Welcome to the inaugural Sourcebooks Summer Reading Club Book Chat Night!

 Thank you for stopping by and WELCOME to the inaugural Sourcebooks Summer Reading Club Book Chat Night!  Woo Hoo!  

Let the fun begin!!!

Tonight we will be talking about The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter, Book One: Sunrise in the West.


Here's how it's gonna work.  We'll start off with question #1 and after we talk about that a bit I will add question #2 to the post, so please REFRESH YOUR PAGE to see the new question...and so on and so on.

This is a first for Danielle at Sourcebooks and I, so please bear that in mind.  Also, feel free to ask any questions you'd like in the comments section or you can email me at passagestothepast@gmail.com if there is a topic you'd like to talk about OR if there's a problem with the page or post.  


Questions

1. When Lord Griffith and his family commit treason and defect to the English court, only Llewelyn decides to stay behind and support his Welsh homeland. Though still a child, Llewelyn has such a strong sense of loyalty to Wales that he breaks his ties to his family and abandons them to return home. How would the first part of the novel been different if Llewelyn had remained loyal to his family instead of his country? Is a person’s family or country more deserving of their undying loyalty?


2. Though both arranged along a hierarchy, the expectations for members of the English and Welsh courts are very different, with the English court utilizing servility and the Welsh court members knowing their place, but respecting each other more as equals. Which is the better way to rule a kingdom, with a strict iron fist or with strong and respected authority? Do the attempts of fratricide and rebellion within the Welsh court give evidence that equality can weaken a ruler’s authority?

3. The legitimacy of an heir is a prominent issue in the first part of the novel and the main reason for bad blood and war between two generations of Welsh rulers. Do you agree with the English that only a child born in wedlock can contend for the throne, or should any child born to a ruler be considered a possible heir? Does being a ‘bastard’ undermine a person’s authority to rule in a land that is heavily governed by religion?

4. Samson not only finds the means to escape an abusive parent when he joins the priests at Aberdaron, but he also gains an immense amount of education and wisdom through their tutelage. How has the knowledge he gained there helped him in his young adult life? Has his introverted personality and tendency for observance been a hindrance to Samson at all?

5. The rivalries between Lord Griffith’s four male children reaches new heights when Owen and David battle Llewelyn for the land and rights they feel they are due. To Llewelyn, this opposition from his two brothers seems to come on suddenly, but Samson alone knows that David had been feeling resentful for quite some time. If Samson maintains his loyalty to Llewelyn by dismissing David and his grievances, why then does Samson not tell his prince of David’s dangerous jealousy? Is Samson to blame for letting the rivalry get so far along by remaining silent to both sides?

6. Upon returning to Wales from his childhood asylum in England, David begins to wage an internal war between the lavish memories of his happy, though traitorous, upbringing and the guilt he feels for not defending his homeland in the war. Does David fight for his quarter of the Gwynedd realm out of a guilty need to prove himself to the Welsh people or is it his haughty pride that urges him to war in the hopes of gaining money and a title like he had as a spoiled child in England?

7. There are many different reasons why the people of Wales defect to England at the onset of war; some because they felt safer with a more powerful kingdom, some due to grievances over land, and others with the hope of benefiting from the Welsh Lord David’s ruin. Are there ever excusable reasons to commit treason? When the brothers are first reunited and Samson saves Llewelyn from being murdered by Owen, his vassal, is this treasonous act excusable?

89 comments:

  1. I would definitely have to answer that for me a person's family is above everything else, but then again, I'm not a prince of Wales. I think that Llewelyn's time spent at his uncle David's court instilled a deep sense of his responsibility to his country and it's people and I believe that is what he was acting on when he chose to stay behind in Wales.

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  2. Hello! I hope I'm not the only one here. :)

    I'd go with family over country, myself, but I thought Llewelyn had a good point -- his mother's defection was tantamount to treason. If he'd followed along, he would have been imprisoned as well, so it would have completely changed the story. There wouldn't have been anyone from the illegitimate branch left behind, right?

