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on 29 July 2012
Boy was I happy.

I'd read Hereward by James Wilde recently and, while I had a couple of issues with the book, on the whole I'd thoroughly enjoyed it. So now that the sequel (Hereward: The Devil's Army) is out, I was intrigued to see how the story went on and whether the writer's tack or style had changed since the first book.

I read it in four days, despite this week being a ruthlessly busy time with few free moments. In short, Devil's Army is everything I could have hoped for in a sequel to Hereward. My two main issues with the first book were the somewhat stereotypical nature of the hero and the sparse treatment of the two great battles the book deals with. It may be that the sequel has escaped this problem by not dealing with world-famous battles and having an already-established hero, but I don't believe that is the case. I think James has taken his treatment of the main character and deepened and broadened his perspective. Hereward had changed throughout the first book, in sometimes jarring ways, and in the sequel his nature changes again several times, but subtly and with finesse, for which I think applause is due. And, while there are no famous historic battles in this one, there are two ways this book wins out. I have (since the first book) read something about the events in Hereward's period of activity and can say that Wilde seems to have really done his homework, using the accepted history, but also making intuitive leaps in gaps in the knowledge. Also, though there may be no great battles in this book, there are plenty of non-famous ones, and they are treated with an in-depth and exciting narrative.

As with the first book, Wilde's narrative style is so enthusing and visual that he could have written a phone book and made it riveting. His descriptions make you feel cold with the icy claws of winter, or terrified in a hut of desperate and dangerous peasants. While I'm giving Devil's Army 5 stars, I can't see anything he ever writes being worthy of less than 4, just because of the way it's written.

From the devastation of the north under the conqueror's army, to the fortress in the swamps at Ely, to the numerous betrayals of the loyal and doomed English, to the amazing Harald Redteeth (who I think I want to be), to the almost Martin-Sheen-rising-from-the-river-in-Apocalypse-Now ambushes that devastate the cold Normans, every step is a win. The plot is well-written and well-rounded and ties up beautifully from beginning to end, with more hooks, twists, surprises and stunning scenes than the first, and more than most novels in the genre.

I would recommend people read these books. Hopefully you will love Hereward and its sequel. Hereward was a gripping read, but the Devil's Army is a tour-de-force and a welcome addition to my shelf of great Historical Fiction.
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on 22 July 2017
An amazing sequel room the first book! Couldn't put it down. Now I'll buy the next, methinks I will never finish my waiting library of unread books!
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on 1 October 2017
One of the best books i have read.
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on 28 March 2017
Great read casont wait to read next one
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on 1 July 2016
Not a bad read.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 19 August 2012
This second volume on Hereward has some limited improvements when compared to the first one, but suffers from very much the same problems. The topic is anything but original - there are four or five other novels out there on Hereward, his rising and his guerrilla warfare against the Normans.

To make a great piece of historical fiction, I tend to believe that an author needs to combine three ingredients: solid research into the period and historical characters that you are writing about, some original twists and a credible plot, and, perhaps above all, good characterization that makes the characters plausible and makes them come to life. None of these ingredients is particularly strong in this book.

James Wilde has certainly done his historical research, including research on the geography of the Fens to try to capture how the Fen country made up of a mix of forests, lakes, marshes and islands could have looked like before land reclamation. His chronology is accurate, and the historical events he tells do seem to have mostly happened as indicated, including William the Conqueror's terrible Harroying of the North. Some of the features included, such as the scene of cannibalism, are very plausible, at the very least.

However, some of the twists introduced into the plot are simply not historical and are not even plausible. One of these is the sending of a young girl to act as Hereward's "chief of intelligence" at the Court of Winchester and spy on William the Conqueror. To simply imagine that a young (and pretty!) girl could travel on her own from the Fens to Winchester and back requires a huge leap of faith. Also, Sveyn King of Denmark did allow himself to be bought off by William and drop his allies but he never travelled all the way to Winchester and never met William. That the Danish King would take the risk to make such a travel and put himself at risk in such a way is simply incredible.

Then we have a number of problems with the characterization. In some cases it is lacking. In others it is rather excessive and incredible. Although somewhat toned down from the first volume when he appeared as a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Rambo, Hereward's bursts of berserker psychopathic rage and his regular rumblings about killing everyone and saving the English become rather tiresome. I am afraid that neither Hereward nor his Viking nemesis (Redteeth), nor the Norman commanders (Taillebois and de Warennes) really come to life. Also the character of William the Conqueror is a bit of a caricature, and one that is historically incorrect also. William was 38 in 1066 and so just over forty when this volume begins. At the time, he was not yet incredibly fat as the book makes him out to be. This would only be the case some 10 years later. The author also tends to depict William as cruel, which is very probably true, but also gives the impression that this cruelty was wanton and that he relished it, which is very unlikely to have been the case. The destruction of the North, that neither Tostig nor William's captains had been able to subdue was, however horrible, one of these "whatever it takes" measures to end once and for all the rebellions by laying wasting to the countryside and slaughtering the population.

