1062, a time many fear is the End of Days. With the English King Edward heirless and ailing, across the grey seas in Normandy the brutal William the Bastard waits for the moment when he can drown England in a tide of blood. The ravens of war are gathering. But as the king's closest advisors scheme and squabble amongst themselves, hopes of resisting the naked ambition of the Norman duke come to rest with just one man: Hereward.
To some a ruthless warrior and master tactician, to others a devil in human form, Hereward is as adept in the art of warfare as the foes that gather to claim England's throne. But in his country's hour of greatest need, his enemies at court have made him an outlaw. To stay alive—and a free man—he must carve a bloody swathe from the frozen lands outside the court, in this evocative tale of a man whose deeds will become the stuff of legend.
I have read many historical fiction novels that take place in medieval times, but this was the first novel I've read that took place during this time period (1062). I didn't have much background knowledge regarding William the Bastard or King Edward. All I really knew was that the Norman Conquest took place in 1066, but not what led up to it, so it took me a little while to catch on to what exactly was happening and who the people mentioned in this novel were. I admit, I had to do some googling while I was reading this book. However, after finishing this novel, not only did I have knowledge regarding this time period, but I also found that I was extremely interested in learning more about England during the Norman Conquest.
It is a bloody, violent novel, full of betrayal, and it stays that way from beginning to end. The main character, Hereward, is an extremely violent and vengeful character, but the author gives him an element of mystery, which allows the reader to believe that he is a good person underneath all of his external acts of violence. Alric, the monk who accompanies Hereward, is the perfect foil character. He helps to balance out Hereward's violent personality. Both characters are extremely strong, believable, and well written. I was able to clearly imagine what they would be like, and their stories fit in perfectly with the overall 'dark' feeling of this novel.
I tend to enjoy historical fiction novels that have a little more romance in them. However, Hereward and Alric were both such strong characters, that this novel had no problem keeping my interest from beginning until end. I would definitely recommend this novel to historical fiction fans who have an interest in this time period, especially those who love a novel that deals with betrayal, revenge, and violence.
I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.