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  3. 'Ello Bookfool...Exactly! When his uncle, King David died, Llewelyn was in prime pouncing position for that crown! Another what if moment in history - maybe England would've swallowed Wales whole with Llewelyn and his family imprisoned.

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  4. I agree with the family over anything but it makes me think of what military are taught today. It is God, Country, and then Family. I often wonder about things like that, when did it start and was it a tradition that was born then?
    Laura

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  5. I think often in cases of royalty one's family and country are the same since of the responsibility of one comes as part of being family. Llewelyn was still loyal to both only he had to choose what part of his family to be loyal to while still serving his country.It was impossible for him to be loyal to every member of his family. He had to make a choice.

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  6. Hi Everyone! Sorry I'm a few minutes late... I just want to say thanks to everyone who is here (even the lurkers!), and I hope this all goes well.

    And as for the question, it's hard for me to imagine choosing my family over something else, but in a time when all you had sometimes was your name, I think I could see where Llewelyn was coming from. He had a difficult choice to make. I loved the sense of honor and duty that came through.

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  7. A family doesn't necessarily do things that are good for all its members. If David and Griffin had thought about the family, they would have worked together instead of fighting. So, LLewelyn was following in his family's footsteps by going his own way. Not that the decision was easy for him. Griffin and David's feud played right into England's hands.

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  8. Welcome Laura, Danielle and stiletto...all great points there!

    I think that Llewelyn did what you thought best for his family, even if it meant not going with them. He wanted to stay and fight so that there was a country his family could come back to.

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  9. Amy - Undoubtedly. You know those Brits were always trying to take over everything.

    Laura - I've never heard that, but the only military person in our family is a brother-in-law I've barely seen. Interesting.

    Hi Danielle! I agree with you about the sense of honor and duty. I kind of admired Llewelyn for stating his feelings and riding away, but allowing the family to at least get away safely. He really did honor his family, his obligations and his country.

    Stiletto - Excellent points.

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  10. You are very right Linda and especially a ROYAL family at that.

    And that's exactly why King Henry III split Wales up the way he did...he knew that there was bound to be fighting and that would just make it easier for him!

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  11. Family over country is a good question. It's hard to go against your family because you know and, presumably, love them. However, the welfare of your country affects so many more people. Lord, I hope that I'm never put in that situation.

    In this situation involved in this quartet, I would say country. There was so much infighting. Someone has to put the whole of a nation first.

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  12. Hmm, not sure I have an opinion about #2, except to say that it was dangerous being royal, period, and fratricide certainly wasn't limited to the Welsh court.

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  13. Sorry I am late....

    I think that there was as much fratricide and the like in the English royal families.

    The lust for power drives that regardless of a social order.

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  14. I've always been a believer that ruling by fear is never the way to lead a country. A leader should be a person that earns respect as well as gives it. An honest and well-intentioned leader would not need to rule with an iron fist.

    The English courts are also filled with tales of fratricide and rebellion, so it doesn't seem like either way works very well ;-)

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  15. I think to an extent that equality does weaken a ruler's authority. If everyone is on the same level, it seems you might lose a bit of that authority. I think a strict iron fist is too much but it has to be that clear distinction for the authority to work.

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  16. "The lust for power drives that regardless of a social order." - that is spot on Pricilla!!! I agree completely!

    And I can see your point Laura! Maybe what a good leader needs is a good combination of both!

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  17. For question 2- I think history shows that the strongest countries have the most tyrannical rulers. A tyrant can get things done quickly, whereas if everyone speaks their mind, a lot of valuable time is wasted. When speed is necessary, the fewer voices the better. But part of England's success may be that it had more resources. Wales, like Scotland and Ireland, is a small, rugged country with few people. The more people. food, etc, a country can amass, the stronger it is. And England had all the resources.

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  18. Excellent point Linda! A tyrant can get things done quickly for sure, but at whose expense ultimately? A lone person with unlimited and unchecked power is a scary thing!!!

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  19. It is amazing what has happened in this world due to that lust for power...

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  20. I'm not advocating tyrants. Living under them must be sheer hell. But they do get things done, at least until someone topples them.

