This historical novel is set early in the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England, at a time when a number of British kingdoms still survived in the north, and the invading Angles were still restricted to the area east of the Pennines in what became the Kingdom of Northumbria.
This is such an obscure period that it is hard to comment on the historical accuracy of the setting. Most of our written sources come from much later in the period, while the British monk Gildas wrote just before the period covered here. The accounts of battles feel about right, with most fought between small groups and the climactic large battle seen as unusual by its participants, and the use of the shield wall is authentic. Some of the terminology had been deliberately modernised to make the book more accessible to the general public (lords replace thegns). The main character grows up in a crumbling Roman villa, an idea that is supported by archaeological evidence.
The story follows the adventures of the son of a minor Angle landowner caught up in an attempt by the British (referred to here as the Welsh) to regain control of the lands east of the Pennines. This conflict drags his from his home in the modern East Riding of Yorkshire into for him far distant areas on the borders between the two cultures.
I thoroughly enjoyed this well written and entertaining novel, which has a sympathetic lead character and a good feel for its very obscure period and for the brutal nature of battle in the shield wall.
Author: Richard Denning
Publisher: Mercia Books