Hereward was born to Leofric of Bourne and Eadgyth, who was great-niece to Duke Oslac and, from scraps of information from old records, we know that as a youth he was a troublemaker. His father finally threw him out and had Edward the Confessor name him outlaw. He fled abroad, but in 1069 or 1070, Danish King Swein Esstrithson sent a small army to try to establish a camp on the Isle of Ely. They were joined by many, including Hereward. William was frustrated in his attempts to capture Hereward for over a year until he was finally betrayed by the monks of Ely in 1071. Hereward escaped with a handful of men and soon started another resistance but eventually submitted to William. The 15th-century chronicle, the Gesta Herewardii, says he was eventually pardoned by William and allowed to return to his Lincolnshire lands.

In this version of the story, the author makes much of Hereward’s early life and exile and gives a very imaginative account over 278 pages, including the singing of ‘a stirring rendition of Zadok the Priest’ by the monks at Westminster Abbey at Harold’s coronation in 1065. (This would have been Gregorian chant at best, as the anthem was not written until 1727!) In the remaining 98 pages he tells the story of Hereward’s resistance to William over the three or four years he was in the Fens, with the result that it is glossed over and only half told.

A debut novel, and it shows.

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