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  21. I didn't really let any of the story sink in much.. There was too much going on in real life so I couldn't enjoy this one much. I don't have anything intelligent to add but just wanted to make an appearance.

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  22. Linda is absolutely right. You also pretty much always know where you stand.

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  23. Given the proclivities of royals at the time - if what we read is true - if all of the illegitimate children were in line for the throne of England they might still be fighting it out.

    Marriage lends a formality to a union - be it civil or religious. Of course, religion was the biggest form of control and power in the times we are discussing.

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  24. Oh of course not Linda...I wasn't implying that at all. I'm just talking about both sides of the tyrant coin.

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  25. Question 3 is a tough one. I would want to think that any child born of a royal should have enough claim to the throne as they are coming from the same royal blood. My thinking with this is that does it take two royals to produce a royal heir? Often a King may marry someone that wasn't royal until marriage so that negates that. Or maybe it is that a bastard isn't legitimate due to it not being a planned child? That sexual union was out of lust and not love and necessity to reproduce in a marriage.

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  26. I think the whole question of "legitimacy" is just another way of limiting the possible contenders for a throne, the way the various Salic Laws removed women as contenders. Anything to tilt the odds in the direction the people in power wanted it to go. Cloaking it in religion was window dressing, but very effective window dressing, since it played into the culture of the time and so many of the "little" people, not knowing any better, bought into it.

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  27. I think that legitimacy is a must. If for no other reason, it keeps any number of men from claiming to be a king's bastard and expecting a place on the throne. A wife can only produce a limited number of heirs. Any number of mistresses can produce any number of potential heirs. There has to be some way to guarantee a more peaceful succession.

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  28. I think you are right with that Linda. It was often what worked for them at the time and the rules seems to change often to benefit their main goal or hidden agenda.

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  29. All excellent points! I think there was more than enough sibling rivalry for the throne to throw the illegitimate children into the mix!

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  30. Wales at this time seemed to be part democracy and part monarchy. As we've been saying, a single ruler gets faster results than having to take multiple viewpoints into account. Infighting always takes a toll.

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  31. He is obviously the vehicle for telling the tale.

    And I suspect he observes far more than a person might in the position normally.

    But we wouldn't have the story without him, would we.

    I have to go put to goats up for the night so I'll be gone for a bit. But I'll be back.

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  32. I'm on the side of legitimacy for the sake of limiting the number of people who could lay claim to a thrown, but I have to admit I thought it was kind of cool that the Welsh didn't even have a word for illegitimate children.

    Side note - we have a developing storm and I may have to disappear shortly, so I just want to say thanks to Amy for hosting this chat, in case I have to dash off. Thanks, Amy!

    And, thanks to Danielle. I have not managed to wedge myself into a local group, so I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this book!

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  33. Question #4 is up!

    Samson was a wonderful character and I really was drawn to him from the start. I believe that his quiet and unassuming ways wasn't a hindrance at all, but quite the opposite. He learned patience and discipline while with the priests, which greatly assisted him as Llewelyn's clerk.

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  34. I like Samson. He's the human face in this story. The other characters are real people, and Edith Pargenter can take only so many liberties with real people. I think Samson lives too much in his head. So when he finally finds a woman he's interested in, he falls really hard. Not that I advocate David's penchant for falling into every available bed!

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  35. I liked Samson too and I think the way Pargeter portrays him made this part of the book for me.

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  36. David was a charmer for sure!! And I really liked that little piece of romance with Samson, I wasn't expecting it and I hope their story continues in Book Two. I actually kinda miss Samson...he always had such great observations and really knew how to read people.

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  37. I don't think that education made Samson any more reserved than he already was by nature. I do think his observational nature saved him from his step-father, but was somewhat detrimental for his readers. I wanted him at least more emotionally involved in what was happening all around him.

    I have to put my girls to bed and will jump on later if I can. It's been fun discussing this with everyone.

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  38. I loved Samson, too. He seemed disciplined and strong because of his time with the priests and, certainly, his knowledge opened up opportunities.

