Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Blog Tour of Sunrise in the West: Book One of The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter

Welcome to the Summer Reading Club & Book Blog Tour of Edith Pargeter's The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet.  We begin with  Sunrise in the West:  Book One of The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter.   Organized by Danielle at Sourcebooks, the Summer Reading Club & Blog Tour covers the novels  Sunrise in the West, The Dragon at Noonday, The Hounds of Sunset, and Afterglow and Nightfall over a period of four months.

The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet: Comprising Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall

The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet: Comprising Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall 

 Brothers of Gwynedd

The opening lines:
"My name is Samson.  I tell what I know, what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.  And if it should come to pass that I must tell it so certainly that I tell it as though I had been present.  And I say now that there is no man living has a better right to be my lord's chronicler, for there is none ever knew him better than I, and God He knows there is none, man or woman, ever loved him better."

The blurb:
Lleweln, prince of Gwynedd, dreams of a Wales united against the English.  But first he must combat enemies nearer home.  His brothers vie with him for power among themselves, and their infighting  threatens the very soil of their fathers.  David, brought up in the English court of King Henry III and torn between two loyalties, may be Llewelyn's most dangerous foe -- especially since Llewelyn has no sons.  Simon de Monfort promises his daughter to Llewelyn, but the quest to give Wales an heir may not be enough to prevent tragedy for the country and its prince.

Acclaimed novelist Edith Pargeter spins an absorbing tale of tragedy, traitors, and triumph of the heart.

In Sunrise in the West, Edith Pargeter shows us Wales in the 1200s with its royal family in conflict.  Under the law of Wales, an illegitimate son has an equal right to inherit and succeed his father, so that the firstborn son would succeed regardless of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of his birth.  In contrast, under English law, illegitimate children are removed from the line of succession and it is the first legitimate son who holds the right to succeed.  This difference in the law of succession comes to play in the history of Wales to tragic effect.

In the 1200s, the Prince of Gwynedd, Llewelyn Fawr,  has four children but his firstborn son, Griffith is illegitimate while his second child, David is legitimate. Wales's relationship to England is not fully certain -- though Gwynedd and his children acknowledge the power of King Henry III of England.  King Henry III supports David's claim to the throne over that of his older and illegitimate brother Griffith.  Griffith, his wife Senena, and their children become bitter over David's ascendancy and believe that he has wrongly usurped power, land and riches that by right should go to Griffith.   England's support of David's claim has resulted in a split among the different Welsh nobility, with Griffith at the losing end.  Griffith's wife Senena decides to approach Henry with the offer of an alliance against David with the intention of wresting power and the Welsh throne for her husband.  What is intended often differs from the actual result -- more so when dealing with kings and princes.  

The story of  David and Griffith and that of Griffith's children Owen Goch, Llewelyn and David,  is a story of jealousy, loyalty, greed, pride, treachery, love and patriotism.  After both David and Griffith are dead, the heirs to the throne of Wales are heirs to many of the same mistakes and jealousies.  Just as King Henry III benefited from the fight between David and Griffith,  Henry III and his son Edward are ready to wrest Wales from Griffith's sons.  Edith Pargeter tells us the story from the point of view of Samson, the son of a "waiting woman in the service of Lady Senena."  Lady Senena takes a liking to Samson and sends him to be educated by the priests.  When Senena and her children leave Wales, he accompanies them to England and is in service to the family from then on.  He is tutor to the younger boys and eventually aide to the elder ones.   As England and Wales come into conflict, Samson is much in the thick of it.  

Samson was much shaped by his family and his education.  Upright, scrupulously honest, and idealistic, he is a loyal vassal to his lord and a knowledgeable guide through this time of upheaval.

Sunset in the West opens with Samson talking about his lord. As Samson goes on to tell us the story of the brothers, their love for Wales and their rivalry for the throne, I was drawn in.  The language is of an older time and the narrative runs slow, but it's rich in detail.  I found myself absorbed in the time period and sympathetic to many of the competing characters.  To be honest, I hadn't immediately realized that the volume that I had of  The Brothers of Gwynedd: A Quartet contained all four novels.  But as I was finishing Sunset in the West, I was glad to have all the stories in one.  It is hard to stop reading about Owen Goch, Llwelyn, David and Samson and I've found myself reading the next book in the series the night I finished the first.

ISBN-10: 140223760X - Paperback $16.99
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (May 1, 2010), 800 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Do join us on Monday, May 24, from 7PM-9PM EST, for a blog chat to discuss Sunrise in the West at

Visit the sites on this blog tour:

May 17 Reviews
The Burton Review
The Bibliophilic Book Blog
A Reader's Respite
History Undressed
Linda Banche Romance Author
A Hoyden's Look at Literature
Royal Reviews

May 18 Reviews
Between the Pages
The Broken Teepee
Books and Coffee
Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff
Passages to the Past
The Book Faery
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Martha's Bookshelf

May 19 Reviews
Beth Fish
Deb's Book Bag
Book Tumbling
A Work in Progress
Stiletto Storytime
Queen of Happy Endings

May 20 Reviews
The Literate Housewife
Reading Adventures
Books Like Breathing
Kailana's Written World
Confessions of a Muse in the Fog
Wendy's Minding Spot
Mrs. Q Book Addict
The Life and Lies of a Flying Inanimate Object
Starting Fresh

May 21 Reviews
Loving Heart Mommy
Peeking Between the Pages
Celtic Lady's Ramblings
One Literature Nut
The Book Tree
My Reading Room

May 23 Reviews
Carla Nayland's Blog

Thank you so much to Sourcebooks and Danielle for this review opportunity!

1 comment:

  1. Good solid review Gaby. I enjoyed the old language too; I guess not everyone did.