1066: What Fates Impose
Holloway sets his story in an England unknowingly on the brink of being changed forever; it’s the middle of the 11th century, King Edward is on the throne but has not named a successor, and the best man in the kingdom, Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Essex, has rancorous nobles and a fractious North to contend with. It’s a testament to Holloway’s considerable storytelling powers that this very familiar setting becomes vibrant with tension as the chapters go in – all his characters, whether heroic or craven or slightly insane (and regardless of how much of the book they take up), are thoroughly fleshed out, and the raw, uncompromising world of pre-Conquest England is conveyed in accurate, memorable detail. Godwinson is of course the most detailed character here, full of common sense and resolute heroism in the face of not one but two invasions, and the Conquest itself is rendered with fresh vigor (the author makes few pretenses about his hatred for the Normans, but in this case the partisan zeal works in his book’s favor). There’s quite a bit of humanity in these pages but no sentimentality, and as a result, the frequently-told story of 1066 comes alive again. An extremely promising debut – highly recommended.