Prepare to have your buckles swashed: in the tradition of Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, this historical fiction depicts the people and events leading to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Damsels, Druids, Kelts, Vikings, mysterious knights-errant, jousts, mighty steeds, and chivalry are all part of this thoroughly enjoyable, well-written historical novel. Vint (The Brothers Reno, 2014, etc.) breathes life into history with beautifully drawn characters and nonstop action. Readers first meet Harold Godwinson, in line for the Anglish (English) crown when he survives a shipwreck and is taken for ransom by Count Guy from Normandy. Guy’s cousin is William the Conqueror, a man who trusts no one, particularly relatives. After William relieves Guy of Harold, a medieval bromance ensues in which William learns to trust and Harold, who until then was a womanizing, carousing loner, falls for William’s daughter, Adelize. As friendship grows between the two nobles and love blossoms between Harold and Adelize, William offers to build a castle for the lovers, but Harold wonders if he is truly a guest or just a pampered prisoner. Before leaving for England, Harold is tricked into taking a loyalty oath to William. On returning home, Harold is chosen by the dying King Edward to be the next king, despite Harold’s son Tostig being next in line. Meanwhile, William feels betrayed by Harold and plots his invasion. Tostig, who escapes after an unsuccessful attempt on Harold’s life, tries first to side with William, then with Haarald Hardrada, the Viking king of Norway, and the rest, quite literally, is history. The final Battle of Hastings scene is long, detailed, and exciting, with pageantlike sideshows of personal duels and jousts. Well-rounded, detailed characterizations of the main players are offset somewhat by the bad guys like Tostig, who tend to be sniveling, traitorous foils.
Whether interested in the history of the Middle Ages or just looking for a thrilling tale of knights, warfare, romance, and intrigue, readers can’t go wrong with this one.