So while I did find this book exciting and will read volume 3, if only because I have a special interest in this period, I found that this one was not much better than - although no worse - that the first episode. Three stars.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 October 2015
These books just get better really enjoyed this one in 1067 the battle of Hastings has been lost; Harold Godwinsson is dead. The iron fist of William the Bastard has begun to squeeze the life out of England. Villages are torched and men, women and children put to the sword as the Norman king attempts to impose his cruel will upon this unruly nation. But there is one who stands in the way of the invader's savagery. He is called Hereward. He is a warrior and master tactician and as adept at slaughter as the imposter who sits upon the throne. And he is England's last hope. In a Fenlands fortress of water and wild wood, Hereward's resistance is simmering. His army of outcasts grows by the day - a devil's army that emerges out of the mists and the night, leaving death in its wake. But William is not easily cowed. Under the command of his ruthless deputy, a man they call 'the Butcher', the Norman forces will do whatever it takes to crush the rebels, even if it means razing England to the ground. Here then is the tale of the bloodiest rebellion England has ever known - an epic struggle that will echo down the years.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 July 2012
Review:

When i first started Hereward: Devils Army it was looking forward to what should be a great read. Book one Hereward was a fantastic book (

So it was very worrying to start the book and struggle to get into it.

So I took a step back remembering that I know you have to be in the right frame of mind for every author and every book you read. Its why my TBR pile is so fluid. On reflection I think I pushed myself into this one and wasn't ready, I was more conscious of the publication date than being ready for it. (I had just finished 4 Historical Fiction books back to back and I usually take a breather in-between)....

After a particularly light hearted cheesy thriller I picked Hereward The Devils army up again, and it clicked immediately, how? why had i struggled?

All I know is that instantly I was submerged in what is a splendidly visual piece of writing. So many sights sounds and smells written so well you can experience them all intimately. The characters grow again from book 1 to book 2, taking you further and further into life under the cosh of William Duke of Normandy. The side plots are all so enticing and aided the plot by giving the reader a much wider view of the realm at the time, rather than just the immediacy of Ely's and Hereward's experience.

When the threads finally pull together towards the final chapters its with such a sudden immediate increase in pace you really just cannot put the book down, even if you wanted too and the story is breath taking in its action, pace and horror.

So the worry for a debut author is always can you do it twice, can you repeat the eloquence of book one?

In this case Hell Yes!

Highly recommended

(Parm)

Product Description

1067. The battle ofHastingshas been lost; Harold Godwinsson is dead. The iron fist of William the Bastard has begun to squeeze the life out ofEngland. Villages are torched and men, women and children put to the sword as the Norman king attempts to impose his cruel will upon this unruly nation.

But there is one who stands in the way of the invader's savagery. He is called Hereward. He is a warrior and master tactician and as adept at slaughter as the imposter who sits upon the throne. And he isEngland's last hope.

In a Fenlands fortress of water and wild wood, Hereward's resistance is simmering.

His army of outcasts grows by the day - a devil's army that emerges out of the mists and the night, leaving death in its wake.

But William is not easily cowed. Under the command of his ruthless deputy, Ivo Taillebois - the man they call `the Butcher' - the Norman forces will do whatever it takes to crush the rebels, even if it means razing England to the ground.
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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2012
Having loved the original Hereward title I really couldn't wait to get my hands on the second outing for this hero, after all in a war to save his people there are going to be hard choices to make and how he makes them will decide whether he's a hero or a villain.

Set against the English Rebellion after their defeat at Hastings, this is a tale of a native son who at times has been thought of as the basis for Robin Hood with some of his own tales being incorporated into the mythical hero's legend. As with the original its full of blood rending action, follows a flawed hero trying to do his best for his people and of course gives the reader a story that they can get between their teeth alongside savour.

Add to this solid no nonsense prose with top rate action sequences that really will keep you glued and all in a story that shows determination against the odds alongside bravery can break mountains. Cracking stuff.
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on 19 August 2017
Excellent,moves along at a good pace. Starting to feel a little empathy with the characters (good & bad).Bring on the next one
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