(For review from Sourcebooks)
After his brother David’s third and worst betrayal, and the consequent disastrous defeat by Edward I, Llewelyn is left as prince of a much-reduced Gwynedd and forced to swear fealty to Edward as the price of peace (events told in The Hounds of Sunset.) The bitterness of Llewelyn’s defeat is at least partly compensated by the happiness of his marriage to the beautiful and heroic Eleanor, daughter of Simon de Montfort. But no-one with Edward I for a neighbor, or David for a brother, can expect to live peacefully for long. Edward and his officials relentlessly undermine the terms of the peace with injustice after injustice. As Welsh grievances against Edward mount, David is goaded into action. His loyalty may prove more fatal to Llewelyn than his treachery, as he strikes the blow that unleashes Edward’s wrath against the princes of Gwynedd.
In the final section of, The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet, "Afterglow and Nightfall" we learn the conclusion of what is to become of each of the 4 brothers as well as fictional narrator, Samson and his beloved Cristin. At this point in the story we veer away from much mention of the two minor brothers in the saga, Owen Goch, "Owen the Red", who ends up fighting for Edward during this time and Rhodri, who is established in England after giving up his rights in Gwynedd. The two main characters have always been, Llewelyn, the Prince and Wales and David his youngest brother.
These two characters are historical figures and Edith Pargeter tells her story from a very Welsh point of view. It stands to reason that history may not have portrayed these two brothers in quite the way Pargeter does in her novel. But, considering them as characters, Llewelyn is very strong and courageous. He is honest in his dealings with everyone and has a very clear vision of a united Wales. In this last part of the book, we see Llewelyn during the happiest point in his life and during his lowest point. His marriage to Eleanor de Montfort has finally come to fruition but, in the end they have a very short lived love, when Eleanor dies in childbirth. Llewelyn's sadness at Eleanor's death is almost palpable in the book and his character dives all the more seriously into the struggle for Wales. His death on the battlefield is certainly not what I expected. Tricked almost into captivity Llewelyn realizes that his men are in danger and races back to his camp only to find most dead or wounded and falls victim to a remaining soldier's lance.
David's character has always been the pivotal one in the story. David is charismatic and beautiful, yet he is feared beyond any other on the battlefield. He has reconciled with Llewelyn at this point in the story even though he has betrayed him almost to his death three times before. But, David has always been aware of who he was and what he was capable of. He has finally begun to understand Llewelyn's great passion for Wales at this point and brings about the final blow to Edward. Edward's rage is unbounded where David is considered as we see in David's final hours, as he is not only killed for his treason, but mutilated in satisfaction of Edwards hatred.
Samson one of the fictional characters in the book has always been my favorite. He stands with Llewelyn through thick and thin and does not desert David in the end either, having great love for both brothers. As Llewelyn's clerk and dear friend he has seen both brothers in the happiest and darkest times in their life, all the while pining for the love of Cristin. In this final section of the story we find that Godred, Cristin's husband has betrayed David to his death and Samson ends up killing him in the end in retribution for his deeds. Cristin and Samson have loved each other for a long time but never betrayed her vows to her husband and her marriage. In the end we see Samson and Cristin together as they should be and happy just to be alive and together, ending the book on a slightly happier note.
This book is very long and filled with a lot of historical information about Wales and the real brothers of Gwynedd. Pargeter has done a wonderful job bringing David and Llewelyn to life and letting readers see the great passion that existed in the fight for unity in Wales. I loved the book and couldn't have been more sad to see it end. But, even as you read the story you knew the way the book had to end. Knowing history, some people were aware of the outcome before reading the story, as I was, but I was truly captivated by the way each brother was portrayed and knowing the ending didn't affect how how I viewed the story.
I have reviewed each section separately and I want wrap that all up by giving you links to my review of the other 3 sections of the book as well.
I truly enjoyed this book! Take the time to read it and get into it, you will begin to really get a sense of what life was like for these characters and understand their great passion for Wales. I was not very familiar with Wales when I began the book and am really interested in finding out more and learning about Wales now that I've become acquainted with it.
The Brothers of Gwynedd is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
For the final section of the book, "Afterglow and Nightfall" as well as the entire book, I gladly give this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! Definitely a favorite of mine this year.