Most historical novels you read are kind of the literary equivalent of a waxwork museum, or a costume drama. Reading them, you're always aware that the author's looking back at the era through 21st century glasses, and the portrait is unintentionally shaded by our time, it's prejudices and tastes. "Shieldwall" is different; it's a heck of an imaginative feat, how can I explain it? Justin Hill captures an England just about to emerge from the dark ages, the radiance and the terror of an England at once primal in its unspoiled beauty and in the savagery of war. He writes a vivid prose, that manages a hard Anglo-Saxon realism and a poetry that is all his, and the characters after 20 pages or so, become people we know as deeply as we've known anyone, and I can think of no higher praise for a writer than that. "Shieldwall" is a kind of necromancy; Mr. Hill has brought the voice of Old England back from the darkness, and I recommend the book utterly.
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