The Raven, the Lion and the White Dragon

Written by Roy Stedall-Humphryes
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

This is Book One of the Bellême series. Books Two and Three have already been published. In this fast-paced story filled with humor and verve, an Anglo-Saxon family lives, loves, and fights in the years prior to 1066. Seven-foot-tall Edwin is a housecarl for the Godwins. He, and later his warrior sons, Edric and Wulfnoth, battle their way from the sae to the straets, through geats, across brycges, and even into Wealh. “Ed” marries a Wealhasc healer, but we don’t see enough of this compelling fictional woman. Tedious storylines concerning an elusive lost brother and a serial killer detract from the main story. There are a handful of modern English grammatical errors and colloquialisms, but they are camouflaged by all the archaic spelling.

Historical figures are portrayed accurately, and Stedall-Humphryes has clearly done his research as he uses what is known about Edward the Confessor, the Godwins, Harald Hardrada and others to bring them to life with interesting interpretations. Duke William seems a little flat, considering his future importance.  One ludicrous scene—Matilda of Flanders aggressively seducing a Saxon thegn before her marriage to William—has some historical integrity based on a near-contemporary chronicle. Vivid scenes of Edwin and Earl Harold leaving Bosham and being shipwrecked and picked up by Guy of Ponthieu are straight from the Bayeux Tapestry. The author’s explanation for Aelfgyva and the clerk is as good a guess as any in trying to explain this mysterious panel in the Tapestry.

Late in the story, Edwin is wounded and retires to his manor. Edric and Wulfnoth march to Stamford Hill and then to Hastings. The book ends the night before the battle, without a hint about what will happen to the brothers.