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  39. Bookfool: in case you have to dash off, thanks for coming and providing such great insight and comments! And yes, thanks to Danielle. I'm another one who wouldn't have gone out and done something like this, but it's really nice to chat about this with you all!

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  40. I do like honorable men, and both Samson and Llewelyn are honorable. Which probably means that they'll both die horrible deaths. This is historical fiction, not romance--no guaranteed HEA. Aarg!

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  41. Hi & bye Literate Housewife!! Yeah, I would've liked to have seen Samson with a little more spunk. I think that being around the brothers and their big personalities made Samson shrink a bit. It seemed to suit him, being in the shadows. Seeing and hearing everything, but not being seen or heard.

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  42. I agree Amy and thanks to you and Danielle. I have been looking for a book group to join and tried to start one and just not much interest in my area. I especially like that this one is an historical fiction selection, I don't have many friends that read this genre and is nice to find a group and discuss one.

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  43. Thanks, Amy. I'm keeping my eye on that radar. :)

    Linda - LOL! So true!

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  44. Ahahaha @ Linda's comment....sad, but so true ;-) Maybe that's why I like HF - it's not guaranteed HEA, just like real life!!! Great point!

    Laura - I know exactly what you mean! I don't know anyone outside of blogland that reads HF and it's such a bummer not being able to find a group like this. This won't be the last time I do it on here that's for sure! I see this being a regular feature!

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  45. I think that is why I was drawn to Samson with him being almost the outsider that had a glimpse into that world. I often think that is why I am so drawn to reading, I am the outsider getting to be a "fly on the wall" if you will and delve into other's lives if only for the brief amount of time it takes me to read the book.

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  46. As as aside, Bookfool, I love your avatar.

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  47. I think having Samson stay a quiet, somewhat shadowy figure was almost a necessity. Imagine if he got on someone's bad side. It makes sense that the author created a shadowy, strong figure to use as the narrator. She was able to stick him in the middle of events without taking a risk that he would end up being written right into a dungeon.

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  48. Ooohhh!! Amy I think you have made my night! I have dabbled in reading this genre for awhile but have gotten to the point where I can't get enough of it. I am sorry, I'm a bit off topic here for the discussion.

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  49. Laura - YES...a fly on the wall! That's what I feel like when I read GOOD historical fiction and it's an amazing feeling to be able to transport yourself back and out of reality for a while ;-)

    haha....great point Bookfool! I didn't think of it like that!

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  50. Oh Laura honey - I know the obsession you are speaking of and there is no cure but MORE historical fiction!!! I swear, I have never been as passionate about anything as HF and I love to share it with others like everyone here. It's like our own little community and it's a lot of fun!

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  51. I agree with Bookfool--having a narrator that we can trust to observe is always fabulous in historical fiction, because you get the broader picture.And with Laura, too, it's like you are right there, which I totally felt reading this book!!

    Also--thanks to everyone who has popped in! This is so much fun :)

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  52. Question #5 is up and it's a doozie!

    I don't think that Samson realized the depth of David's animosity and resentment until it was too late. Like he says in the novel...with the aid of hindsight is he able to look back and see the warning signs.

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  53. I agree, I thought Samson should have said something about how jealous David was. As much as I like how honorable LLewelyn is, he's blind in some important ways. For example, he can't believe David can be jealous of him. I think Llewelyn's honor will do him in. Because he won't do certain things, he thinks no one else will, especially not someone close to him.

    Oh, I see the unhappy ending coming. Llewelyn, open your eyes before it's too late!

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  54. I agree Danielle. In my review that I posted, not sure if anyone has had a chance to read it or not. But I posted that I felt like Samson was an old friend or someone I had sat down with on the front porch listening to his old stories. I just really connected with his character as narrator.

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  55. Linda - Thanks! That's me in my thinking cap if I had no hair. Har.

    Laura and Amy - Same here; I would love for this to become a regular thing and adore that "fly on the wall" sensation that allows you to peer into a world . . . you know, without getting your head chopped off. LOL

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  56. Oh I am with you Linda! Llewelyn wasn't very good at seeing beyond his own way of thinking and that doesn't bode well for his future, unless Samson starts speaking up!

