Since reading The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, a famous work of history by the eighth century monk named Bede as a teenager I have been captivated by Edwin of Northumbrias story. When I discovered a novel about him from a well-known Christian publisher I snapped it up. Mr Albert has written his story magnificently, though I long dreamed about writing one myself and he has beaten me to it.
It is the mark of a good writer indeed that I enjoyed this book so much despite knowing what happened to Edwin already from Bede.
What makes it so enjoyable? In part perhaps the beautiful description of an ancient landscape, and vivid detail revealing a strong sense of the period, and and familiarity withe the culture, customs and beliefs of the early Saxon people.
Warriors, feasting in the hall, listening to a bard singing tales of the gods and heroes of old, bound by promise of gold- and sometimes bonds of loyalty to their lord. Kings, the chief of warriors, givers of gold to the men who stood beside them on the shield-wall- on whose loyalty their very lives and kingdoms may depend.
In was in this world that Edwin rose to High King of Britain, conquering or gaining the fealty of most of the Kings and Kingdoms around him with the strength of the sword, marriage or diplomacy. Yet Edwin does not act entirely out of a desire for glory and fame, but a wish to unite his people. He and his fellows are well-drawn and believable characters, coming to terms with a changing world in which they were in many ways behind.
The Christian content and its impact on the lives of the people was well-woven in with the characters of the Kings young wife her Roman priest Paulinus, and his companion James. With a will of Iron, and a pair of woollen drawers to ward off the freezing Northern temperatures Paulinus preaches the gospel amongst the pagan men.
Though it takes many years, Edwin eventually converts alongside his family, many of his people, and his pagan priest. Paulinus preached the gospel in a way that the Saxons would understand, speaking of the apostles as thegns for instance (and Old English word meaning a companion, servant or fighting man bound by loyalty to his lord), and the characters' response is not clichd or contrived.
In fact, some do rather confuse Christian teachings and concepts- Edwin thinks that the Christian god created the old gods, for example. Though I think such confusion would be inevitable in a culture in which Christianity was totally unknown.
My only other complaints were some descriptions of the great fortress of Bamburgh which spoke of a garderobe and spiral staircase more at home in a twelfth century castle then a seventh century fortress, and some language that was a little too modern. There is violence, as it was a violent age- but no sex, which is a real plus considering many secular novels of this genre. Christian readers may wish to note that there is some description of the pagan priest having convulsions, cursing people, and other manifestations. I believe though that such things were known in ancient pagan religions, and are clearly regarded by the Christians as false and demonic. Nor are the character perfect the Christians do lie on a couple of occasions, which was not good, and they sometimes struggle to understand God's will- which of us does not at times?
Recommended for all those interested in the medieval period, the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, and Conversion period, and accurate, evocative historical fiction in general.I received an electronic copy of this book free from Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.
Edoardo Albert in his new book "Edwin: High King of Britain" Book One in The Northumbrian Thrones series published by Lion Hudson recreates the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.
From the back cover: Edwin is a king. Yet he is about to be betrayed and butchered.
In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin's usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure-the missionary Paulinus- who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.
Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.
This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade-and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.
Power, empires, kings, betrayal and political intrigues are just some of what has to be dealt with in this wonderful beginning of this first-rate series.I like history and when it is presented to me fresh I enjoy it even more. I had no idea that any of these events had happened. Mr. Albert is a highly gifted author who knows how to give us wonderful characters that are human and have strong emotions. Plus this is history and these events happened however that doesn't stop the story from being really exciting. Mr. Albert has given us a unique thriller that will keep you on the edge of your chair as you read and flip pages as fast as possible. I recommend this book highly and look forward to the next book in this series.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Lion Hudson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Arthur and his knights of the round table, are phantoms from a long gone era. Their story is a myth, and they are warriors only in imaginative retellings of their deeds. But the story told in "Edwin, High King of Britain" is a legend of a different kind. Edwin is a figure from history. And early seventh century England, where Edwin arose as a dominant king, is every bit as mythic and alien to our minds as the legendary kingdom of Camelot.
Edoardo Albert, writer and historian in his own right, tells the story of Edwin with as much power as any scop or bard from times past. "Edwin" is a fictional account yet most of its key plotlines and characters are historical. The book is the first in a trilogy called The Northumbrian Thrones.
