A Rose in a Thorn Bush
If you read only one historical fiction this year why not make it Princes and Kings, A Rose in a Thorn Bush? Ms. Williams sets her tale in the imagined and historical Wales and south of England at a time when the two were distinct and seemingly endlessly at war. We find both countries ruled by ineffectual and autocratic rulers. The focus is on the Welsh side of the conflict where the next generation bides its time and is poised to improve upon the situation if only they can overcome inertia and obstacles in their path. This is a feat of imagination that transports the reader to a medieval time. Infused with stale straw and sweet brandy, horse stalls and smokey town squares we see and smell this world through the senses of several of its main characters. This is the first of what is promised to be a three part series and as such sets up what could be a better time for the people of Wales. But will it? Treacherous plans are hatched, heads roll and men chase each other about with swords in this sweeping tale by WIlliams. What’s not to like?
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 a 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 on 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 to 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 changes so quickly. One of them went from being distraught at the thought of the loss of her husband to her thinking that she lost him years ago anyway and another went from intensely disliking a wife to having a normal conversation with her in a blink of an eye and then there is having a funny feeling about someone were 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.
The Faerie Review, Princes and Kings Book Review
This was an interesting story. It was fascinating watching everything unfold and following Llywelyn as he reluctantly took up the mantle to lead his people. Owain and Llywelyn were so different in many ways, but bonded by loyalty to their people. There were a few times where things moved a little slowly, but overall the plot went at a smooth pace. I thought Williams did an excellent job of transporting the reader back in time and bringing the characters to life overall. Perfect for historical fiction lovers.
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