Georgette Heyer’s classic 1931 novel tells the story of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, and his rise to power alongside his wife Matilda and his first knight Raoul. Through painstaking research and masterful storytelling, the legendary tyrant, the infamous Wolf of Normandy, becomes a charismatic and complex man, full of human flaws but still a leader ahead of his time. He shows friendship, loyalty, even tenderness and passion, all while remaining an enigma even to his closest inner circle.
More than a straightforward romance between Duke and Duchess, The Conqueror is packed with coplots and subplots combining to form an epic saga of adventure, violence, politics, passion, even a little philosophy. The friendship between Norman Raoul and Saxon Edgar, as devoted to their respective lords as they are to each other, is just as compelling and heart-wrenching as the fierce passion between William and Matilda. The repartee between William and Matilda is wonderful, from their shocking first encounter to their ruthless lifelong partnership. The portrayal of the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England is evenhanded and factual. The attention to detail is astounding; the sense of place and time soaks every page. In short, this book has it all.
The 2008 reissue comes with reader’s club questions and summaries of Heyer’s other historical fiction works. The Conqueror well deserves its reputation as a classic. Recommended.
Early Medieval (to 1337)
460 (US), 384 (UK)