Hereward: The Immortals: (Hereward 5)

Written by James Wilde

Hereward the Wake is one of a plethora of lesser-known British folk heroes, an adventurer who carried on a guerrilla war against the Norman invaders from the Lincolnshire fens. According to the legend, he was the last man to swear allegiance to William the Conqueror. This book is the fifth in a series, and this time we leave the canon of the legend and into speculation of Hereward’s life post-rebellion. James Wilde has him journeying with his remaining followers to the Byzantine Empire where, as many north-men did historically, they attempt to join a crack mercenary unit called the Varangian Guard. Unfortunately, in decadent Constantinople, this requires an entrance fee. Broke and desperate, Hereward’s band is forced to undertake menial mercenary duties until they fall foul of one of the city’s political factions, which badgers them into a desperate rescue mission.

I have to say I found this tale curiously bland. In the legends, Hereward is physical, noble, and very impulsive. Here he is reactive, cunning and passive. The fight scenes lack conviction, there isn’t enough geographical detail, there are too many characters, and none of them are developed enough. I also found the succession of short chapters made the narrative very choppy. Still, it’s good to see an old hero brought back to life.