Thursday, 26 May 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION: Shieldwall - Justin Hill

Release Date: 26/05/11


The year is 1016 and England burns while the Viking armies blockade the great city of London. King Ethelred lies dying and the England he knew dies with him; the warring kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex and Northymbria tremble on the brink of great change. One man lives to bear witness to the upheaval: Godwin, barely out of boyhood and destined to become one of his country's great warriors. When Ethelred's son Edmund takes the throne, determined to succeed where his father failed, he plucks Godwin from domestic peace to be right-hand man in his loyal shield wall. Godwin must traverse the meadows, wintry forests and fogbound marshes of Saxon England, raising armies of monks, ploughmen and shepherds against the Viking invader. With epic courage and ferocity, Godwin and Edmund repel the butchering Danes in three great battles. But an old enemy, the treacherous Earl Eadric, dogs Godwin's footsteps, and as the final battle approaches, around the valiant English the trap begins to close.


To be honest there has been quite a glut on the titles set in the 11th Century recently and with so many out there, authors are having to seek new tricks as well as characters to place in the overly populated world to help bring their tale to life. Whilst some take a completely fictional aspect with the characters interacting with the heroes and kings of the age, others have attracted and played with some of the real heroes of that time and perhaps none more so than Justin in Shieldwall.

All in the book has a clear idea of where it wants to go, the characters have a realistic feel and whilst we’re reading about them out of time and know the history, the author has in no way compromised his storytelling with manipulating the facts or the outcomes, that said, whilst some sources will remember Godwin differently I prefer to go with Justin’s interpretation as to be honest history is written by the victors and a smear campaign has never gone out of fashion.

Add to this a beautifully constructed arc, decent prose as well as leaving the tale where a new instalment can pick up and I suspect that it won’t be long before Godwin rides again.

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