Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
New York : Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1985. First Edition. Hardcover. 704 pages ; 25 cm. $19.95 dust jacket. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
His mother was Eleanor of Aquitaine, heiress to a vast fortune, wife to the King of France. In 1152, she deserted her husband for a man eleven years her junior.
His father was that man—Henry Plantagenet. He would use Eleanor's fortune to seize the throne of England. Later, he would imprison her within the great keep of Salisbury Castle for abetting his eldest sons in their revolt against him.
He was the youngest—only five when his mother was imprisoned—and he was his father's favorite. He would return that love with betrayal and, through cunning and tenacity, become King in his own right. He was John, King of England.
He was charming, generous, able. And he was brutal, treacherous—his own worst enemy.
She was his bastard, the issue of a liaison that was mere dalliance to a man of his strong sensuality, but was ruin for the woman he trifled with. Hidden from him until her guilt-maddened mother died in poverty—cast out by her own well-born family—she was brought to his court, a bewildered, frightened five-year-old. He would cherish her, cosset her—and yet use her as a political pawn, marrying her at fourteen to a wild Welsh prince. She was Joanna, and he was the father she adored and obeyed.
Even his enemies called him Llewelyn the Great. At fourteen, he began a civil war. Before he was thirty, he held all North Wales. He was John's vassal—and his most bitter opponent, and his vision of a free and united Wales, unencumbered by English laws or English lords, would spur a lifelong crusade, leaving him little time for peace or pleasures. He would marry John's bastard—the word meant nothing to him —and thus secure an uneasy truce. For Llewelyn, the marriage was consummate statecraft. How could he know it would also lead him to a consummate love?
Here Be Dragons is the story of a clash of cultures, of a tribal Celtic world besieged by a Norman feudal society bent on conquest, of a Welsh prince and an English king and a woman, born into one world, married into the other, torn between both, trapped in the crossfire of their implacable enmity.
Told with a richness of detail that brings the England, France, and Wales of the thirteenth century fully to life, authentic in every aspect, sensitive to the intensely felt emotions of people caught up in forces beyond their control, Here Be Dragons is historical fiction in the grand tradition.
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