The Time of the Wolf: A Novel of Medieval England

Written by James Wilde
Review by Jeanne Mackin

The landmark year 1066 has given nourishment to many historical novelists, including now the first-time historical novel author James Wilde. (Wilde is the pen name for Mark Chadbourn, who also writes fantasy.) In this debut novel, Wilde creates a world of violence, intrigue, betrayal and superstition… just the stuff fans of medieval fiction long for and expect. It begins in 1062, as the first portents of the coming Norman invasion begin to seep into the English towns and countryside. His protagonist, Hereward, is a young man of mythical strength, cunning and volatility. (Indeed, Wilde in his author’s notes points out that Hereward is one of the three famous heroes of England, Arthur and Robin Hood completing the triumvirate.) Already found guilty of a murder he didn’t commit, Hereward is an outcast and an outlaw, a warrior-for-hire to almost any warlord who’ll take him on.

At the beginning of the story, in the first of many, many violent battle scenes, Hereward encounters Alric, a monk secretly guilty of murdering someone, albeit accidentally. In both instances of the back-story murders, the dead person was a beloved woman, creating an interesting parallel between the monk and the warrior. How these two men become, and manage to remain friends is a large part of the story, creating some interesting character development to match the violent plotting of events leading up to and following the invasion.

This reviewer wishes Wilde had had more faith in his characters, and let them spend more time on the page being human rather than merely violent and mythical. The novel has battle after battle and so much violence that the story of Hereward’s emotional journey sometimes gets short shrift. It was a violent time, yes, but violence on the page quickly becomes less absorbing than the other parts of this interesting tale.