Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
on 14 July 2013
This is the third volume of James Wilde's trilogy on Hereward and his insurrection against William of Normandy - the Conqueror. I had mixed feelings regarding the two previous volumes, but I liked this one much more.
Part of this has to do with the characters, which I found more believable, starting with Hereward himself. I also felt that many of the characters had more depth and more complexity than what had been shown before. While most of the characters previously only seemed to be driven by vengeance or ambition and interested in slaughter or fighting, in this volume, they also appear to be motivated by honour and duty. In addition to Hereward and Harald Redteeth, whose personal feud continues and reaches its climax in this volume, a new character - the Norman knight Deda (a strange name for a Norman, although it might have been "Dieudat"), a young but broken veteran - appears in this volume.
One example that I particularly liked was the character of William of Normandy himself. While clearly unsympathetic, ruthless and cruel, but always with a purpose, he is also shown as human, and not some kind of monster. The end of the book gives a hint explaining his behaviours: ruthlessness, brutality and treachery had been so rift in Normandy that the only way for him to dominate his knights and lords was to feared by them, and be tougher and "worse" than them. The book, however, also shows him as a great and relentless military leader capable of doing "whatever it takes" to get the job done. This includes putting himself in danger or destroying part of his newly conquered kingdom to subdue it and make his point -the infamous "Harroying of the North".
The story itself is mostly well known (at least in the UK), and anyway I will not spoil the book for others by revealing the plot. Suffice to mention that the author has come up with some interesting twists in the plot, with a nice hint at the legend of Hereward been transformed into Robin Hood. William the Conqueror's dilemma - whether dead or alive, Hereward could still be a problem and stir considerable trouble for the Norman warlord in his newly conquered Kingdom is well described and just about plausible.
Both of the main battle scenes are rather good, as in the previous books, whether the surprise attack on the Norman camp or the assault of the "English" fortified island of Ely. Although the first attack seems to have been invented by the author, it is nevertheless rather exciting and plausible. My favourite scene, however, is towards the end of the book where Harald Redteeth confronts Hereward for what is their final reckoning, just after having fended of the horrific attacks of a pack of wolves.
There were however a few little things that did not quite work out or which were a bit problematic for me. While the double treachery that leads to the final assault and the fall of Ely is very plausible, the facility with which Hereward and some of his supporters seem able to get in and out of Lincoln is harder to believe. Also somewhat difficult to believe is Hereward's interview with William, in the latter's palace.
A good read that was worth four solid stars, although not quite five.