THE KING'S SHADOW by Elizabeth Alder


Age Range: 12 & up
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 A solid historical novel about the end of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom (106366)--a kind of colorized version of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. In the early pages of her first book, Alder takes her most daring step when her hero Evyn gets his tongue cut off and is sold as a slave to the mistress of Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and future kind of England. Evyn learns to read and write; as slave, then squire, and finally as foster son to Harold, he is witness to the hectic final days of the kingdom: Welsh rebellions, a shipwreck in Normandy, the death of King Edward and Harold's ascent to the throne, the defeat of Norway, and the Battle of Hastings. Evyn's role remains mostly peripheral--a spectator rather than a player. The plot sticks to the Chronicle and as a result has something stolid to it--a historical novel with history, not fiction, at the center, filled with heroic stereotypes straight out of the romance legends of the Middle Ages. If the characters are clichÇs, they are not cut out from cardboard, but from a medieval tapestry. Alder is an accomplished stylist; her prose is polished and often inspired. Chapter openings quote the Chronicle, setting a tone of quiet dignity, the language elevated, the syntax slightly archaicthe author has a huge vocabulary, full of period words and Old English in italics. Everything is intricately woven into one unbroken whole; Alder spins a good story, and what she spins best is description. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-374-34182-6
Page count: 257pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1995