Following an unorthodox reworking of the Robin Hood legend (Robin and the King, 1993, etc.), the versatile Godwin attempts to novelize the famous Old English poem, Beowulf, with its sixth-century setting in Denmark and southern Sweden. In Godwin's interpretation, Beowulf, while still an untried stripling, gets drunk with his companions and vows to go raiding--a promise he can't back out of once he sobers up. He and his fellows attempt a foolhardy landing on a well-defended Frisian island and are slaughtered; Beowulf survives by running away. From this incident he gains an overwhelming need to prove himself in battle, no matter what the odds. Later, he will challenge the monster Grendel--here presented as the halfling son of the giantess Sigyn, daughter of the trickster god Loki, and Shild Scefing, king of the Spear-Danes. Having slain Grendel, Beowulf must also deal with the even more fearsome Sigyn. As king of the Geats, Beowulf does his best to rule wisely and well--until, approaching old age, he must once again take up arms to kill (and be killed by) a terrible dragon. Godwin does attempt to give the hero a personality, and provides companions and a mistress. But his evocation of time and place is wretched (cf. Harry Harrison's superb The Hammer and the Cross, 1993, etc.). Succeeds neither as historical reconstruction nor as heroic fantasy: a tame, uncompelling, sadly mediocre enterprise.