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May 17, 2010

Book Review: The Brothers Of Gwynedd BOOK ONE

The Brothers Of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter
May 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published October 1990)
Paperback, 720 pages

Set in 13th Century Wales at the time of the Plantagenets, The Brothers of Gwynedd is an ambitious and absorbing saga about Llewelyn, the grandson of Llewelyn the Great, enveloping readers in the guts and glory of medieval Wales. Llewelyn dreams of one Wales, united against the threat of the English. But first he must tackle enemies nearer home. His brothers vie with him for power among themselves and with the English king, Henry III, and their willful infighting threatens the very soil of their fathers. Despite the support of his beloved wife, Eleanor, Llewelyn finds himself starting down his own downfall, a tragic death he might not be able to prevent, and a country slipping out of his grasp.
Originally published as four volumes, this quartet includes Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset, and Afterglow and Nightfall.

There are four titles within the new Sourcebooks release on Edith Pargeter's The Brothers of Gwynedd, and Sourcebooks is promoting it with a Summer Reading Group between bloggers and any virtual visitors that would like to join in. I would love to hear what others thought of the series. The first book, The Sunrise in the West, is what this review will focus on, and the Blog Chat Night for this first part of the quartet is scheduled for May 24th at 7:00pm EST hosted by Amy of Passages of the Past. Please join us there!

The story opens as Samson introduces himself to us, as he is the narrator of the story. He gives us details about his life and his relationships to the brothers of Gwynedd and who they are in relation to Wales. Although what seems to be a very dramatic story, the part about the brothers is slow going. The family chart is helpful because the elders were not fitting into the story properly through Samson's explanations of the heirarchy of Wales. Eventually the elder Gwynedd "fathers" pass away and we left with the four sons of whom the book is focused on. Owen is the eldest, but he is raised in England under King Henry's grace, and is therefore not seen as a true Welshman to the lords there. Llewellyn is the second son who fled England to stay in Wales. These two elder brothers come to arms against each other in regards to the partitioning of land and Owen seems just plain jealous that Llewellyn is more Welsh than he is.

Brothers against brothers, and England against Wales is what the story is about. I would have preferred more theatrics and less factual information, as this is full of so many details that I felt bogged down with each page and it was not a pleasure for me. The writing felt stiff and dry, but it is highly possible that I am in the minority here since I have heard only good things about this series. I did enjoy it when it became more personal, and the relationships that the narrator, Samson, had with those around him were what saved the story for me. Otherwise, I would have given up at page 20. Instead I gave up about page 88 of 186 pages of the ARC of the new release. Those readers who have true desire to learn more about Wales and their struggles in the thirteenth century may find this tome to be a delight. The next book is rumored to flow better with improved characterizations, and the series as a whole seems to be a popular read for those who have particular interest in Wales.

See you at the Chat Night #1 at Passages to The Past on May 24 at 7:00 pm EST

A few other May 17 Reviews:


History Undressed

A Hoyden's Look at Literature

A few May 18 Reviews:

The Broken Teepee

Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell

Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff

Passages to the Past

The Book Faery