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Anglo-Saxon England

annis
Bibliomaniac

Anglo-Saxon England

Postby annis » Tue June 14th, 2011, 2:56 am

Given the number of novels with this setting either already out or forthcoming, I thought I'd give them their own thread!

I'll make a start with one I recently read, Shieldwall by Justin Hill. It's the first in his proposed Conquest trilogy, leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

I've just posted a review at the Historical Novels Info website, and thought I'd add the link here if anyone's interested. I was impressed by the powerfully evocative quality of this book, and was struck by a Sutcliffian echo, perhaps encouraged by the central pairing of the two young warriors. Sutcliff's Arthurian novel, Sword at Sunset came to mind too.

Shieldwall review

Reading this novel also made me rethink Godwin's motives. Godwin's loyalty to Edmund was behind Cnut's decision to take him on as part of his retinue- Godwin was a man who could be trusted not to change sides (or leaders) whenever the wind changed. Maybe a lot of the things Godwin did later were inspired by a desire not to see England fall back into the hands of weak Wessex royals- he'd already seen what a disaster that was for the country. We've always had an impression of Godwin as a man with an eye for the main chance, and the Godfather of 11th century power politics. Interesting to look past the stereotype, and to remember that our perceptions of historical figures are often shaped by the agendas of those who wrote about them.
Last edited by annis on Tue June 14th, 2011, 3:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
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Postby Margaret » Tue June 14th, 2011, 7:03 pm

our perceptions of historical figures are often shaped by the agendas of those who wrote about them.


So true! That's why I especially love novels that take a historical figure we think we know and turn our impressions around. Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour is a great example, but there are lots of historical novels that do this to one degree or another.

The Anglo-Saxon period is the setting for relatively few novels, especially contrasted with the Arthurian period right before it and the Norman period afterward (especially Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine). Bernard Cornwell has brought more attention to it with his Saxon series, beginning with The Last Kingdom (which Annis has also reviewed). And then there's our own Carla Nayland's Paths of Exile (with another Annis review).

It seems to me that Alfred the Great got a lot more attention in the last century than he does now. Anyone remember that great (probably apocryphal) story about him having to take shelter from a storm in a peasant woman's hut where she asked him to watch her griddle cakes and then scolded him when he let them burn?
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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parthianbow
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Postby parthianbow » Tue June 14th, 2011, 10:07 pm

A brilliant book - I loved it! Glad you did too, Annis. I met Justin Hill the other night at a HWA dinner I organised, and he's a really nice guy too - so buy his book please, everyone!
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
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annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Wed June 15th, 2011, 3:48 am

Posted by Margaret
It seems to me that Alfred the Great got a lot more attention in the last century than he does now.


Yes, the Victorians were dotty about the medieval period and authors like Charles W Whistler churned out vast numbers of historical novels set in the pre-Conquest era. Unfortunately unless you're really dedicated they make rather heavy going for the modern reader.

Apart from Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles and Guy Gavriel Kay's Last Light of the Sun I can't really think of any modern books about Alfred the Great.
Last edited by annis on Wed June 15th, 2011, 4:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Wed June 15th, 2011, 4:37 am

Ben, Justin Hill's Passing Under Heaven is a favourite of mine. It couldn't be more different from Shieldwall, being the story of a rebellious young concubine/poet from the late Chinese Tang Dynasty period, but it has that same evocative quality. I hadn't realised that Hill had studied Old English and Medieval Literature at university, but it certainly shows in the way he's captured the period sensibility for Shieldwall.
Last edited by annis on Wed June 15th, 2011, 4:55 am, edited 3 times in total.

Carla
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Postby Carla » Wed June 15th, 2011, 1:33 pm

"annis" wrote:Posted by Margaret


Yes, the Victorians were dotty about the medieval period and authors like Charles W Whistler churned out vast numbers of historical novels set in the pre-Conquest era. Unfortunately unless you're really dedicated they make rather heavy going for the modern reader.

Apart from Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles and Guy Gavriel Kay's Last Light of the Sun I can't really think of any modern books about Alfred the Great.


I liked Joan Wolf's The Edge of Light, which is about Alfred and his wife Ealhswith (Elswyth).

Edited: Alfred very likely would have had to take refuge in a peasant's hut when he was on the run after the Norse took Chippenham (and very nearly got him). The story about burning the cakes is quite late, though, I think it first turns up in a medieval chronicle written in St Neot's about three centuries or so after Alfred's time. There's also more than one version, and in one version Alfred remembers to turn the cakes and they don't get burnt. Like Robert Bruce and the spider, it's a good story.
Last edited by Carla on Wed June 15th, 2011, 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
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annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Wed June 15th, 2011, 6:08 pm

Carla, I was just about to add Edge of Light, but you beat me to it :) Wolf's whole Dark Age trilogy is well worth a read - see Misfit's review here. Born of the Sun is my personal favourite.

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Wed June 15th, 2011, 7:10 pm

Does anyone else remember Gene Farrington's now OP 1982 novel Breath of Kings? It covers a similar period to Shieldwall. Quite good, though poor old Edward the Confessor gets it in the neck as usual :)

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parthianbow
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Postby parthianbow » Thu June 16th, 2011, 10:30 am

@Annis: after reading Shieldwall, I very much want to read more of Hill's books. It's good to know that you rate at least one of them very highly. Thanks!
I haven't read Breath of Kings. Sigh. Will add it to the list!
Last edited by parthianbow on Thu June 16th, 2011, 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
Ben Kane

Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.

Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.



http://www.benkane.net

Twitter: @benkaneauthor

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Thu June 16th, 2011, 4:10 pm

There's also more than one version, and in one version Alfred remembers to turn the cakes and they don't get burnt.


Ha! I didn't know that. The version where he burns them is much more interesting.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info


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