In the year 1240 AD, the land of Gwynedd Wales found themselves without a leader when their king, Llywelyn the Great, died at a ripe old age. The natural successor to the king was his son Dafydd, who took on the job of ruler after his death. Soon after taking on the job he was forced to sign a treaty with the king of England and send his brother Gruffudd and his nephew Owain to England to be imprisoned in the Tower of London in exchange for keeping his land and title. His other nephew, Llywelyn, became the new head warrior after his father's imprisonment, travelling the country and patrolling the borders to the north and the south. After four years imprisonment in the Tower of London, Gruffudd died while attempting to escape from his tower cell, and his son Owain was released by the king himself. He wanted Owain to help him start a civil war in Gwynedd. Meanwhile, after finding out about his brother's death from a letter sent by his nephew Owain, Dafydd declared war on England, prompting Owain to escape Winchester Castle, where he had been recovering from his time in prison to find his brother Llywelyn and help him in the war between England and Gwynedd. During the course of the war, Dafydd was killed in battle, leaving the Welsh army without a leader. Being the brave and noble man that he was, Llywelyn called the men to him and, with his leadership, they managed to send the English packing. With the new weight of responsibility thrust upon his shoulders, Llywelyn rode home at the head of the army to find that his world had changed. Now not only was his father gone but his mother as well, and the land of Gwynedd was once again without a leader. It became clear that the best man for the job was Llywelyn himself, and he decided that there was nothing else to do but become the new ruler. He would do anything to keep his people safe, even if that meant taking on a responsibility that he felt he was too young for. He would never abandon his people for anything and let the English take everything from him.
The town of Aberfraw Castle in the Valley of Clwyd Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales in the year 1240 AD
Feeling the need for a hot bath, and a good meal, he started walking down the hallway towards his room. It had been a hard day, but he didn’t plan to stay at home for long. In the morning, he decided he would head into the Welsh countryside to get away and clear his head. Whenever he was troubled, he would take his horse, Arling, and ride off, he didn’t care where, sometimes for weeks at a time until he felt clear enough in both body and mind to return home once more. He had always found the fresh air a balm to his nerves when he was upset over something that had been said or done that he had no control over. He had learned a long time ago that when he was feeling like blowing up it was better just to leave and go away for a while until he felt like himself again. Owain talked about him being reasonable and diplomatic, but in reality he was just as angry and confused as his brother most of the time. He just chose to take himself away and work through his feelings rather than let them burst out of him in anger
He smiled at the thought of his horse. Arling was his pride and joy. He had raised her from a small filly and had trained her himself. Now she was one of the best warhorses in the land, never shying away from danger, and Llywelyn trusted her to carry him through any battle. She was always a brave companion wherever he went, and he always grateful to have her by his side.
Reaching his bedroom door, Llywelyn opened it and went inside. Sitting by the fire was his man-servant Olan, busy cleaning one of his many surcoats. A smallish man, Olan made up for his lack of height with a muscular body. His short black hair, and deep-set lake blue eyes, seemed to see everything, giving him an-other-worldly appearance. This ability to see through any situation had come in handy more than once over the years. He looked up when the door opened and saw Llywelyn standing there dripping wet from the rain. Upon seeing him, Olan put down the surcoat and stood up, giving him a small bow. Llywelyn smiled at him. “Very funny Olan,” he said. Olan smiled back.
3 out of 5 (good)
PRINCES AND KINGS is the first book in A Rose in a Thorn Bush series, and we start with Llywelyn the Great's funeral and his two sons, Dafydd and Gruffudd. Gruffudd's son, Owain, doesn't think his uncle will make a good king and has no hesitation in confronting him. This means that when King Henry of England gives him a choice, Dafydd makes Owain part of the bargain to get him out of his hair. Gruffudd and Owain are sent to the Tower of London as hostages of war, the treaty dependent upon their safe-keeping. All is well until Gruffudd can't cope with being a prisoner any longer and tries to escape, dying in the process. The treaty is broken and war is inevitable.
As a long-term lover of Wales and all things Welsh, I couldn't wait to read this story. Told as third-person and a multitude of perspectives, it gives a rounded view of the events leading up, and including, the defeat of the English by the younger Llywelyn. You also get the see the bond between brothers, even with their vastly different experiences.
Whilst I enjoyed this story, I found it slightly disconcerting when the character's emotions changed so quickly. One of them went from being distraught at the thought of the loss of her husband, to thinking that she'd lost him years ago anyway. And another went from intensely disliking a wife, to having a normal conversation with her in the blink of an eye. And then there is having a funny feeling about someone where nothing else is mentioned or happens.
That being said, I did enjoy this book and think it is a really good interesting start to a series that involves a bloody and brilliant time of Welsh history.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Sydney has a big imagination and has been writing and performing from a young age. After going blind from Leukemia at the age of three, she found release from the medical part of her life through her music and her writing. In high school she excelled in English and history and after she left school she continued to write and to create her music. She formed her band, The Undercurrents with her best friend and drummer, Alex Nacci at the age of 22 and has been playing music with the band ever since.
Her book, Princes and Kings, is her first professional novel and it is book one of the historical fiction series she is writing titled, A Rose in A Thorn Bush about the last king of Wales. She was introduced to her main character in high school and with the encouragement of her Business Abilities coach she finely decided to write his story. Splitting the story into three books. Sydney has always enjoyed reading historical fiction and has found it an interesting genre to write in. After her series is finished she plans to continue writing about different historical British characters for as long as she can. Being Welsh on her father's side and Scottish and English on her mother's Britain is a place that interests her greatly and she has enjoyed writing about one of its characters. Giving her a chance to explore her heritage in a fun and exciting way and she looks forward to sharing her passion for the genre and the history of the British Isles with the world.
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