Take a gander at the new face of Edith Pargeter's classic medieval saga, The Brothers of Gwynedd. Originally published as a series of four separate novels in the 1970's, the publisher Sourcebooks has gathered all four stories and bound them up in one giant, 800 page tome for your historical reading pleasure.
The original Book One of The Brothers of Gwynedd
A Reader's Respite first read The Brothers of Gwynedd many years back in one of it's previous incarnations and we can recall being quite smitten with this medieval tale of the first and last true Prince of Wales, a formidable Welshman named Llewelyn.
A precise and accurate author of historical fiction, Pargeter magically recreates Wales in 13th century, a region struggling to maintain it's own heritage and remain independent from England's Henry III and his son, Edward II. This story quickly evolves into a rich saga full of love, loss, betrayal and triumph.
Sourcebooks is turning this re-release into quite a party this summer by sponsoring a Summer Reading Club featuring this historical fiction classic. Throughout the summer, participants in the Reading Club will gather to talk about each successive book in the quartet. This month, of course, will feature Book One: Sunrise in the West, which sets the stage for us....
The tale of Llewelyn is narrated by his childhood companion and close confidant, the fictional Samson. Officially, Samson is Llewelyn's clerk, since he is skilled in writing and languages far and above the average Welshman of the time. His narration is quite detailed and deliberate, almost formal in the telling, yet he is above all an honest storyteller and doesn't hesitate to present the players as they really are.
Samson recalls his boyhood and in doing so, introduces us to Llewelyn and his three brothers (yes, these are The Brothers of Gwynedd the title refers to) while skillfully weaving in the history of Wales as it pertains to this story. The imprisonment of Llewelyn's entire family by Henry III of England, his father's death and the cruel separation of siblings are just a portion his formative years and go far in making him the man he will become.
After the death of Llewelyn's uncle, the kingdom of Wales is up for grabs, so to speak, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Henry III wants it for his eldest son, Edward; the marcher barons want it to enlarge their holdings and wealth; and of course, the brothers of Gwynedd feel entitled to it as well and prove willing to even betray each other in order to lay claim to Wales.
But carving up Wales only makes it weaker and it is Llewelyn who has the foresight to see that a kingdom divided cannot survive. His mature-beyond-his-years wisdom and cunning battlefield skills will unite Wales as it had never been before and create a powerful kingdom that will unnerve that irritating neighbor called England.
Make no mistake: this is a very complex novel filled with those convoluted Welsh surnames (evidently they didn't believe in the overuse of vowels) that requires concentration on the part of the reader. But when read with the deliberation with which the story was written, we found it to be one of the most rewarding historical fiction novels we've ever read. We felt that way the first time we read it and we were pleasantly surprised to find that we still feel that way even all these years later. Perhaps that is why The Brothers of Gwynedd is considered by so many to be a classic example of the historical fiction genre.
On May 24, from 7-9 pm EST, Passages to the Past will be hosting the first Summer Reading Club discussion about this novel, so if you find yourself with nothing to do that evening, please do join in.
In June, we'll revisit The Brothers of Gwynedd with the second story in the quartet, The Dragon at Noonday and A Reader's Respite will fill you in on the rest of this compelling Welsh saga.
You didn't think we were going to keep this to ourselves, did you? A Reader's Respite is very happy to give away a copy of Sourcebook's new publication of The Brothers of Gwynedd to one random commenter here on this post. Just tell us you're in and on May 24th, we'll pick a winner at random and mail you a copy (even international peeps can enter!). We'll keep our grubby old original copy and share the love with this new publication.
Just make sure you check back here on the morning of May 25th to see if you won and claim your book!