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Here Be Dragons [Paperback]

Sharon Kay Penman
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 27 2008

Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England’s ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce by marrying the English king’s beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna, who slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband. But as John’s attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales---and Llewelyn---Joanna must decide where her love and loyalties truly lie.

The turbulent clashes of two disparate worlds and the destinies of the individuals caught between them spring to life in this magnificent novel of power and passion, loyalty and lies. The book that began the trilogy that includes Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning, Here Be Dragons brings thirteenth-century England, France, and Wales to tangled, tempestuous life.

Frequently Bought Together

Here Be Dragons + Falls the Shadow: A Novel + The Reckoning
Price For All Three: CDN$ 49.07

  • Falls the Shadow: A Novel CDN$ 15.87
  • The Reckoning CDN$ 16.60

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Product Description


“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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
HE was ten years old and an alien in an unfriendly land, made an unwilling exile by his mother's marriage to a Marcher border lord. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Sharon Kay Penman is a remarkably gifted writer. Her impeccable historical research, attention to detail and superb storytelling ability make her novels consistently excellent. "Here Be Dragons" is one of her best efforts. It is the second book in her Plantagenet series, which include "The Sunne In Splendour," "Falls The Shadow," and "The Reckoning." Each of these wonderful historical novels stands on its own, however, and while it is an extraordinary experience to read each book in order, one does not have to do so to appreciate the history, the characters or the period.
Ruthless, power hungry King John Platagenet ruled 13th century England with an iron fist. He was determined to bring Wales, a country divided, under his thumb and into his power. Charismatic Llewelyn Farr, Prince of Northern Wales fought to unite his country's nobility and provide a strong front against the English. He finally succeeded in securing a tentative truce with England by marrying King John's beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Initially wary of her new husband, her father's enemy, Joanna grew to love Llewelyn passionately over the years, but she was constantly torn between the politics of Wales and England, and her love for her husband and her father.
This is a complex saga of historic characters, politics, intrigues, betrayals, bloody battles and wars, romance, lust, power struggles, princesses held captive, revenge and forgiveness. Yet once begun, this extraordinary epic is almost impossible to put down. Ms. Penman portrays Wales, its people, culture and landscape vividly with glorious detail. It is fascinating to become involved with the characters and realize how linked they are by common ancestry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book April 30 2004
This is the first of a trio of books about Medieval England and Wales. Most of the characters in this book of historical fiction really existed. King John, who has been demonized by the Robin Hood tales, was a strong king of England who loved his children dearly and loathed his enemies. Llewellyn, the first Prince of Wales dreams of a united country. King John dreams of subduing Wales and Llewellyn. When King John marries his (...)daughter, Joanna, to Llewellyn, Joanna is at first reluctant and frightened. However, she comes to love her husband and finds that she must chose between spouse and father.
Ms. Penman writes with incredible power and emotion. Her history is well researched, and her characters, settings and dialogue are all incredibly believable. You may find that when you put the book down you are wondering, just a bit, exactly where and when you are. I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I had hoped Aug. 18 2003
I picked up this book at the recommendation of several people and I truly wanted to like this book more but I couldn't.
The reason that I couldn't like the book more was the major female character of Joanna. She has a real conflict between loyalty to her husband Llewelyn and her father King John of England. This conflict I can understand and it added depth to her character, but there was another conflict for Joanna and that was trying to reconcile her memory of her father as kind and loving with the truth of the King who was often ruthless and cruel. I can understand that conflict also, but the combination of the two made Joanna act in irresponsible and often just downright stupid ways. I suppose Ms. Penman was trying to express the confusion, hurt, and pressure that these two conflicts caused in Joanna, but the end result was a stupid, naïve character that I just thought of as a spoiled brat.
Ms. Penman leans toward romance and much of the book was about the love between Llewelyn and Joanna. Because of Joanna's inability to make an intelligent decision, this love was tested often. By the time that Joanna pulled yet another stupid decision and had an affair with a man that she herself admitted she didn't love and Llewelyn sent her away, I was truly hoping the Lllwelyn would stick by his guns and live the rest of his life as a tragic figure.
Ms. Penman is capable of producing strong and interesting female characters as evidenced by the inclusion of Eleanor of Acquitane (John's mother). I see that Ms. Penman's book Time and Chance deals with Eleanor and it may coax me to read another of Ms. Penman's books. So I haven't written her off yet.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Romance first, Historical Fiction second March 8 2003
"Here Be Dragons" begins in the year 1183 and covers events up to 1237, this is the story of Llewelyn, the Welsh prince of Gwynedd, who was successful for a time in uniting the warring tribes of Wales to fight against the English (Normans). The cast of characters in this novel include Richard the Lionheart, King John, Eleanor of Acquitane, Philipe of France and numerous other counts, lords earls, princes etc. The research that went into this book is awesome, Penman's style of writing makes these historical characters come to life, and it's easy to imagine them as real people. Perhaps though, too many events have been crammed into one story, sometimes years have passed between chapters, and there are so many characters and too many repeated names, for example there are three men, a grandfather, father and son all named Will de Braose.
The main storyline is the marriage and love between Llewelyn of Wales and Joanna, daughter of King John - she is given to Llewelyn in marriage when she is only 14 in the hopes of making peace between England and Wales. This novel is first a romance, there is much superfluous sex which has nothing to do with historical events, so much space devoted to falling in love, romance and male/female relations during this period of history.
If you love romances and are interested in picking up some history while enjoying a great read this one will be a page-turner for you. However, if you're a connoisseur of historical fiction, the Harlequin romance style could be a turnoff.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Historical Fiction
One of my very favourite authors. This book is one of the best and most historically accurate historical fiction stories.( I have done some research of my own). Read more
Published 2 months ago by Marion ottawa
5.0 out of 5 stars Here Be Dragons
I bought this book as a gift for a friend who enjoys historical novels as I do. I have read all of Penman's books and wanted to introduce him to them by starting with the first... Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2012 by L. Aldridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow.
I had read The Sunne in Splendour when I was in high school, and had fallen in love with Sharon Kay Penman's writing style. Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2009 by Anastassia R. Waddell
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book. Ever.
I read this book 14 years ago, and it still stands out in my mind as the best book I've ever read. After all these years I still remember the people - Joahnna, Llewellyn, John -... Read more
Published on May 15 2004 by M. OConnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Well-Written
The book may be long, but not a word is wasted. The love story of Llewellyn and Joanna is timeless and relevant to modern times. Read more
Published on May 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars More than words
This is a beautiful book! There are not many books that read as well as Sharon Kay Penman's. They are effortless reading. Read more
Published on April 18 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Who needs sleep?
This was the first "historical" novel that I have ever read. Due to the size of the book (over 700 pages), I figured it would take me weeks to read it. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars History Leaps Off The Pages
Having been recommended this book, I finally broke down and bought it. If my high school history classes were half as entertaining, I might have become a historian! Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by J. Fenk
Sharon K. Penman is a true breath of fresh air in the genre of Historical Fiction writers, in that, she actually cares about getting the history right and the language right;... Read more
Published on July 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
This is a wonderful historical fiction, and a great love story. Fans of Diana Gabaldon, Bernard Cornwell and similar authors will enjoy Penman's attention to detail, realism, and... Read more
Published on May 19 2003 by Marnie White
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