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Here Be Dragons (Welsh Princes Trilogy) Paperback – January 1, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 350 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A masterful picture of Wales in the thirteenth century . . . vividly pictured as grandly beautiful, its people volatile, stubborn, and mystic.” ―The San Diego Union

“There is everything in Here Be Dragons but dragons: princesses held captive in stone towers, bloody wars, princes scheming to dethrone their own brothers, castles under siege, maidens in distress, power struggles for half of civilization, rampant infidelity, lusting, mead guzzling, wine drinking, love affairs that topple kingdoms---how did England survive the thirteenth century? . . . History and fiction bound up together in historical novels have always had their own uneasy alliance. . . . Penman deftly makes the mesh work.” ―The Washington Post Book World

“Remarkable. . . . Her writing is faultless, deftly interweaving the threads of the various story lines into a glowing, living tapestry. . . . This is storytelling at its finest.” ―United Press International

“With a fidelity to historical detail, a deep understanding of the period, a lucid, felicitous prose style, a sensitivity to nuances of character, and a sure sense of drama, the new novel by the author of The Sunne in Splendour is an engrossing tale.” ―Publishers Weekly

From the Publisher

        As a publisher I have been lucky to be able to visit bookstores all over the country, independent and chain alike. What interests me first about these stores is what titles are being displayed in the 'Staff Recommends' section of the store. It is here that you can find treasured, beloved books quite dear to someone who works in the stores, someone waiting quite eagerly for the chance to hand sell their recommended titles.

        It is in these Staff Recommend sections that I kept on seeing our Penman's titles, HERE BE DRAGONS, FALLS THE SHADOW, THE RECKONING and also SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR and WHEN CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT.
It's funny, you can sell something for years before you notice that the author has been quietly making a powerful impact on people everywhere.

        I started with HERE BE DRAGONS and I have never looked back. Her trilogy of the decline of the Welsh kings ( DRAGON, FALLS THE SHADOW and THE RECKONING)is a holiday gift I give year after year, and I'm happy to say they have always been embraced and loved. From my 15 year old niece to my 70 year old mother and many ages in between, all readers are enchanted and transported to a land and an age gone forever. But Penman makes them live forever in our minds and hearts with fantastic, unforgettable characters and wonderful history. HERE BE DRAGONS is such a great title--medieval mapmakes would write those words across any part of the map that was unknown.. a wonderful metaphor for how little the Welsh and English knew of each other.

        SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR--Warning: This is not Shakespeare's Richard III. In this novel, Richard is a victim of circumstance and man vilified by the Tudors, but here presented as a decent and normal man, a man of conscience.
AND he is not a murderer. Yes, those princes did die, but not by Richard's hand.


Another wonderful title, for it refers to the 15 years of England's darkest time-the civil war between the cousins Queen Maud and King Steven. England was deserted, for Christ and his saints were sleeping. I had never even heard of these royals. Queen Maud was the legitimate heir to the throne, but a woman, and there fore not fit to rule. She is also the mother of Henry, who later married Eleanor of Aquitaine . Pretty heady stuff, more incredible men and women, another book to get totally lost in.

        Although it has been years since all these books were first published, I can name 5 stores I have been in in the past 3 months that have one of these titles in the Staff Recommends section.

