James Wilde once again brings to the fore his brilliant portrayal of Hereward. One of the darkest characters i have read in years, and yet a hero, a beacon for his people and a knife in the side of William the bastards army.
This book had me on the edge of my seat for every page, so many ups and downs. Even knowing the history you hope that somehow something will change, that Hereward will win the day and the Norman King William will be driven back across the wale road.
This can only be achieved with some excellent writing, with the skill and prose James Wilde has honed to an edge as fine as the one on Herewards axe.
Of all the books in the series this one has for me felt like the darkest of the series. A story full of intrigue, battles, skirmishes, battle skill and yet more, personal impacts, the cost of the loss of a family member and what it will drive an individual too. The tragedy of family, those people tied to you so deeply, so intimately and yet people we don't choose and as such don't have to like.
In End of days James Wilde plays the styles and character of Hereward and William off against each other, it's this back and forth that helps give this book its darkness, but also its powerful narrative. The brooding intelligence and malevolence of William and the Cunning intelligence of Hereward, who is ultimately stronger because he fights his darkest desires, he uses the land that he knows so intimately and the people who love him so much to defeat the monster who uses money and destruction.
This book is a huge huge triumph for James Wilde, 2 parts of the English character, two parts that have not yet blended to become the empire building British, a personality at war with itself.
This is the third volume of James Wilde's trilogy on Hereward and his insurrection against William of Normandy - the Conqueror. I had mixed feelings regarding the two previous volumes, but I liked this one much more.
Part of this has to do with the characters, which I found more believable, starting with Hereward himself. I also felt that many of the characters had more depth and more complexity than what had been shown before. While most of the characters previously only seemed to be driven by vengeance or ambition and interested in slaughter or fighting, in this volume, they also appear to be motivated by honour and duty. In addition to Hereward and Harald Redteeth, whose personal feud continues and reaches its climax in this volume, a new character - the Norman knight Deda (a strange name for a Norman, although it might have been "Dieudat"), a young but broken veteran - appears in this volume.
One example that I particularly liked was the character of William of Normandy himself. While clearly unsympathetic, ruthless and cruel, but always with a purpose, he is also shown as human, and not some kind of monster. The end of the book gives a hint explaining his behaviours: ruthlessness, brutality and treachery had been so rift in Normandy that the only way for him to dominate his knights and lords was to feared by them, and be tougher and "worse" than them. The book, however, also shows him as a great and relentless military leader capable of doing "whatever it takes" to get the job done. This includes putting himself in danger or destroying part of his newly conquered kingdom to subdue it and make his point -the infamous "Harroying of the North".
The story itself is mostly well known (at least in the UK), and anyway I will not spoil the book for others by revealing the plot. Suffice to mention that the author has come up with some interesting twists in the plot, with a nice hint at the legend of Hereward been transformed into Robin Hood. William the Conqueror's dilemma - whether dead or alive, Hereward could still be a problem and stir considerable trouble for the Norman warlord in his newly conquered Kingdom is well described and just about plausible.
Both of the main battle scenes are rather good, as in the previous books, whether the surprise attack on the Norman camp or the assault of the "English" fortified island of Ely. Although the first attack seems to have been invented by the author, it is nevertheless rather exciting and plausible. My favourite scene, however, is towards the end of the book where Harald Redteeth confronts Hereward for what is their final reckoning, just after having fended of the horrific attacks of a pack of wolves.
There were however a few little things that did not quite work out or which were a bit problematic for me. While the double treachery that leads to the final assault and the fall of Ely is very plausible, the facility with which Hereward and some of his supporters seem able to get in and out of Lincoln is harder to believe. Also somewhat difficult to believe is Hereward's interview with William, in the latter's palace.
A good read that was worth four solid stars, although not quite five.
***Hereward: End of Days is the third book in a series. If you haven't read books one and two then there is a good chance that there will be some minor spoilers in this review.***
I can credit the first Hereward novel for re-igniting my interest in historical fiction. Before reading it, I knew next to nothing about this time period and very little about the figure of Hereward himself. I took a chance and was rewarded with a gripping historical novel chock full of action. Book two, The Devil's Army, picked up with the same relentless pace and delivered another cracking read. Ever since I finished book two, I've been looking forward to End of Days. I'm glad to say that it doesn't disappoint.
The character of Hereward has metamorphosed over the course of these novels. Initially just a man trying to control his own destiny, he has almost inevitably become a figurehead for the English resistance against the Norman invasion. Everyone looks to their leader for guidance, and plans quickly begin to fall apart when he isn't in charge. Wilde takes time to explore how this burden has changed the man, the weight of such responsibility weighs heavily. Hereward is far more philosophical about his life than he was in previous books. He and his people have all suffered and that the constant strain is beginning to show.
