Review: Shadow of the King (Book 3, Pendragon's Banner Trilogy) by Helen Hollick

Shadow of the King
by Helen Hollick

The third and final installment of Helen Hollick’s Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, Shadow of the King, finds Arthur and Gwen at Caer Caden, their kingdom in Britain. Arthur has been king for 11 years and though they are both still grieving over the deaths of their sons, they are basking in the love of their baby daughter.

Arthur is sent on a fool’s errand to Gaul under the pretext of war, but this turns out to be a ploy to get him away from his kingdom, leaving it vulnerable to invaders. Namely, his uncle Ambrosius, whose ultimate goal is to bring Britain back under the fold of Rome. But, Ambrosius is not the only one gunning for Arthur’s downfall and he again must prove that he is the Pendragon.

It’s rare that you find a trilogy where all 3 books hold up against each other. There’s bound to be one that‘s not quite as good as the others ….not so with this trilogy. I loved every one of them and I can tell you right now that I will be re-reading them again.

What I liked most about Shadow of the King was how we saw Arthur dealing with defeat for the first time and how he comes to terms with it. Hollick has a talent with bringing her characters to life – no one-dimensional people here – but I feel like I really got to know Arthur, faults and all and it made me love him even more. And who could not like Arthur’s queen, Gwen, who is the quintessential heroine …strong, courageous and fierce! And Arthur’s band of Artoriani are brave, loyal men who live to serve their King with everything they have. With their help, Arthur is able to shed his cloak of self doubt and return to Britain, to fight for his kingdom.

We meet up again with Winifred, Arthur’s first wife who he set aside to marry Gwen. Still calling herself Lady Pendragon, she will do anything in her power to get the crown for their son Cerdic. This tenacious ambition of hers will ultimately lead to her downfall. Cerdic, who loathes his father, the Pendragon and who has made it his lifelong mission to kill Arthur and take his lands has teamed up with the Saxons and invades Britain.

There isn’t one thing about this book that I didn’t like. Hollick’s writing is one of the best I’ve come across and her descriptions are so vivid that it seems as if there’s a movie screen in front of you, playing out the scenes as you’re reading. The characters emotions are very real and so relatable that you feel yourself empathize with them even if they are one of the villains! How I would love to see this novel on the big screen, but then again, I don’t think anyone could do it justice. (besides your own imagination).

Now, for those of you that may be put off by the size of this book…don’t be! It may seem huge, but with the chapters at 2-3 pages each it flows really quickly. I know I was so enthralled that I didn’t even look at the page numbers. Well, that is until the end when I knew I only had a few left and then I was like NOOOOOOO and read really slowly until the last page, savoring every word like a priest savors meat before lent.

Oh, and let me warn you – make sure you have some Kleenex handy and also, make sure your loved one isn’t in the room with you, so that they can’t make fun of you for crying about people you didn’t even know! Heehee.

Highly Recommended!

FCC: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.




  1. Glad you liked this one too, Amy!

  2. What a great review...I am definitely lusting after this book!

  3. (Blush) Thank you Amy for one of the best reviews I've ever had.

    I found it so hard to write Shadow of the King because I could not part with Arthur (I'm not giving anything away - everyone familiar with the Arthurian tales will know how the story must end.)I solved the problem by writing the last chapter first, then went back to the beginning.

    If it makes you feel any beter Amy - I cried buckets writing that final scene and I still cry when I read it!
    Perhaps I should have suggested Sourcebooks added a free packet of Kleenex with each copy? :)

    Thank you again for your support and enthusiasm. It is very much appreciated.

  4. Read book 1, despised everyone and everything.
    But glad to see that people are enjoying this series :D

  5. I've only read the first in this series, but I hope to continue. I REALLY dislike Winifred, though, and don't particularly want to see more of her...

  6. I had gotten all 3 of them from the Amazon UK site and after reading them, have just fallen in love with Helen Hollick as an author!! I loved this series and could not read it fast enough (which is a big problem for me when I get a book I love!). Now I will have to read them over again and savor each one!

    Have you read her other books - Harold the King and A Hollow Crown? Both are, again, exceptional books! And I hear that she is currently writing one about William the Bastard....weeeee!!

  7. Aarti - you're not supposed to like Winifred she's the ultimate nasty character :-) Read on; she get's her just deserts in the end. (It was great fun to write such a horrible character by the way!)

    Blodeuedd, oh well, can't win 'em all eh? What a boring world it would be if we all liked the same things though?

  8. Thanks for this review! I have the first in the series on my pile to be read soon and knowing the series is so good makes it all the more exciting. :)

  9. Haven't read any of them yet, but the whole series is on my wishlist.

  10. This is a series I have been dying to read and your review has made me want to even more!

  11. I have got to get this series. Being relatively new to your blog, this is the first I've heard of it. It sounds like a well written, intense series with finely written characters.

  12. My copy shipped today! Yay! I devoured the first two books and can't wait to see how it ends!

  13. great review, it sounds excellent.
    I read the first in the series and need to read the rest.


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