    Laura - yes, yes, yes! Nicely said!

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  57. sometimes you don't want to see the worst in the people you care about.
    Until.
    then you look back and see the signs you should have seen.

    Llewellyn so thought he was in the right and the right one to lead. This can lead to that blindness noted in a comment above.

    Heavens re: HF. I have been reading it for years. I thought it was the norm for reading. I hardly started reading current fiction 'til I started traveling around in the fifthwheel and my book budget went to heck and I had to deal with the "trading libraries" at campgrounds.
    heh

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  58. Question #6 is now up!

    I think maybe at first David wanted to prove himself to the Welsh people and his brother Llewelyn, but when the honeymoon period was over with his newly gotten lands and he began to miss the glitter of the English court and wished he had some of those riches. But I think guilt played a bigger part in it than greed.

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  59. David was so young and grew up in a far richer court and I suspect he thinks it will return if he is Prince with his own lands.

    Little does he realize of the stresses of ruling. And I suspect of the real differences between the two countries.

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  60. #6 - I think David is the fly in the ointment. Like Owen, he is so anglicized, he's pretty much forgotten what it is to be Welsh. And he's jealous as anything of Llewelyn. He fought Llewelyn because he wanted to defeat him. David tells on himself. He begged Llewelyn to keep him locked up because he would cause trouble, but Llewelyn wouldn't believe him. For the time being, he's Llewelyn's ally, but I don't think it will last.

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  61. Amy, I agree with you. I think it was sort of a combination of all the things mentioned in that question. At first he wanted to prove himself to his brother and then to the people. But when he realizes how hard it is to run a country... it really opened up his eyes.

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  62. Right Pricilla - David had the experience of the court, but not of actually ruling a country and what all of that entails.

    Linda - very nicely put and you are surely right about David not being his ally for the long haul!

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  63. Oooooh, like real life....
    heh
    thank you

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  64. I think that there are instances where treason is acceptable. If it weren't for treason, the US might not exist. It is hard to say when it is warranted or not but in some instances I think it is.

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  65. In those days treason could mean so many different things and I am sure that whether or not it's excusable depends on which side you're on. I think that to royalty there is NO excuse for treason, but for the commoners sometimes you had to do what you had to do.

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  66. That is a tough one.
    There was no excuse for Owen to try and kill Llewellyn. Samson was entirely correct to stop Owen even though to Owen Samson's act was treasonous.

    I think whether treason is ultimately acceptable is only proven by history.

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  67. Laura--that is a really interesting point! I never thought of it that way before. And I agree with Pricilla that sometimes you can't figure out if something treasonous was necessarily bad or... necessary! Just think about if things had happened otherwise... would Wales even exist as something separate from England? What kind of chain of events would follow?

    Really great points everyone!

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  68. I fibbed...I have one last question for everyone.

    What was the most interesting story line or aspect of BOOK ONE for you? For me I can't stop thinking about the relationship between Samson's mother and his step-father and then ultimately Samson and his step-father. That last scene with them together was really touching. His mother could never give any piece of herself to her husband yet when he was gone she talked about "HIM" all the time and then her about "HER". Ahhhh, I liked that for some reason!

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  69. #7- Treason, like history, is defined by the winner. Some of the defectors were trying to play one side against the other and profit. But, I think most were trying to survive in a harsh time any way they could. We're brought up to be loyal, steadfast, and true, but real life forces hard choices. In medieval Wales, there were so many ways to wind up dead. Anyone with their back to the wall will do some harsh things. Is there a saying, only the rich can afford morals?

    That said, you have to protect yourself. Llewelyn finally had enough of Owen and kept him locked up. As much as I admire Llewelyn, I think he's too honorable. Survival in those times required some less honorable traits.

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  70. I respected Llewellyn's decision not to leave with his mother yet not to tell of her going.

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  71. "Only the rich can afford morals" - that is brilliant Linda! If there isn't a saying then I say it's yours!

