Edwin: High King of Britain


There are reasons why so little historical fiction has been set in England in the 7th century. Not only are contemporary accounts scarce, but the scant information they provide is of continuous conflict between warlike and vengeful rulers on the one hand and on the other of the struggle of the early Church to convert the barbarian tribes. Since the author adheres closely to his sources, the Anglo-Saxon chronicles and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, these two preoccupations dominate his account of the life of Edwin, King of Northumbria and High King of Britain.

Nor is it easy to establish much sympathy for the central characters, who are little if any better than their foes. The harsh reality is that if rulers hope to survive, they have to reward their followers continuously with victories in battle and loot pillaged from those weaker than themselves, until eventually they are defeated by someone younger and stronger: all very Darwinian, but a rather depressing vision of life. To illuminate the darkness of the Dark Ages, poets recited the glorious achievements of heroes like Arthur and Beowulf, but there is little of that here. Christian missionaries preached for more compassionate conduct, but it has little discernible effect upon the listeners. Although he eventually embraces Christianity, Edwin remains a calculating and predatory ruler, ready to strike without warning at a potential foe.

This, the first of the Northumbrian Thrones series, offers a credible picture of the era, but the focus remains narrow. It will appeal to those who like their history authentic and wish to know more about a little-known time and place.

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(US) $14.99
(UK) £7.99

(US) 9781782640332




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