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4.7 out of 5 stars29
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on 13 February 2014
I enjoyed this book and it gave a believable insight in to a fascinating period of history that was only briefly studied when I was at school and I think is completely ignored now. A sympathetic portrayal of Emma of Normandy as a strong woman who, although trapped within in the social strictures of her age, still successfully manages to get what she wants by using her intelligence. The dirt and seemingly casual violence of the period give an authentic background to characters who would be hard to make up if they weren't part of history. A few niggles with the writing style. The book is overlong and the author seems bit too sparing with prepositions which doesn't always make for a comfortable read.All in all though I would recommend this as good treatment for anyone who suffered The White Queen on TV.
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on 13 January 2013
Have read several books by this author and they never disappoint. Helen Hollick brings all her characters alive and you genuinely come to care about these people. She has a wonderful humerous streak and as always the book was a delight to read.
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on 19 April 2015
First of all, thanks to the author for writing such a detailed and well-researched book about a little-known period of history, one that I am learning more about. I felt I was in safe hands with her, and that what she wrote was historically accurate, which is a good start.

I only have two gripes with this book.
1. I think it is too long. The first half was slow, and I found I was trudging through it a bit. With the arrival of Cnut, the narrative speeded up, and the writing was more succinct, despite many more things happening. I suspect the author may have preferred writing the second half. If she had cut a couple of hundred pages from the first half I think it would have improved the book.
2. Emma. She's just not a likeable character in any way. Whilst I understand - and I am a writer too - that characters are not all going to be "nice", I do like to feel some empathy for the main person, and I found little to like in Emma. I think I cared more for everyone else than I did for her. She came over as thoroughly self-centred, lacking in love or compassion, and only interested in furthering her own prospects. Perhaps she was like that, but in fiction it's nice to feel one actually cares about the protagonist.

Having said that though, I enjoyed the book (especially the second half). I would give it 4.5 stars because of the above points, but I will round it up to five because I think Ms Hollick has done an excellent job, and I will definitely be reading her other books. And that speaks louder than any review.
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on 16 February 2014
Helen Hollick has taken a difficult time in English history and brought to life characters of whom so little is known besides a few bare (and often unsubstantiated) facts. The characterisations of Emma (principally), Aethelred, Godwine, Edmund and Aldgyth really bring those people to life; no longer just names in a history books but real people with emotions, strengths as well as weaknesses. I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in English history and especially what we call The Dark Ages. Helen has put light amongst that darkness.
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on 27 June 2010
A Hollow Crown

The use of well researched and meticulous detail in this book is excellent and brings to life the vibrant, brave and often very flawed characters of the era which I feel are little known in general.

There is a huge cast of characters and, because of the similarity of given names and diffrent spellings used by the Danes and Saxons, Ms Hollick has done a great job in sorting through the haystack of those times.

The geneological tables leave a lot to be desired, ( I can see that it is very difficult because of the hand-fast [more danico] marriage as opposed to Christian marriage) in that they are extremely badly constructed and very difficult to follow; they would not have been missed if they had been omitted entirely.

Some of the incidents are overly long and wordy whereas others could have done with more description but all in all the story is very good, except that the ending is abrupt, sketchy and rather 'skated over'. You can find out more about Emma in 'Harold the King'.

Ms Hollick does say that she wrote 'Harold the King' (which is actually set, in time, after this book) before she wrote this one; I am afraid, that it shows - what a pity.
Nevertheless I still recommend this book as a good, long read.
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on 28 September 2013
Helen Hollick brings history vividly to life. A vast panorama of a book. Brilliant story-telling, to make you feel as though you are watching history unfold before you.
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on 29 January 2005
This is a well-written, detailed book. It is the tale of the intriguing Queen Emma, but it is as much the tale of Ethelred, Edmund Ironside, Earl Godwine--and of course, Cnut. No one has portrayed Cnut as well as Hollick has. He comes to life, even more than Emma. It is a book worth reading!
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on 8 February 2010
I have a keen interest early medieval history. Good historical novels set in this period are few and far between. This one is one of my favourites. Helen Hollick does a superb job painting a picture of pre-Norman England, its intrigues and its personalities, in particular Emma of Normandy, Aethelred and Cnut. It's not a book full of battles, it's not Bernard Cornwell. But the portrayal of the period and the range of different and believable characters are excellent. Don't let the size of the book put you off either. By the time I got to the end, I wanted more, and delved straight into Helen Hollick's other book of this peroid, `Harold the King' (just as good).
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on 7 December 2009
A compelling book, Helen Hollick has written an absolutely superb portrait of Queen Emma. You see, feel and smell how it was like to live in her era. Obviously it is her own interpretation of the events as there are few manuscripts left but her perception of the human factor in each persona is so believable that it makes this book one to reckon with if you are interested in England before the norman invasion. Great sense of humour too! And if you are a fan of Sharon Penman's books you shall not be disappointed either.
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on 10 April 2014
I really got to know the characters and the story prior to Harold the King and the Battle of Hastings! She made everything so real. Helen's descriptions of towns like Winchester were so vivid. Her telling of Emma's sorrow over a loved one's death was so real that you can tell she's experienced this pain. Her battle scenes and political turmoil are wonderfully detailed - she reminds me of Bernard Cornwall. I couldn't put this book down!
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