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 raidinga 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 Grendelhere 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 welluntil, 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.