Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons

"Here Be Dragons" is a historical novel by Sharon Penman, first published in 1985. It is the first of her trilogy of novels about the medieval princes of Gwynedd, the second and third volumes being "Falls the Shadow" and "The Reckoning".


The story centres on Joanna, illegitimate daughter of King John of England. Having been taken in by her royal father after her mother's death, Joanna goes from the poverty and squalor of her early childhood to a comfortable palace existence. She grows particularly close to her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. When her father becomes king, she is married off to Llywelyn, Prince of Gwynedd, who is twenty years her senior. He treats the adolescent girl kindly, but continues to keep a mistress until Joanna complains and shows her fiery temperament.

Joanna and Llywelyn's happy marriage is marred only by the resentment of Llywelyn's illegitimate son, Gruffydd. Joanna gives birth to two legitimate children, Elen and Dafydd. Growing animosity between the English and Welsh results in Joanna having to act as a diplomatic intermediary between her husband and her father, and the situation is made worse when Gruffydd is taken hostage by John and narrowly escapes execution.

Joanna becomes determined that her own son, Dafydd, will be his father's heir as ruler of Gwynedd, disregarding the Welsh law that all sons should receive equal shares of their father's inheritance. Family disagreements lead Joanna into an affair with a younger man, William de Braose, whom she has met earlier in the story when he was a hostage in Llywelyn's household. Their affair is discovered and William is executed. Joanna is placed in secluded captivity, but at the end of the book Llywelyn comes to find her and offers her forgiveness.

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