My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book starts with the end. What I mean is that it starts with the end of William the Conqueror. In the opening scene, he lies on his death bed, apparently delirious. Why is he in such a condition? Well, you’ll have to read the book, because I am not about to tell you.
The second chapter takes us back over 40 years, and the whole book, from that point onward, describes the characters and events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and its aftermath.
I will warn you that there is a whole heap of explicit brutality in this story, but then those were very brutal times.
The author must have done a lot of research to be able to form the historical skeleton upon which he builds the flesh of the plot and many sub-plots. There is so much deception by the main characters, who all seem to have two goals in mind: power and possession.
The downside for me, and I suppose that it was necessary, is that there are two many characters and some very complex relationships. It hurt my head to try to keep up with all of these, especially as many of them had very similar names, and seemed to be related along more than one branch of their family trees. But one only has to do a little bit of online research to discover that these families were indeed very complex.
The main protagonist is Harold Godwinson, who becomes Earl of Wessex and subsequently King Harold.
Everybody who ever went to school in Britain knows what happened to Harold in the end, so it comes as no surprise. I think though, that the author describes the events as they possibly happened in such great detail, and so vividly, that one is left believing that this is PROBABLY what happened. This, to me, is the sign of good historical fiction. I have long been a fan of the genre, and often got into serious trouble with my school teachers for arguing that the fiction that I had read was probably nearer the truth than what they were telling me. After all, I reasoned, they only knew what they knew from the reports of the “journalists” of the time. In current affairs classes they would tell me not to believe the reports of today’s journalists until I had checked and double-checked their stories. Such double standards!
Anyway, having read “1066: What Fates Impose”, I would stubbornly hold it up in front of those teachers as solid evidence of the facts as G.K. Holloway describes them.
Recommended to all.
See also S.C. Skillman’s review of the same book.