Oswald: Return of the King

Written by Edoardo Albert
Review by Linda Sever

In the second of the Northumbrian Thrones series, we return once again to 7th-century Anglo-Saxon Britain and to the exiled King Oswald of Northumbria, who, spurred on by the death of his uncle, Edwin (the central character of the first book), returns to successfully reclaim his kingdom. Following his restoration to the throne, Oswald sets out to convert his people to Christianity, a faith he had embraced while in exile on the holy isle of Iona. Later in the story it leads him to found the great monastery of Lindisfarne, still considered a place of religious power and sanctity to the present day.

Oswald is not just a story of kingship and conversion. It takes little-known historical characters and fleshes them out, bringing their stories to life. Oswald is more than just a warrior king. He yearns to join the monks and lead a life of prayer and devotion to the new religion. But others press him into becoming a hero and to compete with his younger brother, Oswiu, one of the things that eventually leads to his downfall. Underpinning the story is the presentation of a country and its people, struggling with the change from the old beliefs to the strange new religion.

Although it might be helpful to read Edwin: High King of Britain to fully understand all the complex political issues and relationships, there is a very useful and highly detailed summary of Edwin at the beginning, along with a glossary, pronunciation guide and ‘Dramatis Personae’, which lists both real-life and invented characters.

The author uses meticulous research and scholarship to bring to life a time in history for which there is very little archaeological or literary evidential material. It provides interest and excitement on every page and is definitely what you would call a ‘page turner’. Highly recommended.