The tale is fast paced and moving. Albert adds such historical detail that he makes you believe you are there. The struggle of Edwin to embrace a new religion, that of Christianity, is also told in a realistic believable way. The Norse warrior gods of Woden and Thunor are only reluctantly left for the strange God whose way is to deny vengeance and forgive one's enemies. Edwin is no saint, but a leader and champion he is. Yet as the tale progresses, we will learn he is as mortal as anyone, even with his new God.
The story is engaging and true to life, yet clean enough even for teen-age readers. Yet the tale is not safe: this is a raw and rugged account of a brutal age.
The history of medeival Britain has long fascinated me and so I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you njoy fantasy fiction in the vein of J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, or Stephen Lawhead, this book will delight. Learning that it is mostly true to life will surprise you as it did me. I encourage you to give it a try.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Lion Hudson via Kregel Books. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
Once I got to the third chapter, you would have had to pry *Edwin: High King of Britain* out of my hands. The reason? It reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. I read this paragraph....
"The wind blew harder and Edwin shivered, but it was not from a cold to which he was inured that he shook. 'He made me bow to him. He forced me to my knees in front of his men, in front of mine, and made me do homage.' Edwin turned to Forthred, and his eyes were as grey and cold as the sea.
'He bought me my kingdom and defeated my enemy, but he ground my knees into the blood soaked mud and forced the homage I would have willingly given. But he is dead now, and no other man will make me kneel.'
'But I will kneel to you lord,' said Forthred, and he went down on one knee before Edwin. 'Get up, get up.' Edwin hauled Forthred back to his feet. 'We have endured too much together for you to kneel to me, old friend.' "
And I said to my friend "This is a real-life Middle Earth kind of story."
I like learning history through novels, and I love the fact that this book is a true-to-history account. However, I was sucked in by the story and the characters, and the factual basis was all an extra benefit. This books reads like Tolkien, and a bit like a Stephen Lawhead novel, with kings and queens and battles and warcraft.
One thing really struck home to me: Nothing is new under the sun. People still do horribly violent things to one another. Weapons are still formed to take life and spill blood. Power and empires are still sought. And the Gospel still goes out- a very tiny seed that grows greatly in good soil, an insane idea that saves souls, a beautiful word amidst the evil and coarseness.
Edwin, a man who walked this earth and saw the sun and impacted history, had to choose how to live and whom to serve. This novel imagines how he made those choices. His bride, Ã†thelburh, another true figure, came to Edwin's house with Christianity and two spiritual counselors, a priest Paulinus, and a deacon James. These men are humble and devout without becoming cliches, just as Edwin is hard-headed and determined.
Christianity at its most unadulterated, life-giving form is about to enter this pagan land. That's what makes this book so cool... it wrestles with the introduction of Christ into history, and shows how men's hearts changed when they encountered the Gospel, but it is not your typical poorly-written tract style novel. Readers can enter it without fear of anything but accuracy meeting imagination.
I enjoy reading books based on real history and written with historical authority. Edwin High King of Britain is authored by Edoardo Albert who has taken the early history of England (Britain) in the 6th century as recorded by historian Bede, who lived during the period and is accepted as authority in his writing, and fleshed it out to give us Edwin, the first High King of Britain.
When I agreed to read Edwin, I did so with some feelings of fear that I would not enjoy it. Frankly, I do not like reading about this period as much as later periods of history. I was very pleasantly surprised at the readability and feeling of the author holding faithful to the actual recorded history in his story. I found the story interesting and it gave me some insight, albeit fictional, into the early history of my own people.
The time is after the conquest of the Roman Empire in the land that is now England, Ireland, and Scotland and after the Romans had left. It is 625 A.D. This is the story of uniting the people to form a nation.The inhabitants are pagan in religion and clannish with individual kings for each group. The area has been settled by the Germanic people, the original Britians, and invaders from the North. Edwin is an actual person recorded in the Ecclesiastical History the English People by Bede. The story opens with Edwin in exile and out wandering when he is approached by a mysterious stranger who predicts that Edwin will be a ruler.
This was a barbaric land and people, and the story portrays this well. It was also a good portrayal of the beliefs about the hereafter that these early people held as well as that of their many gods. The introduction to Christianity by the new wife of Edwin who brought with her a Roman Catholic priest, Paulinus, is interesting. A blending of the barbaric warring and piety made for a different and interesting read.
While based on the history of Bede, the reader must keep in mind that this is not a record of what took place. It is, in fact, a novel and should be read as such. I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to those who enjoy reading fiction based on this time period.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Edwin: High King of Britain from Kregel Publishing in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I received no compensation for this review.