Herein, the commencement of a series by the author of such historical divertissements as Crown of Roses and King of the Wood (both 1989). This time out, Anand picks up in 1036, when a company of French knights makes a pre-Conquest crossing of the Channel in an effort to wrest the English throne from the progeny of Cnut. The result is disastrous, a massacre with only a handful of Frenchmen spared to be sold into slavery--among them Sir Ivon de Clairpont, who becomes the thrall of Eric Olafson in Northumbria. Ivon tries to run away three times, and then to kill himself--but a wench with hair the color of a fox seduces him, and he ``did what he had sworn he would never do...gave his seed to Gunnor the thrall and his line to the future, in a country not his own.'' Ivon is elderly by the time William the Conqueror's troops march in, and, alas, his son, another Ivon, so loathes the slaughtering French that he refuses to reveal the fact that he's French too, thus ensuring that his get will live as slaves--or ``villeins,'' as they were called in the 11th century. And at the end, the second Ivon's granddaughter, Margaret, misses out on freedom as well when her love is hanged, though the Magna Carta's just been signed, bespeaking the coming of a new era. Anand's interest is in the intersection of cultures--here, Norse and Norman--which she dramatizes effectively. But she moves too quickly from one generation to the next, resulting in cartoony characters and a historical backdrop that flies by like a movie on fast forward.