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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 10 March 2012
I'm only halfway through Shieldwall but have been driven to write a review because of the extraordinary quality of this book.

After reading Julian Rathbone's The Last English King, I became very interested in historical fiction and have enjoyed many fine novels (Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden etc.)

Unfortunately, I have found some diminishing returns in recent years and, all too often, have failed to finish books due to clunky writing, poor story-telling and other perceived faults (maybe I'm just getting fussy in middle-age).

However, Shieldwall has had a similar impact to The Last English King. The writing is beautiful and the characters are entirely believable. I've just got to the first battle scene and it was as exciting (and upsetting) a depiction of combat as I've ever read. Somebody died (I won't say who) and it felt like it hit me as hard as the arrow hit the character.

I understand there will be a sequel. Thank goodness as I don't want this book to end.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 June 2011
When I ordered this book, my expectations were somewhat low. It seemed that this one would be yet another book on the Vikings battling and raiding the Anglo-Saxons. Yet this one stands out in several respects.

The main character is somewhat original. Instead of the "usual" novels on the Great Army or King Alfred, on the one hand, and all the stuff on Harold Godwinson, 1066 and all that, this book is about the younger years of his father - Godwin Wulfnothson, under King Ethelread and Edmund "Ironside".

It is also very well researched and well documented with the author "sticking" to historical facts as much as he can and telling a plausible story where there are no facts - such as the role of Wulfnoth and his exile in Dublin, of which we know next to nothing.

One disappointment, however, was that Justin Hill seemed less interested in telling the story of Godwin's service to Knut. A pity because this is itself could have made a good story. Perhaps he is saving it for his second tome which I will most certainly buy.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 August 2014
Justin Hill I thought? I've never heard of him as an author of Historical Fiction - and that is because, despite him writing a number of books, he has never written books on this era. So how does his first outing fair? It's superb! It really has jumped to my favourite book on this era. Strating just before the battle of Assundune (Ashingdon... ok it's slightly debatable whether it is ashdon or Ashingdon...) and finishing at the battle of Hastings and following the Godwins it really is a rip-roaring read.

I cannot wait for his next historical novel - I do hope he supplies us with one soon!
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VINE VOICEon 15 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
To be honest, I wasn't sure about this one at the start, it seemed a bit lacklustre and slow.
How wrong can you be?
Once into its stride this became a gripping tale of some of history's less well known, but in their time, major players. Justin Hill's novel is well researched and shines a welcome and erudite light on 'The Dark Ages' pre 1066.
Those interested in history will be familiar with Harold Godwinson etc. but I'm willing to bet few will be aware of his father's doings let alone his grandfather's. This then is the setting for 'Shieldwall' and while the events portrayed played out a thousand years ago Mr Hill puts a very creditable, if difficult to prove, interpretation on them. The result is an excellent novel, Mr Hill has the story telling gift, no doubt of it.
If you like Conn Iggulden or Harry sidebottom try Justin Hill I don't think you will be disappointed, I'm certainly eager for the next instalment.
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on 27 February 2013
By sheer good fortune I came across this wonderful book in my local library and I'm so very glad I did. It simply sucked me in and I read it more-or-less in one sitting. It's just a fabulously well-written and compulsive page-turner. The characters, settings and sense of period are magnificently well-drawn and for any fan of historical fiction interested in this period of history, I find it hard to believe that any reader will be disappointed. Amazingly, reading the reviews, there are some who didn't enjoy it - but, one can't please everyone. If I had one criticism to make it's the author's constant use of Anglo-Saxon place names which I found distracting, not a little irritating, and, perhaps, a little pointless. But I'm sure he had his reasons and the book is so faultless otherwise I will just have to find it in my heart to forgive him. There may well be historical inaccuracies also - but any writer of fiction has to do just that: write fiction. It's just a great read and if Justin Hill is really writing a sequel - as the afterword suggests - then I look forward to that!
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was a little anxious about reading Shieldwall - it was on the Amazon Vine Review list, so out of curiosity I selected it. My concern - I too write Historical Fiction and two of my novels are exactly of this period.

As historical fiction novelists, it is up to us to do the research, get the facts as right as we can, breath life into people who lived several hundred years ago - and invent the rest as plausibly as we can and make the narrative as believable as possible.

Justin Hill has done this superbly.

I am a huge Godwin and Harold Godwinsson supporter (Harold is my hero) and my own interpretation of their story - and Emma and Cnut's - is very dear to me.

Shieldwall did not disappoint - in fact the opposite. And Huzzah for more about Edmund Ironside - what a fantastic King he would have made. I admire and respect that guy - he deserves his own book!

There were some things I didn't agree with - but all history is a matter of interpretation and opinion. We all have our own views and argue like mad over which one of us is right. At the end of the day, though, this is a novel written for entertainment, it is not meant to be a history book.... so its a damn fine read!

(I'm now anxious to see what the author does with 1066..... no Norman propaganda I hope? Duke William had no right to the English throne....)
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on 30 November 2013
Brings to life the (deliberately?) forgotten and neglected period of English history. Genuinely heroic figures and real villains who modern school children know nothing about are brought to life.
I can't help but wonder if J RR Tolkien's 'Wormtongue' character was really based on Eadric Streona... it's just such a perfect fit!

The writing style gives the reader a feel for the times - the prose is excellent.

It is also an exciting story written around real events which shaped English history to the extent that ultimately English society was ultimately be destroyed by a few thousand ruthless pirates and mercenaries from Normandy, some of whose descendents remain influential figures in the modern British establishment
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on 10 March 2013
What's best about this book is the mood and climate of the times, captured by the author. It seems obvious to compare "Shieldwall" to the acclaimed Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, and of course the latter is superior, regarding the plot, the characters, the writing style. However, all credit to Justin Hill for selecting the period before Hastings and describe the struggles of the English against the persistant Danish invaders. I could mention some frustrating and weaker parts to this book. But no, it is definitely a great read for the historical fiction collector and I eagerly await the next part.
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on 18 March 2016
Shieldwall is the first in a series leading up to the Battle of Hastings. Justin Hill's clever use of language that is directly derived from Old English and the meter of his prose that could so easily be imagined echoing in a great mead hall as part of a scop's epic saga, lends this page-turner a real sense of authenticity. Strong characters, bloody battles and beautiful prose. What's not to like? I'm looking forward to the next books in the series.

Matthew Harffy, author of The Serpent Sword (Bernicia Chronicles Book 1)
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VINE VOICEon 10 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Shieldwall tells the story of Godwin Wuthnolfson, a young noble held hostage in the court of Ethelred the Unready, with his father accused of treason and sent into exile. The story is set during the Viking incursions into England from 1016 onwards.
Godwin is befriended by Edmund Ironside, one of Ethelred's sons, as they grow to manhood. Ethelred is loath to fight, he believes in paying off the Danish Army with danegeld. When Ethelred dies Edmund becomes King and he decides to confront Knut Sweinson, King of the Danish Army and fight.
The accounts of various battles, rape and pillage, treachery and the forswearing of oaths and changing of sides continue over the years. Through all the fluctuations in fortune, the ebb and flow of victories and defeats, Godwin and his retainers remain steadfast in their loyalty to Edmund.
This is the first book by this author I have read, I believe this is his first venture into this genre but his story compares favourably with other recognised writers. I look forward to his next journey into the past.
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