The Warrior Princess

Written by K. M. Ashman
Review by Meg Wiviott

The Warrior Princess opens in December 1135, when Wales is relatively calm under the rule of the conquering Normans. Pockets of Welsh resistance do exist, however, and when King Henry I of England dies and a battle for his crown ensues, Welsh loyalists see their opportunity. Gruffydd ap Rhys, King of Deheubarth, and his wife Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, daughter of the King of Gwynedd, had abandoned their lives as leaders in the Welsh rebellion to live in quiet anonymity rearing their sons in peace. But peace is difficult to achieve in the Welsh Marches. When the English capture their eldest son, Gruffydd and Gwenllian are forced to once again join the rebels.

Ashman immediately draws the reader into the story by creating a believable and historically accurate world. The characters, both historical and fictional, are mostly rich and well-developed. One exception is John of Salisbury, Constable of Pembroke, who is a single-layered antagonist. Gruffydd (called Tarw) and Gwenllian are both driven by conflicting desires, to save their homeland from invaders and to protect their four growing sons. Ashman makes Gwenllian, the only Welsh woman in historical records to take up the sword, the leader of the Deheubarth rebels, which provides a refreshing change. Women had more rights in Welsh than in English society, so the twist is not implausible. Some may find the end of the story to be abrupt, but Ashman has deftly set himself up for a sequel.