Customer Review

26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Character led at least, 18 Sep 2011
This review is from: Shieldwall (Hardcover)
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Justin Hill is one of many to have just begun a historical series set around 1066. However, he has made a better start than most. Hill has a similar academic background to James Aitcheson, who is covering much of the same ground, but from the Norman point of view. They have both cribbed the Saxon place names from the same sources and have read the same original chronicles. Hill has chosen a key protagonist. Aitcheson has invented an unknown.

Hill has the trickier job. He is following the Conn Igguldsen route. Take the key character in a turbulent period of history, start with his youth and character formation, and hang the whole tale on that: eg. Caesar and Genghis Khan. Napier does the same with Attila the Hun. The alternative, I would call the Cornwell/CS Forester school - make up an individual then plonk them into every major event of that period. the great benefit of the first scholl is that the story, if good enough in itself will propel the whole thing along quite nicely, which is what happens here. The book clatters along, makes no mistakes, informs and interests. The drawback is that it rarely gets the pulse racing. The worst proponents of this style in the 70s and 80s were first Nigel Tranter (Scottish History) and then Sharon Penman (Wars of the Roses). The other style is usually much more exciting, but is very unforgiving of poor characterisation and loose plotting. That's why bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow sell so well, and usually the other kind doesnt. This is the better end of the other kind.

So what do we have? A clear well told story, but VERY limited excitement. Much blood is spilled but there is nothing very gutsy here. If you want the exciting school of historical fiction don't go for this. If you are interested in history for itself, it's a good primer on the period without having to read REALLY boring books.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Sep 2012 07:56:54 BDT
Bit ironic! The reviewer says that this book is in a particular style and that the worst proponent (in 70s&80s) of the style is Nigel Tranter. I happen to be a big fan of Tranter. So, the review, by putting the book in the same category as Tranter's, (unwittingly) recommends it to me!
This is a very good, very perceptive review and I agree with the reviewer about the style being potentially less exciting than the other. However, it so happens that I prefer the style in which the protagonist is an actual historical figure.
By the way, I think Tranter is far superior to Penman.
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