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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History and fiction combined into an excellent read.
This book was recommended to me by a friend and I have to admit to being sceptical about reading what I thought was a history book,(not my scene). Prepare to be proved wrong all those who think (like I did) that a book about the Battle of Hastings will be boring. The author has done an excellent job of combining fact with fiction in such a way that will make you want to...
Published on 9 May 2002

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear!
What can I say! A good effort marred by inaccurate historic research.

Bishop Odo of Bayeax was Williams half brother, and not his cousin as stated! And the idea of a Knight Templar fighting at Senlac is quite ludicrous...there are other inaccuracies, quite a few in fact!

The writing style is quite basic but passable, and there are some good ideas and...
Published on 29 Dec 2007 by K. J. Bamford


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear!, 29 Dec 2007
By 
K. J. Bamford - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
What can I say! A good effort marred by inaccurate historic research.

Bishop Odo of Bayeax was Williams half brother, and not his cousin as stated! And the idea of a Knight Templar fighting at Senlac is quite ludicrous...there are other inaccuracies, quite a few in fact!

The writing style is quite basic but passable, and there are some good ideas and descriptions, if only the facts were better researched!

If you like a good old dark age 'beat em up' then this book is worth the read, but if you are a serious devotee of 1066 and all that, then you will be greatly disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Is this Book for adults?, 5 April 2013
By 
R. N. C. Gorst (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
A very simply written book, suitable for 15 year olds only, compared to Anything by, for example the master historical novelist Alfred Duggan, or new kid on the block Justin Hill's 'Shieldwall' it pales into insignificence, 'A for effort'
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Naively written but at times stirring, 15 Dec 2007
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
I think it's safe to say that research isn't this author's strong point. The hero fights a Knight Templar, a good half century before the order was founded (242). Ranulf's "bitter English ale" (168) anticipates the introduction of hops by some three and a half centuries. A latter-day druidess prescribes tansy "or to give it its Latin name Chrysanthemum vulgare. Do you speak Latin, Ranulf? [...] No, I suppose not" (80). Could "the bemused look on Ranulf's face" have something to do with the fact that Carl Linaeus wouldn't invent the name chrysanthemum, or binomial nomenclature, for another 700 years?
Although it's 400 years since they adopted Christianity, Brown's Saxons fluctuate inexplicably between monotheism and polytheism, sometimes in the same breath (34, 117). They're surprisingly adept at time-keeping though: "The sun rose at 6.48 am" (237). Harald Hardraada, historically a Christian, invokes Wodin (confusing the Old English and Norse names for that god). Harald talks about crossing the Poison Sea from Norway to England; the real Old Norse expression for this crossing was simply vestr um haf `west over the sea'. Perhaps he was thinking of the film The Vikings. Tostig, in fine Wagnerian fashion, wears an "eagle-winged helmet" (53), given him by the Danish king Sven Estridson--or Erithson, as Sven's matronymic is garbled to here. "Beowulf, the greatest Saxon of them all" (233) wasn't a Saxon but a Geat (a people of southern Sweden).
Biological curiosities abound too. Harold is endowed with a "penis and genitalia" (292). In Brown's world, men drown cursing with their lungs full of water, rather than passing out first due to asphyxiation from laryngospasm (116). Some are remarkably resilient to arterial bleeding: "Osmond saw a stream of blood pump from his thigh. How he still managed to stand Osmond could only wonder" (273); after six pages of this pumping "bright red" (268) blood--during which Guthrum has introspected at length, calculated when to attack, wandered out of the front line, taken a rest, moved in for the kill, struck a blow with his axe hefty enough to fell a horse, etc.--we can only wonder too. Throat-slitting is a reassuringly mild affair: "He sighed a gentle sigh" (164), as is the aftermath of battle: "It looked so peaceful now, in the moonlight, the thousands of fallen still and silent" (166). Compare this with John Prebble's description based on contemporary accounts of Culloden: "The nights of Wednesday and Thursday had been intensely cold, and many of the clansmen had been stripped of their clothes by the beggars who came out of the hills. Throughout the hours of darkness, the people of Culwhiniac, Urchil and Leanach heard the crying and the moaning from the field" (Culloden, 127).
In one particularly laughable subplot, we learn that poppy seeds (!) are a powerful "opiate" drug (99) whose physiological and moral effects mimic every stereotype known to late 20th century drugabuseology (81, 99, 120-2); they are an "addictive powder" (99), "self-inflicted abuse" of which leads to the inevitable hallucinatory flashbacks (120) and murder (122).
Of course, even in the Internet Age when checking such facts is a mouse-click away, a historical novel needn't be accurate history, or science, to work as fiction. Sadly the writing in Housecarl is as sloppy as the research. Grammatical slips arise from the author's attempt at formal register: "whom Ranulf guessed was at least six feet two [...]" (42); "who Tostig could just about recognise" (147). Figures of speech occur in contexts that make them absurd by highlighting the idiom's literal meaning: "striking distance" (272); "The Norman cavalry was beyond counting. Two thousand horse, he estimated; at least" (247). Sometimes it's the repetition of a word or idiom in close proximity that sticks out, suggesting a limited vocabulary: "the question was fired at her peremptorily [...] the questions were fired one after the other" (227-8); "the army that would sweep William the Bastard into the sea. The London road to Hastings swept south" (233); "and then it would become a slaughter [...] it was becoming a slaughter" (263-4); "Beside him a Saxon was cut down unmercilessly [sic.] as, weaponless he pleaded for mercy" (262-3).
Characterisation is simplistic: "He hated his brother with a blind, unreasoning hatred that consumed his soul" (52); in this case, it would seem, deliberately so (290). But the main historical players, Harold, Harald and William stand out against a backdrop of blander, invented characters.
The author isn't afraid of cliché: "call it a woman's intuition, call it sixth sense, she just knew" (186); "as though the weight of the world were on his shoulders" (196); "she was impossibly tall and slender, with graceful limbs like the branches of a willow" (222); "ocean of troubles" (232); "his face was a study of concentration (233).
There's much redundant verbiage: "By then a far greater, a cataclysmic horror would have occurred that would overshadow everything else in his life and haunt him for years to come. But that event had yet to occur; was still in the future" (188); "not one man [...] deluded himself that this was the end. On the contrary it was just about to begin" (254-5). Still, the narrative keeps up a fair pace, partly due to the plain style and paucity of incidental detail.