    Harsh times require harsh measures and Llewelyn's complacency will be his undoing.

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  72. Amy I wondered about that too. How she talked about him and seemed to miss him but didn't seem all that interested when he was around.

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  73. I liked Samson and Cristin, even though I doubt it will work. I think Edith Pargenter did a masterful job of introducing her husband, and of showing Samson's reaction. And what about her husband? He didn't come after her because he was recovering from wounds? With not a mark on him? I don't think so.

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  74. Oh that's right Linda - I forgot about there not being a mark on him...that's shady and now I really want to know what he was up to and how that story plays out.

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  75. I want to thank Amy and Danielle.
    I enjoyed this.
    My hubby is home now so I have to cook dinner.

    I enjoyed the first book and can't wait to review the second book.

    Thanks for the opportunity!
    Patty owner of Pricilla the goat

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  76. Have a great night Patty and thanks so much for joining us. You were awesome and I really appreciate it! Say hey to Pricilla for us ;-)

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  77. Amy, I think I read "Only the rich can afford morals" somewhere. But I'd be happy to take credit for it! *grins*

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  78. I have to go now too. This was fantastic! See you all next time.
    Laura

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  79. Well it's about that time kiddos, but I want to thank ALL of you for being here and providing some great comments and insight...you girls ROCK and I had a blast tonight and I hope you did too!

    I'm really excited for the next 3 Book Chat nights and will definitely be there for those!

    Thanks to Danielle for creating this fantastic feature - you did a great job pulling it all together and thanks for letting me be a part of it!

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  80. Thank you, Amy and Danielle. Until next time, then.

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  81. I also wanted to mention that this discussion is by no means over. The comments section will stay on so please feel free to comment on the Chat Questions or on any of our comments here or on the comments that commented on our comments.

    Clear as mud?! Heehee

    But seriously - I know you all have opinions but couldn't make it here and I'd still love to hear them and add my 2 cents ;-)

    Thanks all for making this a great night!

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  82. Glad you all had fun! I would like to find a summary of the Book one so I can read book two, any suggestions of wheere the best summary was?

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  83. Well - I can't believe I missed the discussion! Came home from work at 7:30 central and sat down to watch the finale of 24. I completely forgot until I walked over to set up my computer. AARGH! So Sorry.
    I will have to go back and review the comments.

    It is a difficult choice between family and country. But especially when you are the "ruling" or "royal" family I think I can understand and appreciate Llewelyn's decision to stand for country. I think royals are truly taught to focus on country above all else. I don't see Llewelyn as abandoning his family...More accurately the other family members abandoned their country.
    The book points out a true flaw of the selfish elder brothers, Lord Griffith and David, fighting/feuding instead of working together for the good of all instead of one.

    It is really hard to answer all these discussion questions in a blog chat format without feeling like I'm righting a massive answer! Time to read a bit.

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  84. Late to the party when I just woke up, but I can see that is has been a very interesting question.

    I do like the fact that the Welsh court did not look upon bastards as something wrong, and that they could inherit. At the same time that is a system that could lead into trouble since political alliances will surely have led into a marriage and the bastard then stands outside.

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  85. I thought Samson's quiet detachment made him a good narrator for the story. He seems to be trying to understand all the sides to the conflicts (even Edward I, in the later books), and I always like to see both sides. Re #5, my feeling is that at the time Samson had no reason to think David would act on his resentment and didn't want to stir up (further) mistrust between David and Llewellyn that might not be justified. Warning Llewellyn about David's jealousy would risk the possibility of causing a conflict between the brothers, the very last thing Samson would want. As someone said above, it's only with hindsight that he sees how significant it was. Re #6, guilt, pride, jealousy, desire to get Llewellyn's attention, desire to prove himself, boredom - any or all of them, and probably more. David is such a complex character and so full of contradictions, even at this stage when he isn't much more than an adolescent. He gets more and more fascinating and contradictory as the series unfolds. I rate him as the star, though Llewellyn is definitely the hero.
    (Apologies for the late post; I'm in the wrong time zone to join the discussions live!)

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