The Bear King Review

The Bear King Review | James Wilde

Between lock-downs and library closures, I waited a long time for this book. Although it’s been a while since reading book 2, I was instantly transported back into this world, and loved it. Today, I’m sharing my review on The Bear King – third in the Pendragon trilogy by James Wilde.

Publisher: Bantam Books | Date: 2020 | Genre: Historical fiction/Fantasy

Plot: AD 375 – The Dark Age is drawing near . . .
As Rome’s legions abandon their forts, chaos grows on the fringes of Britannia. In the far west, the shattered forces of the House of Pendragon huddle together in order to protect the royal heir – their one beacon of hope.

For Lucanus, their great war leader, is missing, presumed dead. And the people are abandoning them. For in this time of crisis, a challenger has arisen, a False King with an army swollen by a horde of bloody-thirsty barbarians desperate for vengeance.

One slim hope remains for Lucanus’ band of warrior-allies, the Grim Wolves. Guided by the druid, Myrrdin, they go in search of a great treasure – a vessel that is supposedly a gift from the gods. With such an artefact in their possession, the people would surely return and rally to their cause? Success will mean a war unlike any other, a battle between two kings for a legacy that will echo down the centuries. And should they fail? Well, then all is lost . . .In The Bear King, James Wilde’s rousing reimagining of how the myth of King Arthur, Excalibur and Camelot rose out of the fragile pages of history reaches its shattering conclusion .

The Bear King Review

The Bear King Review

I’ve enjoyed this entire trilogy, and this is no exception. Wilde creates a dark and atmospheric world, with hints of the known legend peeking through as characters fight for freedom – not just from each, but from destiny. It’s dark, gritty and hints of hope glimmer through to keep you engrossed.


Since book one, it is the characters that caught my attention with this trilogy.

Catia is the favourite for me: from the beaten wife in the first book, she’s now a Queen. Ruling alone after losing Lucanus, she must balance leadership with motherhood, and never flinches despite war knocking.

The Grim Wolves and the camaraderie between them offer light and friendship. From Mato and his prayers to Bellicus and his shackle of duty and guilt, their loyalty and determination stops all from feeling lost.

There are so many great characters: Gaia in her madness, Myrddin and his cunning, the mysterious Hectae with their own plan and the innocent next generation being caught in their parents’ plots. Now we’re at book three, it’s easy to connect to them and root for your favourites.

Without the emotional investment in the characters, this book might have been heavy, but with it, it’s engaging.

I should not have underestimated you. True, I heard stories of the great Queen in the West…

The Bear King by James Wilde


The Bear King is ultimately a book about destiny, and hope.

The outlook is still bleak at the start for our characters, who’ve already fought so hard to find happiness. Challenges to the throne threatens war, and it’s a power struggle to not only build the biggest army, but win the hearts of the people. Each character must determine the price they’re willing to pay for survival.

It’s a dark book: war, bloodshed and death all beckon, stalking the main characters. But there’s always the spark of hope; friendship, love, loyalty. It’s a clever balance and Wilde does it well.


Wilde’s writing is a balancing act that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since book one. This is a trilogy about war and betrayal, unescapable destinies and sacrifice. Despite the overwhelming odds and the losses, The Bear King – like the others in the series – never feels overwhelming.

The pace is a good blend of large-scale battles and individual problems, snatching moments of relief and allowing everyone to draw a breath. There’s an underlying build of tension heightened by changing narrations at key moments.

It’s ultimately a story of a man finding his way back to his family, and is powerful in its telling.

Final Thoughts

The Pendragon trilogy is a dark and gritty story about fighting for freedom. It’s an effective blend of historical fiction and fantasy, and I’ve enjoyed it from the start. The Bear King is a solid finale to a gripping trilogy and ends on a note that feels right. A definite recommendation!

Do you enjoy historical fiction that touches upon myths and legends? What would you recommend?

Also in the series:

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50 thoughts on “The Bear King Review | James Wilde

    • It’s not a light read for sure but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the entire series, so hope you do like it if you get the chance. There’s a hint of fantasy throughout these as well – not sure if that helps or not aha.


  1. I really enjoyed the passion behind this review. It’s clear that the other books in this series really stuck with you, which is always a special experience. The characters do sound phenomenal! I hadn’t heard of these books at all prior to your review, but I may need to check them out for myself. You’re always so great at introducing me to new titles!


    • That makes me so happy that I’m introducing you to new titles – I know I don’t always follow what’s new and trending with books so it’s fun discovering not so prominent titles.


  2. As you know, historical fiction isn’t really my sort of genre but this does sound really good. Dark and gritty are always my sort of books!


    • It was the perfect ending really which was so satisfying. Oh me too, especially when I try and make the point of re-reading previous books but just didn’t have time.


  3. Why am I not surprised that you loved a Pendragon trilogy? Haha! This seems a little too gritty for me but I love how you broke your review into sections! Made it easier to read your views!


    • Well, what can I say, it is the reason that I picked up the trilogy in the first place! Thank you – I’ve started it as a new style so I’m glad it works.


  4. Neither genre is my go-to but I’m always fascinated by the genre-blending of the two. This series sounds really well rounded with its great characters and incredible worldbuilding. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful review! 🙂


  5. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction but this sounds intriguing. Dark and gritty is my thing and I quite like that it hints at the legend of King Arthur. I imagine I’d enjoy this trilogy. Thank you for linking up with #BWBR, I hope to see you again soon.

    Katrina x


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