I found the battles vivid and exciting, and enjoyed the tension inherent in the main story. There are some other well imagined scenes too. I liked the Norman landings as seen by a little boy through fog, the lapwing fleeing before the volley of arrows, and the rousing heroic sentiment generally.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Housecarl by Laurence J Brown, 8 Jan 2011
By 
John Crofts "1066" (Gloucester) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
Housecarl by Laurence J. Brown: starts unpromisingly with an un-named "Saxon" held in a rat-infested cell at Bonneville-sur-Touques, which is placed at Rouen, Normandy. Unfortunately, Bonneville is not actually anywhere near Rouen, but less than five miles from present-day Deauville. The remains of the Norman castle can still be visited there during the summer. The "Saxon" turns out to be Harold Godwinson; in no other book that I have read, be it novel or otherwise, has it been suggested that Harold was ever imprisoned by Duke William. The "chains" that held Harold in Normandy were silken; there was no escape possible unless William allowed it. Where could Harold go except by ship directly back to England? Any escape by land would risk falling into the hands of other unscrupulous magnates, who would have surely held him to ransom. The scene then shifts to the death-bed of Edward, termed "the Confessor" by Mr Brown, although this nickname was not used until well after Edward's death and efforts were being made to canonize him. We are expected to believe that Harold, the premier earl in England and thus Edward's right-hand man, had not been to court for eighteen months since his return from Normandy. Then, despite the fact that, in 1066, the kings of England were elected by the witan, Mr Brown has Edward name Harold as his successor and Queen Edith takes the seal of England and places it upon Harold's finger. As I said at the beginning of this review, Housecarl started unpromisingly and continued in this vein throughout. Mr Brown names several sources in his acknowledgements, including The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and The Bayeux Tapestry, but has chosen to almost completely ignore all of them and weave his own poorly written tale of the events of 1066. I have given this book one star, which is probably flattering it and I cannot recommend it. Some reviewers have said they shed tears whilst reading Housecarl; the only tears I could possibly have shed would have been for the money I wasted buying it. Sitting in my bookcase, so far unread, is Laurence J. Brown's other novel "Cold Heart, Cruel Hand", a novel of Hereward the Wake. I do hope it is considerably better than Housecarl, which is dire.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History and fiction combined into an excellent read., 9 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
This book was recommended to me by a friend and I have to admit to being sceptical about reading what I thought was a history book,(not my scene). Prepare to be proved wrong all those who think (like I did) that a book about the Battle of Hastings will be boring. The author has done an excellent job of combining fact with fiction in such a way that will make you want to keep on reading. The battle scenes are described so vividly that you could almost be there. After reading this book I certainly want to visit the site of Hastings knowing now that I will now be able to imagine how it was in 1066. I hope that L.J.Brown will be doing more books, they will be on my wish list for sure.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of England!!! And a Pretty Good Book Too, 27 Aug 2008
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
This is a very good book, a real page turner, it was a little slow in places, but I suppose thats called 'character building'. I would describe this book like watching a movie e.g. on one side of the channel you see the English army waiting for the invasion, then the next scene you see William looking over the sea as his men are hard at work building new ships. The book does include the battle against the Viking Haardrada and the build up the Hastings. The book of course finishes with the battle of Hastings and it is descrbed in great detail (40 pages) and it is a very educational book that i highly reccommend to anyone intersted in ths time period-you wont be disapointed, as its very well written. Dont forget the sequal: Cold Heart, Cruel Hand, a novel of Hereward the Wake. Hereward famously put up an English resistence against the Normans and is believed to be the basis for Robin Hood-i look forward to reading it.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history made real, 16 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
I was given this book to read and loved it! It was real and vivid and brought early England into sharp focus. The book is soundly based in historical fact. It doesn't slip into the realms of "historical romance" - keeping a firm eye on the facts without losing sight of the people that inhabit the book.
Ranulf is a strong hard character, torn between his duty to the King and his love for his pregnant girlfriend Alice.
The King himself is a complex and confused person. He to is pulled taut between his love for his country and his kingship, and an oath torn from him by William the Bastard.
The scenes evoked in the battle scenes are many, the blood lust, the noise, the pain but mostly the feeling of revulsion at the wanton waste of life.
Read this book you'll love it !
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very good read about the battle of hastings., 9 Feb 2002
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
A detailed novel about the battle of hastings, This book gives you a real feel to what it must of been like leading up to the battle, and the battle itself. Quite blood thursty, and very gripping. I felt as though the I was living the battle while reading this book. I look forward to reading a further novel by this author.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars escapism, 27 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Housecarl (Kindle Edition)
I tend to like what i know and know what i like. 'Housecarl' to me was bread and butter reading. If i wanted precise accuracy in my choice of reading i would expect to pay-20 to 30 pound. For 1.53 i expect excitement, fast paced plots, flowing style and based in fact. Mr Brown supplied all the ingredients i look for. . .and then some. I have already bought the next book to follow Ranulf into the fens. After saying what i have said i cannot take away from the fact for 1.53 this book will stay on my kindle and i will revisit it again in the future. Not all of the e-books i buy stay with me, this one will.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Housecarl': an intriguing view of 1066, 4 July 2012
By 
Billy J. Hobbs "Bill Hobbs" (Tyler, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: HOUSECARL (Paperback)
It's 1066, the last time that England will ever be invaded by foreign troops. King Edward the Confessor has just died, and Anglo-Saxon England will never be the same.

