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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria by [Adams, Max]
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Review

'A triumph. The most gripping portrait of 7th-Century Britain that I have read ... A Game of Thrones in the Dark Ages' Tom Holland, The Times.

'An engagingly populist and evocative book that makes a bold and effective attempt to bring a particularly obscure period in northern British history to the general reader' Literary Review.

'This early ruler had a life, and a legacy that rivals any fable' Independent.

'Gripping, hugely enjoyable and deeply scholarly.' History Today Books of the Year.

About the Author

Max Adams is the author of ADMIRAL COLLINGWOOD (2005) and THE PROMETHEANS (2009), which was a Guardian Book of the Week. A university teacher, Max has lived and worked in the North-East of England since 1993.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8307 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CGOD5K0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,704 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Top Customer Reviews

By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover
An historical title and one that whilst I had heard of the subject (Oswald) was not one I knew too much about and to be honest in a culture where a lot of the heroes we get to read about are from invaders such as the Anglo Saxon's Beowulf, here we get the story of a home grown hero, a man who took his birthright, brought his kingdom under Christianity and won as well as lost his kingdom by the sword alongside having influence throughout the UK.

It's a tale that is an absolute epic on its own and deserving of the time to be brought to the fore. What Max does is sort out fact from fable, delves into the historical writings and brings this to the modern reader in a friendly as well as understandable manner. All round a great book and one that, whilst it took a while to get through, was one that I was more than happy I spent the time reading. Great stuff.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
King of the North is supposed to be about “the life and times of Oswald of Northumbria”, as the book subtitle hints at. Written in an entertaining way and targeted at the general reader, this book is much more than that, with Oswald of Northumbria being almost a pretext for telling a much wider story over a much longer period than the mere eight years during which this warrior-king reigned. In a way, this is just as well, given how little real historical information we can really rely upon.

This is perhaps the first merit because the author, who clearly knows his topic and has done his research, manages to tell the story of most of Anglo-Saxon England over a period of about four centuries, with a special focus on its northern parts, while still being able to link this to Oswald. Part of this is achieved through the pretext of providing necessary context while events subsequent to the warrior-King’s death are also described as part of the King’s legacy or as part of the growth of his legend.

Another interesting feature is the provision of chronologies for each of the book’s major sections. While these may be tentative than the author cares to admit, and also largely reflects his assumptions, choices or even educated guesses in some cases, there is no denying how helpful they are for the reader who would very likely be confused or even lost in their absence.

A third focus and strong point of this book, although there are many others as well that I will be unable to mention in this limited review, is the emphasis put on the King or, perhaps more accurately, the paramount warlord. The author clearly shows to what extent the king’s power was essentially personal.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Max Adams very readable biography of Oswald is steeped in a long love affair with the subject and region and an enthusiasm to share that with others.

In presenting his story he doesn't ignore the difficulties of the paucity or contradictory nature of his sources and draws deeply on his background in archaeology. I finished the book with a far better understanding of a fascinating period in the regions history and Oswald's place in it.

A minor point. As Old English names and words crop up frequently in the book, not least in the epigraphs which head each chapter, it would have been helpful to have a short pronunciation guide.
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By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Mar. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's a hole at the centre of this book, and unfortunately that hole is where Oswald himself should be. Max Adams makes great claims for the importance of Oswald as one of the first Christian kings to hold sway over the rest of Britain, as his mighty role as warrior, as Tolkien's inspiration for Aragorn in 'Lord of the Rings', as founder of the monastery at Lindisfarne, as his afterlife as a saint - but reading this book I never came to any clear understanding of why Oswald was important or what justification there was for these claims.

This book is very much more about the 'times' than the 'life' - it devotes as much time to the years before and after Oswald, if not more, than the years of Oswald's reign itself. I felt like Oswald had hardly made an appearance on the scene as king of a united Northumbria before he was dead and gone again, and there seemed very little to tell about him even then. From what Adams relates, it's hard to see why Oswald is considered such an important figure in British history or why he was elevated as a saint. He doesn't seem to <i>do</i> very much at all - his successors were the ones who arguably were more successful in solidifying what achievements be began.

Whilst I found this book a genuinely interesting snapshot into life in Dark Ages Britain and in particular the development of Britain as a Christian country (or perhaps re-establishment is more appropriate, since a major theme of this book is the struggle between 'British' Christianity best exemplified by the Irish churches and the 'Roman' Christianity of the established Catholic church), as a book about King Oswald it leaves much to be desired. Perhaps that's a failure of marketing and publicity, who knows? Maybe kings and saints are a catchier hook than a history of British Christianity in the Dark Ages, which is effectively what this book is really about.
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