Hereward's not so merry men (they're all pretty grumpy) continue to be a suitably roguish bunch; Alric, Kraki, Guthrinc, Sighard and Herrig the Rat. I do so love these names. Mad Hengist is a personal favourite.
The list of characters facing off against Hereward and his battle brothers continues to grow with each new book. The berserker Viking, Harald Redteeth, still seeks revenge and won't rest until he gets it. Hereward's estranged brother, Redwald, and his violent father are just as evil as they were before. End of Days also introduces a new foe into the mix, a knight called Deda who is bound by honour and will fight to the death to maintain it.
The main antagonist however is William the Bastard. The previous books have mentioned him in passing, but in End of Days his character really comes to the fore. Bullish and powerful, it's hardly a surprise that the vast majority bend to his iron will. He comes across as a veritable force of nature. To this potential king, men like Hereward are an anathema, no one should be able to stand between him and the throne. Interestingly, there are quite a number of similarities between the two men. Both are driven and backing down in a conflict is not an option for either of them.
Wilde is an author who really does deliver the goods when it comes to brutal action. Frenetic vicious fights play counterpoint to the novel's quieter more introspective moments. The final hundred odd pages make up the climax of the novel, and the chaos of battle very vividly comes to life. Those of a squeamish disposition may wish to look away. Personally, I'm always impressed when an author can transport me right to the heart of the action, the gorier the better as far as I'm concerned.
I can only hope that there will be more novels from this author and that they arrive sooner rather than later. I've relished every page so far and I am left hungry for more. If you're a fan of historical fiction, and you aren't already, you need to be reading James Wilde.
on 4 August 2013
I have to say, of course, that I review this - even after three books on Hereward - as something of a layman. It's not an era I am familiar with, and I know little of Hereward other than vague connections between the name and rebellions in the days of the early English. By the time I got to the 3rd book, though, I have to admit it was pretty obvious that the series could not have a happy ending. Though I don't know the history of Hereward, I do know that William the Conqueror founded a dynasty of Kings and his rule passed from his hands into other legitimate successors, not the bloodied ones of East Anglian rebels. So to some extent the ending was a foregone conclusion.
That doesn't necessarily matter, of course. Gladiator is a great story. We all knew it had a doomed ending, but that made it no less poignant or exciting. Braveheart was a foregone conclusion, but still stirred the blood. The story of Spartacus can hardly have a happy ending, but that didn't stop Ben Kane writing a damn good tale about him. Because sometimes the doomed hero is the best tale.
Hereward book 1 was a strong story, and only dropped a star on my review due to the almost superhero-powerful nature of the protagonist. However, it was still a storming tale, and book 2 only improved matters, deepening the character and the plot together. Book 3 concludes the tale of Hereward's resistance to the Normans in great power, style and character. Indeed, by this time, the hero is such an excellent character and so absorbing for the reader that we truly care about him, which makes the doom of the ending we know is to come all the more powerful.
Despite going into the book with a sense of gloom as I thought I knew what must happen, I was constantly surprised by the fact that the English actually were winning! Hereward and his chums were bloodying the nose of the Conqueror and winning the fight. I had one of those moments where I wondered whether Wilde had diverged from clear history and done a Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds thing, having Hereward somehow win! And then everything went piriform as I expected it to from the start, but only due to unforeseen (and also unreported due to spoilers) circumstances. And even though towards the end of the book, it was once more obvious things could not end all hunky dorey, still Wilde had a number of surprises for me. Indeed, the ending really came at me out of the blue. Unexpected. And fab.
Basically, by this book, Wilde's writing style has really hit the perfect stride and his characters are now well rounded and believable, even the new creations. And that leads me to Deda. 'Nuff said. Deda should have a book of his own, James, as should Kraki. Bear that in mind, when thinking of your next project.
End of Days is full of action and bloodshed, subterfuge and trickery, murder and flight, treason and negotiation. Grit your teeth at the action in the swamps (as superb as it was in book 2). Wonder at the power of the Conqueror, who is every bit the match for Hereward. And love the book for what it is: a superb conclusion of a tale that should have been told long ago. It is, in short, a bloody marvel.
on 22 December 2013
This is the third outing for Hereward the Wake, England's eleventh century forgotten hero. Set in 1071, England is under the grip of the conquering Norman king, William. The hated William has secured power and control through his ruthless campaigns. Still holding out are the rebel English in the east. But their hero, Hereward, is missing and they are having to fight alone. William looks set to be victorious. Hereward of course returns and has to lead his outnumbered people against the Norman invaders.
Wilde portrays Hereward as a complex individual who has his own demons as well as those he fights. His conflict with his brother Redwald provides an extra layer to the unfolding drama and we share in Hereward's conflicted emotions. As well as the central drama of the fate of England, there are a number of other exciting sub-plots woven in. Secondary characters such as Deda, the Norman knight, and Rowena, a young English widow, are intriguing and credible.
