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on 18 April 2016
At times, not the easiest of reads in terms of language/style, but the subject-matter was in general very well-handled and Max Adams' knowledge-base is very secure – although his conjectures may be challenged by some. Like another reviewer, I felt that the title encompassed more than just Oswald – Oswiu, if anything, is a more "substantial" king, so I feel that the sub-title on the front cover, "The life and times of Oswald of Northumbria" is not fully accurate. The text on the back cover, with its "Game of Thrones" style, may well have misled those reviewers who thought it to be a fantasy novel?
Adams presents a comprehensive overview of the development of Northumbria and the structural and dynastic reasons why it was ultimately unable to defend itself from the depradations of the the Vikings, although it's debatable whether it could have withstood this onslaught had it been in better health. He links well the developing relationship between "church" and "state" in their embryonic forms and I would say that this is a very good introduction for the lay reader to a period of Early English history focussing on the north as opposed to Wessex, allowing for the caveats expressed by some other reviewers.
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2015
This is a superb history. It offers the nearest we will ever get to a biography of a very early medieval king who was not only the central character of the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, but also Tolkien's inspiration for Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. But it goes much wider than that, and gives a good feel for the fabric of the social order at a very transitional time, the seventh century, when kings such as Oswald of Northumbria were the first leaders to be what one might term heads of a state that could outlive that king, as opposed to warrior leaders whose rule collapsed after their deaths. It was also very much a transitional time in religious terms, with not only battles between Christianity and paganism, but also between the Celtic Christian tradition, introduced by St Columba in Scotland in the 560s, and the Roman Christian tradition introduced slightly later by St Augustine in Kent in 597. The decision of the Synod of Whitby in 664 to go with the Roman variety shaped the future of religion in England and is a date that should probably be much better known than it is. The author also brings into play archaeology and an exploration of features of the Medieval mindset that are hardest for us in the twenty first century to understand, the veneration of saints' remains and the belief that miracles and magic are perfectly valid and unremarkable elements of a narrative of events. Great stuff, supplemented by genealogies, chronologies and pictures.
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on 11 March 2018
I’m about 65% through now and I’m hoping that this is going to be one of those books with an enormous index which means I’ve read the whole thing by the time I’m 70% in. The King In The North is heavy going, and a little dry, though the author’s made it just interesting enough that I haven’t been able to bring myself to abandon it. This should be a good thing, but it isn’t, because I’m really, really not enjoying myself. I am learning something though, which is probably the point, even if it’s not really Oswald I’m learning about. It seems mainly to focus on his successor, Oswiu, and his predecessor but one, Edwin, both of whom have a decent claim to having left a greater legacy than the titular king. At the moment, I’m about to begin my second, or possibly third, feature length chapter about Oswiu’s successor, Ecfrith and, not for the first time, I’m wishing I hadn’t started.

I suppose the bottom line is that this isn’t a book to be entered into lightly. It’s well-researched, generally well-presented, and informative. It just isn’t a fun read.

Edit: If you’re reading on a kindle, the book proper finishes at 72%. Am I glad I finished it? You better believe it. Was it worth it? Probably.
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on 14 May 2015
The dark age of British history has just had a bright light shone into the corners. The characters and people of the time are brought into the daylight and this book certainly brings the early part of our history alive, at times though it is hard to remember their relationships to each other, or the region that they came from. A map outlining or showing the various regions would of helped, but this is a minor point in what was an interesting and enlightening read.
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on 3 April 2018
wonderful read
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on 28 May 2015
Very detailed, honest and fluent story which is really hard to achive regarding that not many facts and dates are really available. Nonetheless author is building great story that seems to have no gaps (but clearly keep reminding that the whole story is really a guessing work).
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on 6 February 2018
Would be unkind to describe it as plodding , perhaps I am jaded... too much of Maxs' prose is more than enough
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on 18 March 2018
Fantastic book. Gives a real sense of what 7c England was like. It has everything, battles, political intrigue, dynastic squabbles, would have made a far better TV series than the Last Kingdom!
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on 19 August 2015
Readable and informative. The right balance between the latest scholarship and informed speculation. Expertly puts together archaeology, written sources, the meticulous analysis of bureaucratic and genealogical records, geography, theology and myth to bring alive the people, politics, trade, how people thought and lived. Excellent.
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on 27 May 2015
I love reading about our ancestors, real English and British heroes, would recommend this to anyone who likes history or even if you like historical novels I think you'll like this. This should be taught in school.
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