A sweeping novel of thirteenth-century England, Falls the Shadow
is the story of a weak and willful king and a brilliant but uncompromising baron: once
they had been friends, yoked by ties of marriage and by mutual if irksome need;
they became implacable enemies enmeshed in a brutal war from which only one would emerge
Falls the Shadow is the story of Henry III, cursed with the
Plantagenet temper but lacking the Plantagenet will: faithful son of the Church,
liege lord; father of England's most famous warrior-king, wretched ruler of a rebellious
realm. But for an accident of birth, he might have been a visionary architect, content in
the role of paterfamilias. Instead, he inherited a crown -- and with it, all the problems
left unresolved by the untimely death of his father, King John. Unable either to rule or
to subdue, he would retreat into querulous impotence.
And this is the story of Nell, Countess of Pembroke, youngest daughter of King John,
favorite sister of King Henry. Widowed at fifteen, she swore a holy oath of chastity --
then broke it to wed an upstart Frenchman, scandalizing the pious and infuriating the
powerbrokers, who saw her as a rich prize rashly stolen by a lesser earl -- a foreigner
And Falls the Shadow, finally, is the story of Simon de
Montfort, youngest son of an influential French family, entitled to inherit neither land
nor titles -- who talked his way into an earldom and marriage with the King's sister.
Theirs would be a singular union: founded on a lie, defended by intense carnality, yet
preserved by a fidelity unimaginable in an age of shifting allegiances based on
Uncommonly able and dangerously outspoken, a fierce battle commander and a ruthless
ally willing to risk all in defense of honor, Simon de Montfort embodied the chivalric
code, stirring passions -- for good and for ill -- in all he brushed. It was inevitable
that he would clash with Henry.
Falls the Shadow is a tapestry drenched in the color of its
times, rich in drama and human foible. Filled with the stench of battle and the stink of
betrayal, awash in intrigue and deception, it a tale of lost hopes and broken dreams. Yet
it is also the story of one man's refusal to surrender his vision of a just and righteous
society, for Simon's clash with Henry was no mere struggle for wealth and glory. It was
nothing less than a courageous stand against arbitrary power and as such, it was
ahead of its time. In Simon's challenge lie the seeds of England's greatest gift:
parliamentary democracy. In making that challenge, Simon forfeited life, but became
"It's such a pleasure to read a Sharon Penman novel, not only
because she is a wonderful storyteller, but also because her intelligence and her
adherence to the facts inform each page. She does what I believe every good novelist of
past times must do -- make the characters [and their times] just as real as anyone alive
now. On this score she deserves high praise for her skill. Her Simon and Nell, for
example, are far more riveting than political personalities on the scene today. [In the
year 2480, can you imagine a novelist doing Ron and Nancy?]"
--Marion Meade, author of Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography and Dorothy
Parker: What Fresh Hell is This?
"Because historical fiction tends to be riddled with errors,
historians often look down on it. But Sharon Kay Penman is an author who likes to get her
facts straight. As a result, Falls the Shadow, like her earlier works, becomes a
novel in which history returns to what it was once supposed to be: a kind of literature
that entertains even as it instructs."
--Charles T. Wood, Daniel Webster Professor of History and Comparative Literature,
"Penman brilliantly evokes the medieval world with its deeply ingrained religious convictions that made men believe themselves directly favored or abandoned by God, a mental construct hard to reconcile with 'the seductive allure of a chivalric brotherhood based on the sword.' As usual, she illuminates the events of individual lives as well as the political and cultural forces that characterized this tumultuous era, in a thoroughly engrossing book.""Penman's authentic historical treatment and characterizations capture the imagination and leave the characters well poised for an intended sequel. Recommended."
Hernry Holt & Company
hardcover / $
paperback / $17.95
St. Martin's Griffin