Fast-paced and exciting, we are drawn into Hereward's world from the off. The battles are bloody and the boggy landscape is as treacherous as those who walk it. Having enjoyed this book so much, I will be seeking out Hereward's first two adventures and look forward to the next.
Note: I received a free review copy of this book via the Historical Novel Society. This review (or an edited version) has appeared in the Historical Novels Review
This man James wilde is a great writer I truly enjoyed this England, 1071 five years have passed since the crushing Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings. The country reels under the savage rule of the new king, the one they call 'the Bastard'. The North has been left a wasteland - villages razed, innocents put to the sword, land stolen. It seems no atrocity is too great to ensure William's grip upon the crown. Rats feed upon fields of the dead And now he turns his cold gaze east, towards the last stronghold of the English resistance. After years of struggle, he will brook no further challenge to his power: his vast army masses and his siege machines are readied. In their fortress on the Isle of Ely, the English have put their faith in the only man who might defeat the murderous invaders. He is called Hereward. He is a warrior and a master tactician - as adept at slaughter as his enemy and plans have been been set in motion for a bloody uprising that will sweep the Norman king off the throne once and for all. But Hereward is missing. With their hopes of victory dwindling, can the English rebels find the leader who seems to have abandoned them before William the Bastard begins his final, devastating assault that will truly be the end of days...Here is a tale of heroism and treachery - and the bloodiest rebellion England has ever known.
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Hereward is fresh and riotously entertaining, an in-your-face, unforgettable meeting with one of English history's original 'forgotten' heroes. James Wilde has succeeded in turning Hereward into a vital, living, breathing, death-dealing, honest, fallible, believable human being. A worthy adversary for William and the Normans. My attention and anticipation has been held fast all the way through, by glorious, addictive story-telling and good old-fashioned, can't turn the pages fast enough, reading enjoyment of the finest kind. I do hope the good Mr Wilde can somehow find a way to keep Hereward going in some form or other. The character of the knight Deda would seem to offer some positive avenues, though would possibly take him into areas already occupied by James Aitcheson's 'Tancred'. The legend of Hereward has it that he either went into exile or carried on with his rebellious ways in the Fens or, a number of other possibilities. He didn't die at the end of his struggles to rid England of the Normans and there is certain evidence for his exploits in hiding being the template for the later Robin Hood legend, so there might be scope for further novels.
on 21 July 2014
This third and final book in the epic Hereward trilogy is truly, honestly, cross my heart MIND GRIPPING and EDGE OF YOUR SEAT reading - guaranteed 100%!
Not least due to the reader being plunged into the camp at Ely to learn that not only is order disintergrating and brutal random murders are being committed but HEREWARD IS MISSING! Is all lost?
From there it goes onto the best, most well plotted, jaw dropping roller coaster of a ride as the reader followers the several key point events that allow certain characters to rise and others to fall as each fights hard for what they most want - be it revenge, power, riches, honour, to complete a fateful oath or even just simple survival.
Soooooo much happens in this one book that I can not possibly mention any of it for fear of spoilers.
But I will say this - if you have read the first book and liked it, if you have read the second book and loved it, you MUST READ THIS out of PURE HONOUR to not only the character of Hereward and his epic life but the masterful telling by James Wilde.
on 11 September 2013
I can only agree wholeheartedly with all the previous positive reviews. This final book in the trilogy is excellent. Hereward has transformed from a berserker to a leader and all the pressures that brings are explored. I liked the side stories, Deda and Haraold Redteeth with their honour as warriors. Redwald being so revolting as to make you squirm and shout at the page. Even William has a presence that is hard to ignore, especially one scene where you fully realise why he was so successful. The times are grim, the book is bleak throughout and yet there are glimmers of hope and strength that allow some light into dark times. James Wilde is a very engaging writer helping to put the reader fully in to the time and place.
No one knows what really happened to Hereward but I think James Wilde's version is a fine idea and well worth the read.
I shall look out for more of his work in the future, I know I want to know more about the surviving characters....
on 2 May 2015
Wilde brilliantly captures the dark and eary climate of the times post Norman invasion. The Normans are portrayed as evil and cruel conquerors making life for the Saxon population a nightmare. It seems strange how weak the Saxon resistance against the Normans was in view of past experience resisting Danish Viling invaders. Anyhow, a well told story about "the forgotten English heroe" who seems to suffer time after time. But is determined to fight on agaist all the odds from a base situated in an area of bogs and marshland, known today as Cambridgeshire. What is also great about this story is the build up of many supporting characters, who in their own right, add substance to this story. Even the portrayal of King William (the Bastard) makes fascinating reading. A great series of books about a period in English history rarely covered by historical fiction. Looking forward to the next books in the series.