Athelstan, King of the English; Olaf Guthfrithsson, King of the Dublin Norse; Constantin, King of the Scots; Owain, King of Strathclyde, Hywel of the South Welsh; one ‘great lamentable and horrible battle’.
The year is 937 and Athelstan, King of the English and overlord of the British kingdoms, faces opposition to his rule that will culminate in the great battle of Brunanburh.
Uniquely told from the viewpoints of the main combatants at the battle, Brunanburh tells of a time when the island of Britain was held under the sway of the great King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, a man with European wide connections, held in awe by many, and foster-father to future monarchs. Charting his reign from 925 to 937 Brunanburh is the story of the petty kingdoms of Britain – England, Scotland, Strathclyde and Wales and the uneasy alliances that could burst asunder at any moment. Switching between the view points of the main Kings on the day of the battle, and events from the previous twelve years, Brunanburh ensures its focus is on the characters and their unique attitudes towards their kingships, the future, and of course, each other.
A riveting look at the attempt by King Athelstan to unify England under his banner. Told through the voices of the main participants, the author has crafted a tale that immerses the reader into the period following Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great. Having the protagonists tell their versions of the story is a great way to get into the minds of these formidable characters…a chance to see their hopes, fears, and their indomitable pursuit to control the island of Britain. In addition to the political machinations, the author gives the reader a brutal look at the eponymous battle…a battle that had been in the making for 10 years…a lot of time for hatred to fester among those that oppose Athelstan. A well paced, page turning book with a plot full of surprises awaits you my fellow readers. 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A delightful tale of a rather unusual monk and his attempts to get rich while avoiding the Danish horde that is running roughshod over Britain. Conrad is a schemer, always ready with a plan; which is a good thing as his plans have a way of not going according to plan. His companion, Brother Odo, a very devout monk, unwavering in his faith in God and in Conrad’s plan(s), provides much of the mirth while also provoking sympathy from the reader. The author has crafted an entertaining version of the Danes – the sons of Ragnar; Ivarr, Ubba, and Halfdan – and the eventual clash with Aethelred and Alfred. I particularly enjoy historical-fiction when the historical events are written in such a way that the fictional aspect; the interaction of the fictional characters with the historical, the way that the story is tweaked to allow the reader to think, “Yeah, it could have happened that way.” Conrad Monk and The Great Heathen Army did just that while also sparking periodic chuckles and chortles from this amused reader. 4 stars
In Wolves of War, Mr. Lake has once again given us a tale of an intriguing time in Britain’s history. The Danes, under the leadership of Ivar the Boneless have come to Britain’s shores; this time it’s not a raid and run endeavor, this time they’ve come to stay. The story revolves around the quick witted brother of a renowned blacksmith; not your typical Viking warrior, and his unexpected rise in Ivar’s retinue of advisers. Buoyed by a host of wonderful characters, both fictional (Leif,Thorvald, Aebbe) and historical (Ivar, Guthrum, the Kings of Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, and East Anglia), the reader is taken on an emotionally charged voyage as Leif embarks on an unexpected journey; one that will see him find love, and happiness, as well as a full slate of unwanted, dangerous troubles. One of the historical aspects I really enjoyed is the appearance of a younger Alfred, before he became ‘The Great’. The author has written about him in prior books, but this time it provides insight to his character; his piety, his lustful nature, his politically sagacious mind. All in all an enjoyable, entertaining read of a pivotal era in Britain’s long history. 4 stars
An uneasy peace exists between Alfred and the Danish warlord, Guthrum, but there are other Danes with designs on Wessex. In the continuation of Alfred’s quest to rule England; all of it, the author has wrought a tale of tested loyalties, difficult loves and the emotional stability of a warrior caught in a frenzied blood lust. The twins, Ulf and Inga are now part of Alfred’s retinue and this story finds them learning who and what they are. As in the other works by Martin Lake, I was drawn into the mindsets of the protagonists, in this case English and Dane, as each group struggles to maintain and increase their hold on English soil. The history between Saxons and Danes is long and bloody, making any semblance of peace, compromise or acceptance virtually non-existent especially since the divisions are multiplied by religious fervor – reminds me of today actually. The author superbly brings those challenges to the fore and has produced another delightful page turning journey into the making of England. 4.3 stars