Synopses & Reviews
Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of Englands ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce by marrying the English kings beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna, who slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband. But as Johns attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales---and Llewelyn---Joanna must decide where her love and loyalties truly lie.
The turbulent clashes of two disparate worlds and the destinies of the individuals caught between them spring to life in this magnificent novel of power and passion, loyalty and lies. The book that began the trilogy that includes Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, Here Be Dragons brings thirteenth-century England, France, and Wales to tangled, tempestuous life.
“A masterful picture of Wales in the thirteenth century . . . vividly pictured as grandly beautiful, its people volatile, stubborn, and mystic.” ---The San Diego Union
“There is everything in Here Be Dragons but dragons: princesses held captive in stone towers, bloody wars, princes scheming to dethrone their own brothers, castles under siege, maidens in distress, power struggles for half of civilization, rampant infidelity, lusting, mead guzzling, wine drinking, love affairs that topple kingdoms---how did England survive the thirteenth century? . . . History and fiction bound up together in historical novels have always had their own uneasy alliance. . . . Penman deftly makes the mesh work.” ---The Washington Post Book World
“Remarkable. . . . Her writing is faultless, deftly interweaving the threads of the various story lines into a glowing, living tapestry. . . . This is storytelling at its finest.” ---United Press International
“With a fidelity to historical detail, a deep understanding of the period, a lucid, felicitous prose style, a sensitivity to nuances of character, and a sure sense of drama, the new novel by the author of The Sunne in Splendour is an engrossing tale.” ---Publishers Weekly
"A masterful picture of Wales in the 13th century...vivdly pictured as grandly beautiful, its people volatile, stubborn and mystic."
THE SAN DIEGO UNION
Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dreams of uniting Wales. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales--and Llewelyn--Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love.
A sweeping novel of power and passion, loyalty and lives, this is the book that began the trilogy that includes FALLS THE SHADOW and THE RECKONING.
About the Author
Sharon Kay Penman is the author of six critically acclaimed historical novels and four medieval mysteries, one of which was a finalist for an Edgar Award for Best First Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America.
Reading Group Guide
1) Medieval society was rigidly stratified and upward mobility was an alien concept. Can Americans identify with a world in which a man or woman's destiny was almost always determined by birth? Which modern day cultures still subscribe to this type of caste system? 2) Discuss the different status of women in a Celtic society like Wales as opposed to a feudal society like medieval England. Think particularly about the laws and rules governing marriage and the dissolution thereof. Would you rather have been a Welsh or English wife? 3) Do you think that humanity has changed much over the centuries? 4) Discuss the medieval custom of arranged marriages vs. free-choice marriages in our society. Which modern day cultures still arrange marriages? 5) Discuss the impact of a sexual double standard on the characters in this novel. Who benefits and who is punished for their sexual adventures and why? Why was male infidelity perceived as acceptable, and why was it not deemed acceptable for women? 6) How did you feel when you learned that not only did King John marry Isabella when she was only 12, but also bedded her immediately? While the author makes it clear that even in those times, bedding a girl that young was frowned upon, what modern day comparisons do we have to this practice? 7) Why is it that King John was utterly reviled for centuries due to the death of his nephew Arthur and various other dishonorable deeds, when his brother Richard killed even more freely, and suffered little or no consequence? 8) Women were expected to bear as many children as possible, as infant mortality rates at the time were high. Women of noble birth generally gave up their children to wet nurses and nannies almost immediately and contact with their children was limited. Would you be able to conform to this type of arrangement? 9) A constant theme in this novel is Joannas relationship with her father King John, and the conflicts between John and Joannas husband, Llewelyn. If you were in such a situation, how would you handle it? Would you take the part of your father or husband? 10) What did you think of Joannas reasons for having an affair with Will de Broase? Considering the political implications for Llewelyn, did you think he would be able to forgive her? Were you surprised when he did? 11) What did you think of the Popes willingness to use excommunication as a tool to compel kings to do his bidding? Was it an effective tool, or did it cause more harm than good? 12) What did you think of Joannas struggles with her step-son, Gruffydd? Do you think the relationship could have been handled better on Joannas part? 13) Which characters did you find to be the most compelling and why? 14) What did you learn that most surprised or interested you about life in these times?