The Traitors' Pit: (Wulfgar 2) by V M Whitworth

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The Traitors' Pit: (Wulfgar 2) by V M Whitworth

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Forget about King Richard, Wulfgar is my historical find of the year. Too cheesy perhaps? Ok, I'll rephrase: Wulfgar, the 10th century cleric and aristocracy's secretary is back at the centre of a life-or-death adventure. Cracking stuff!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction)
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0091947187

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Wystan, one of Wulfgar's brothers, has always been an honest, sturdy farmer. Not the sharpest sword in the armoury perhaps, but he pays his taxes and remains well-respected. However that seems to have changed. Wystan is accused of plotting against King Edward of Wessex. Wulfgar knows Wystan is innocent and has three months to prove it; three months to stop Wystan being hanged and hurled into the open, unconsecrated grave that is the Traitors' Pit. Not an easy task to begin with, it becomes considerably harder when Wulfgar's liege, Lady Fleda, asks him to go on a mission he can't refuse; a mission that could take more time than he has.

This is author, literary academic and 10th century historian VM Whitworth's second historical thriller featuring Wulfgar. In fact this adventure is set only six weeks after the end of the first, The Bone Thief. The unrest we witnessed in that first adventure is percolating to the surface as allegiances are formed and deaths result. Once again the main casualties when Danish and Saxon powerhouses collide are the those who also suffer in peacetime: the peasants. The meagre living they gain from the land being taken on the whim of the financially rich and morally bankrupt (if that's not too much of a judgement based on our values rather than theirs). However still they're expected to be pre-cannon fodder… sword fodder… during conflict.

On a personal level Wulfgar is still in love with the beautiful rich Anglo-Norwegian Gunnvor Bolladottir, although he's starting to have doubts as to the wisdom in this. Dear, worldly Father Ronan is also back, showing us that he has perhaps more in common with Wulfgar's ideas of duty than any of us would have thought. Indeed, duty is the main theme of the novel as Wulfgar is torn. He's not as naïve as when we first met him and has reason to ponder on whether the spiritual choices he may make are correct in all circumstances.

Once again we witness VM Whitworth's gift for weaving fact into the fiction and historical characters in among the literary. (Fascinating notes are included to help us to spot which are which but nothing is spoilt if you'd rather not know.) Facets of their lives stay in our minds like good trivia should. For instance, the etiquette around hostage taking is enthralling, as is the 10th century legal system (although a little barbaric). Among the battles, adventure, lifestyle insights and twists, we even learn how the Danish King of York, Knut, arranged his name on coins. Our intellect is enriched while our imaginations are fed, as are our emotions. Indeed, I suggest having a tissue handy this time. (Yes, I blubbed!) There is also a bit of gore but nothing overly excessive or out of context.

Will there be more Wulfgar? On her hugely informative website VM Whitworth describes planning for more Wulfgar novels as one of her hobbies so, for now, it looks as though my addiction is being catered for… and I’ve a feeling I’m not alone.

Although it works as a stand-alone novel, if you enjoyed this, you'd be missing so much if you didn’t also read The Bone Thief. Go on; you know you want to.

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Buy The Traitors' Pit: (Wulfgar 2) by V M Whitworth at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Traitors' Pit: (Wulfgar 2) by V M Whitworth at


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Linda Stormonth said:

I couldn't agree more with the review. The facts of history are interesting but, without sustained study, putting all the disparate facts together is only for the few. Good historical fiction illuminates those facts and brings the world to life. V. M. Whitworth is a reliable guide, and where she deviates from facts, is happy to admit to it. She herself has written a paper about how fiction can bring the Anglo-Saxon world to a wider readership. And I, for one, am grateful. I loved both books she has written and I urge anyone swithering to go ahead and start with The Bone Thief. Linda (Stormonth)