The King’s Chalice
It cannot be denied that an enormous amount of research has gone into the preparation of this book, and I defy anyone to read it and not learn new things about the Saxon world. Much of it is based on real-life events, and the atmosphere and reality of living in mediaeval times is clearly portrayed. The trouble is that while the information level is high, the characterisation and plot development are low. Many times it feels more like a summary of daily life rather than a novel with a narrative arc.
It follows a series of events witnessed by the main characters, Udda and Udric, who are kind of interchangeable. I lost track of who was who and didn’t feel as if any character developed over the course of the novel. It is also quite repetitive in places, restating facts about how someone felt or how their hair looked two or three times, which became a little dull. Worst of all, however, are the fairly frequent errors of grammar and punctuation including, on page 276, my pet hate of ‘their’ being used for ‘there’. The ending is one of the most random I have ever experienced, as we see an argument over payment between two of the villagers, very minor characters, end up in a demand for one of them to suffer the torment of proving innocence by holding a red hot iron bar. This really summed up the lack of a sense of a story being told for me.