In the third installment of her Sons of Mercia series, Woods (Godric the Kingslayer, 2011, etc.) steers real-world historical hero Edric the Wild through bars, battlefields and his bold stand against the Norman Conquest.
This reimagined story of Edric’s life begins with him as a 16-year-old boy who awakens the morning after a brawl with Osbern FitzRichard, only to find himself accused of killing one of Osbern’s knights. The courtroom declaration of Edric’s innocence is only one juncture of the multifaceted, often brutal relationship between Edric—noble-hearted son of the “Kingslayer”—and Osbern, an authoritative young Norman who acts like a madman and struggles with a voice in his head he attributes to Ezekiel. Edric and Osbern, the two enemies, battle against a backdrop of English–Norman distrust. From strained meetings with their fathers to their unconventional means of embarking on matrimony, the off-and-on rivals are frequently juxtaposed to powerful effect. When Edric proposes to a probable fairy woman he barely knows, both of the boys’ grips on reality become questionable. What at first appears to be an open-and-shut case of insanity softens into possibility, as certain outlandish claims by Osbern, via his personal channel to Ezekiel, come to fruition. The plot takes alternating forms of dual family sagas, wartime actioner, traditional epic fantasy and humor-tinged thriller, which Woods skillfully layers with an appealing writing style. There are frequent surprises, too, and history buffs hungry for lucid detail will be pleased by the story’s impressive level of historical accuracy.
A tense, occasionally explosive epic of family, friends and foes.