The Kingmaking is book one of the Pendragon Banner Trilogy by Helen Hollick. In one sentence this book is about Arthur growing from boyhood to manhood, from untried to experienced, from soldier to king. He is shaped by his times, loving women and drink freely and openly. It gets him into trouble more than once - the most serious time exposing him to the clutches of the current king and his manipulating wife and daughter. Forced into marriage with Winifred, Arthur's full of self-loathing and fury, because instead of being married to a woman he truly admires and respects (Gwenhwyfar) he's stuck with a spoiled rotten manipulative whore. If only he had kept it in his pants!
Arthur must decide which is more important - his quest for kingship or the love of his life?
Winifred is determined to keep Arthur for herself now that Gwenhwyfar has brought him to her attention. She bears Arthur one sickly daughter who soon dies, and one son, which he begets with her during the voyage from his home in Less Britain back to the king's court. Not very smart of him since he was planning to divorce her so he could marry in the Christian way his beloved Gwenhwyfar. (He married her by the Old Way before leaving Less Britain and doesn't know it but impregnated her.)
You will find that Arthur is the reason behind most of his anger and regrets. He tends to get in his own way by being loose with morals and engaging with whomever strikes his fancy. He says he loves Gwenhwyfar, but his actions lead him to many beds of slave and servant girls. It's not clear, but I am certain he also found himself in bed with more than one gentle female. Plainly put, he is used to pleasure and to not denying himself. However while we know many of his illicit trysts, most of the details are rendered vague or skipped over.
Luckily for Arthur he seems to straighten out once he's gone through the divorce and married Gwenhwyfar. Of course he almost slips up during the last stages of her pregnancy but a quick spat settles it. Loving and marrying Gwenhwyfar soothes the spoiled and selfish side of Arthur, but his barriers have not yet fallen down. I expect we will find him (more) enamored and open with Gwenhwyfar in book two, the Pendragon's Banner, which I'm greatly looking forward to reading.
Hollick's trilogy promises to combine a legendary hero with political intrigue, historical research (and obvious fictional interpretations of it), romance, and a quest for ultimate power. Harry Potter for grownups. Now try to wrap your tongue around half of the names... haha.
Rating: 4-4.5 Stars