-Alice Kesterson, Ballantine Regional Sales Manger --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Series: Welsh Princes Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312382456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312382452
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an American of Irish-English-Welsh heritage, and I currently live in New Jersey, although many of my readers imagine I am happily dwelling upon a Welsh mountaintop--but no such luck. I was once a tax lawyer, which I looked upon as penance for my sins. Like most writers, I was born with a love of the written word, although I never expected to be able to support myself as a writer; when you read about starving artists in their garrets, most of them have starving writers as roommates. But I was very lucky and I have been blessed to make my living as a writer for the past twenty-seven years or so. All of my novels--eleven at last count--are set in the Middle Ages, and focus upon England's most colorful dynasty, the Plantagenets. It is almost as if they lived their dramatic and often wildly improbable lives with future historical novelists in mind, and I am very grateful to them--especially to the Angevins,Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their equally famous children, known to their contemporaries as the Devil's Brood.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the first book in the Wales trilogy (the others are Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning). Penman emerged long ago as one of the best historical novelists and continues to solidify her reputation with each new release. Her special genius lies in the bright and shining historical detail that she can weave into both plot and dialog (she's a very good student of history and at times is absolutely brilliant in conveying to us the workings of medieval minds).
There is no doubt that Penman's novels will stand as great reads for ages to come. Her plots are always complex (because the history of these times was quite convoluted). She does an excellent job of keeping it all straight for us as she leads us through the maze of characters. If you read the history of these times you quickly come to see what a great job she does in her design of the story.
There may be a bit too much time spent on the romance of Llewelyn and Joanna, but there does seem to be a calculated story line running that proves itself as the bond between the two weaves itself into the historical facts of the complex relationship between King John and Llewelyn. Penman's true genius is the broad historical scope that is painted on top of the shimmering details of brief moments. It truely does feel as if you are living the story yourself, and it is this bringing us readers in as witnesses that stands as Penman's contribution to the art of the historical novel.
If you prefer to read in chronological order:
1101-1154 When Christ And His Saints Slept (Vol 1 of Trilogy)
1156-1171 Time And Space (Vol 2 of Trilogy)
12th Cent Devil's Brood (Vol 3 of Trilogy)- not yet released
1192-1193 The Queen's Man
1193 Cruel As The Grave
1183-1232 Here Be Dragons (Vol 1 of Welsh Trilogy)
1231-1267 Falls The Shadow (Vol 2 of Welsh Trilogy)
1271-1283 The Reckoning (Vol 3 of Welsh Trilogy)
1459-1492 The Sunne In Splendour
11 Comments 376 of 385 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I was first introduced to Sharon Kay Penman through her so-called Medieval mystery, The Queen's Man. Eleanor of Aquitane was so vivid and real, so drawn was I to that character, that I bought Here Be Dragons just to see more of this most regal of matriarchs. Before doing so I read reviews here on amazon.com that indicated that The Queen's Man was a far cry from her best work, that her best was to be found in the longer, historical work. I scoffed, thinking that these were disgruntled, spoiled readers who didn't know how to adapt to a change from their favorite author. Barely 50 pages into Here Be Dragons, I realized how horribly wrong I was. Every time I set the book down, whether it be to turn off the light to sleep, or finishing lunch at work, or getting off the train in the morning or evening, I felt ripped away, so very much out of place.
Knowing little about the history of the period, I allowed SKP to be my guide, stopping along the way to check facts, names and places, always impressed when I found her accuracy to be perfect. Would that all history read with such passion, such verve!
SKP writes emotion as accurately as she does history. I have experienced the loss of a loved one, myself come too close to death, and when John died, her telling of it kept me up, staring at the ceiling for nigh on thirty minutes, my own memories brought back, real and cold. That tears fell, I am not ashamed to admit. I cried for the death of the evil King John.
A shy romantic in life, I care little for romance in my fiction. Imagine my surprise when I found myself more interested in the relationship between Llewelyn and Joana than virtually anything else. History is stranger than fiction, true, and this was as unlikely a pair as could be imagined.
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8 Comments 133 of 144 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Everyone else on this page seems to have lauded this book quite aptly, but I just had to add my own opinion, so strongly did this work effect me. I grew up on knights and castles, Robin Hood and the Arthur legends, so when this book fell into my hands a few years ago it naturally captured my attention. It wasn't long before it captured my heart as well. I've always found Penman to be a good writer; her other works--"Sunne", "Saints," and "Queen's Man", however, are nothing compared to her Welsh trilogy. Somewhere, somehow, she hit true inspiration, and dammit, it shows. The prose are beautiful--that passage at the end of "Dragons" is so lovely!--her characters are fully realized and completely captivating. Yes, I fell in love with Llewelyn, too! It's like one of those old movie epics--but a GOOD one, for once! It's got everything: battles, politics, romance (!!), and above all, a fascinating, marvelously accurate window into a world so completely unlike our own, and yet people with characters we become so attached to, whether we like them or dislike them. Read it! You'll love it! Only one word of warning: enjoy the happy ending in "Dragons" because it does not get any happier. The trilogy gets even better as it progresses through "Falls the Shadow" and "The Reckoning" but trust me--stock up on kleenexes! You'll need them! This is an excellent series for anyone who has a passion for Plantagenets, history, and above all, romance.
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