On his deathbed, the venerable Edward has bequeathed the crown to young Harold Godwineson. Harold is eager to assume the royal mantel and for a few moments, it appears as if the sovereign state leadership will pass easily from one to another. Alas, as history and as Laurence J. Brown have it, it is not to be. For across the Channel another awaits the call. William the Bastard, later to be called the Conqueror, had also been promised the crown by Edward. Thus begins perhaps one of the most famous years and military events in Western Civilization-the Norman Invasion.

Brown, however, makes "Housecarl" more than a history lesson. The title is the name of the king's specially-trained and favorite warriors ("the cream of the English army") and Harold's personal champion Ranulf Redbeard sets out to recruit others, as he knows that Harold will need all the help he can get. The author presents expertly and candidly the complexities of this famous year, from Harold and William on down to the peasant stock. Everyone is involved in the impending invasion from Normandy. Even with a myriad of personal intrigues among the two central powers, yet there are others. The King of Norway also feels he should be king of England (through a convulted network of genealogy) and even Harold's own brother Tostig seeks the crown.

Ah, what a tangled web we weave. Graphic and colorful, suspenseful and atmospheric, "Housecarl" not only gives us a very readable accounting of 1066 but of the individuals involved, real or otherwise. It is a book not easily forgotten. And a good read!
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HOUSECARL by Laurence J. Brown (Paperback - 5 Sep 2002)
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