Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Norman Pretender picks up the threads of several minor characters and weaves them into those of the more well-known personalities of Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy. The result is a fascinating and entertaining story of power, love, betrayal, intrigue and loyalty which ends with the Battle of Hastings, forever altering the course of history.
Although important characters to the story, Anand devotes substantial page time to the fate of Alfgar of Mercia, Edward the Exile/Atheling, The Lady Aldith of Mercia and her first husband Gruffyd AP Llewellyn, and the primary fictional character from the first book, Brand the Woodcutter. Through the events of their lives we learn the more well known story and how William came to have a claim to the English throne, why Harold was forced to take an oath supporting it and how it all fell apart as each thought they were in the right.
Not quite objective in its account, Harold comes out as the better man with William and his wife Matilda portrayed as greedy and manipulative and not above out right murder to get what they want. As in Helen Hollick’s Harold the King, you desperately want the outcome of the story to be different and for Harold’s battle weary men to get the upper hand or for that arrow to just slightly veer off course.
I really enjoyed reading this and learning more about some of the other individuals who all had a part to play in how Harold and William’s story unfolded. Unfortunately, Anand’s trilogy is out of print and has gotten quite pricey – check your local library.
Rating: Very Good (4.5 stars)
In case the FTC asks: I bought this book used a couple of years ago (and before the price would otherwise break my “not more expensive than a hardback” rule).