in England that had resulted in conflict with the English nobles. The second novel of the series which is “Falls the Shadow” is the story of Lord Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester who is also involved in the power struggle in England. He came from a renowned French noble family but did not have titles or lands. Driven by ambition, he had worked his way to the court of John’s son Henry III where he had fallen in love and married Nell the king’s sister. “The Reckoning” the third novel of the series opens to the imprisonment of Prince Llewelyn for life. In the meantime, the marriage between the daughter of a de Montfort and a cousin of Edward the first cause an unlikely truce.

“Here Be Dragons,” the first novel of the “Welsh Princes” series is set in 13th century Wales and England. It tells the love story between Llewelyn the Great and Joanna his bride that was the illegitimate daughter of King John of England. The conflict and development of the story span over several wars as the monarchs of the time always seem to be fighting one war or battle after another. The title of the novel is derived from an ancient technique that was used to make maps. Whenever cartographers had incomplete or no knowledge of areas they were mapping, they would draw and write “Here Be Dragons.” This characterization would indicate that the place presented unknown dangers. The Norman-French and the Welsh had a bitter rivalry for the English crown which meant there were also strongly held prejudices and suspicions at all levels of that society. Despite Joanna’s marriage to her charismatic Welsh husband, she still finds herself in the war between the two nations as she loves her English/Norman-French father as much as she loves her husband.

“Falls the Shadow” the second novel of the “Welsh Princes” series starts right off from where the first left off. After completing the story of Joanna and the Prince of Wales Llewelyn, it starts telling the tale of their offspring and the turmoil and conflict they have to deal with as the new rules of Wales. The story is told in parallel to the rise to power of Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman that married Eleanor the sister of Henry the third of England. It is a novel of two halves as the first reacquaints us with Llewelyn the Great his daughter, his warring sons and his horrible daughter in law in addition to Llelo his delightful little grandchild. The first half of the novel tells of a vicious fight for control of the British Isles between Llewelyn’s sons and grandchildren and the marriage of his only daughter. The second part of the novel is the story of Montford’s dramatic rise and fall from glory. He had been at the forefront of fighting for parliamentary reform which Henry had fought for years. The second part involves some plotting for the resultant civil war and introduces Edward I who was then just a lad.

“The Reckoning” the third novel of the series is the conclusion to the “Welsh Princes” trilogy. It tells the story of the last Llewelyn and the children that had been born to Simon de Montfort. They are all linked to King Edward Longshanks, one of the cruelest of English monarchs and son to the ineffective King Henry. The story tells of the manifest destiny of King Edward and his ruthless desire to destroy the independence of Wales that until then had maintained its autonomy. Penman does a great job turning the multifaceted family relationships, politics, and historical figures into a charming story. The novel analyzes the tortured relationships that Llewelyn had with his siblings Rhodri, Davydd, Owain, and his relationship with young Simon Bran hi de Montfort relative.

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