Oswald: Return of the King
(The Northumbrian Thrones #2)
Three years ago (already!!), I presented here Edwin: High King of Britain. I really enjoyed it. So when Oswald: Return of the King became available on Netgalley, I requested it, and then left it there for ever…
In my effort to clean my bookshelves, this was the last title that had been sitting on my Netgalley shelf for far too long. Yes, I did it! (Please clap here, merci). So now, I only have very recent titles, and I plan to keep it that way.
Before telling you more about this second book in the series, admire the beauty of the book cover, in the same style as the first book. Very classy, and the raven is actually an important character in the book.
The history of 7th century England can be quite complicated. It was a key period, where you have gathered together all the elements at the source of what England is today, with people coming from different countries, with a diversity in religion, mainly Christianity versus paganism, and all the small lords and kings fighting to get the power over bigger lands and kick out invaders from different latitudes.
So I really appreciated that the author started by recapitulating what happened in volume one. The detailed list of who is who, with the family relationships, was also extremely valuable. This is actually for me the type of things hard to follow only on an ebook, so I ended up printing a copy of the genealogy and was constantly looking at my paper while reading the ebook.
This book is basically the life of Oswald.
Edwin, King of England, (who had killed Oswald’s father) was just killed by Cadwallon of Gwynedd and Penda of Mercia. So the throne should now be Oswald’s, or Oswiu’s, his brother (much younger), or even Eanfrith’s, his half-brother, but he would much prefer enter the monastery.
As Cadwallon and Penda keep ravaging and plundering the country, the abbot thinks Oswald’s duty is for now to defend his people, so through Oswald’s friendship with the monk Aidan, he manages to convince him to fight for his kingdom instead.
But Cadwallon is powerful and intense – he thinks he is the new King Arthur. Will Oswald be able to retake the crown and bring safety to the land?
In those violent times, where it’s difficult to know who will join whom to fight, nothing is really assured.
We actually know very little about Oswald, only a few lines in Saint Bede‘s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. So it was fascinating to see how we could fill in the gaps. Edoardo Albert does it with mastery, especially in the context he recreates around the plot.
His characters are so well defined, you think you have met them in real life. A bit like in some Shakespeare’s tragedies with couple of secondary characters, the cute and sometimes hilarious relationship between the pagan priest Acca and Coifi, the Christian one, helped release the tension.
I also enjoyed a lot Oswald’s raven…
If you are interested in this period of English history, you definitely need to read this series, so well written, a worthy supplement to Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles (set 2 centuries later). Volume three is available. Personally, after having read so many novels on early England, I think I need to take a break.
I also suggest you go and visit Janet’s page. She visited the area, and there’s a chapel commemorating St Oswald’s place of death!
VERDICT: Fascinating evocation of the life of Oswald, in the violent times and conflicts that gave birth to the England we know today.
Author: Edoardo Albert
by Lion Fiction
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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this ebook free of charge from the publisher through Netgalley.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.