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Power and Passion,
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This review is from: The Conqueror (Paperback)
Out of her mode up to this point in her career and extremely involving. This novel benefits from a huge amount of research and a very clear envisioning of the personality of William of Normandy.
Though there is romance here, of a very rough and Normandy sort, it is never central to the plot. William's marriage to Matilda was political and here is portrayed as one dominant spirit meeting its match with another. This may be the first wooing by whipping in literature.
The tale is really told through the eyes of Raoul, knight and friend of the would-be king. Raoul is the sensitive centre of the novel; he is rapacious in warfare, but sickened by it after. By using Raoul in this way, Georgette Heyer provides a softer edge to her narrative which it needs in view her writing about the battles William fought to gain and hold power.
The climax is, of course, the Battle of Hastings, and this is the most vigorous, explicit and detailed account I have read. The author certainly pulled no punches in her description of the fighting; it is physically graphic in its violence.
The research behind this novel must have been huge and yet it is worked involvingly into the narrative.
Raoul's friendship with the Saxon Edgar explores the mind-set of a foreigner abroad and the tensions present between the Saxon and Norman ethics. The subsidiary romance of Raoul and Edgar's sister, Elfrida, is a gentler reworking of the main romance, perhaps a sop to some of her regular readers and not fitting too well with the rest of the plot.
This may not be to all Heyer fans' taste, but it is an excellent work of historical fiction.