1066: What Fates Impose by G K Holloway

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1066: What Fates Impose by G K Holloway

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Historical fiction that takes us through one of England's more famous succession rows and ending with that battle in Hastings. Fascinating, full of great detail, factoids and historical characters who leap off the page. Once again I have found hist-fict heaven!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 978-1783062201

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Perhaps England should realise it's in trouble when King Edward the Confessor takes one look at his naked bride and decides to remain chaste. This signals a lack of royal offspring and a succession crisis that becomes so important the vultures flock to fight even before he's ill, let alone dead. The jockeying for position as next in line to the throne or next in line's favourite has begun. Indeed England is famous for its royal succession wars and this is one of the best; a story of a journey that will finish near Hastings as a deadly stand-off between King Harold Godwinson and Norman Duke William in that year that every British school child is taught: 1066.

G K Holloway (Glynn to his mum) has always been fascinated by history. In fact this novel was written after the author read a biography of King Harold. Glynn demonstrates his readiness to become an author as this book announces his arrival on the hist-fict scene in true style.

While we're all aware of the battle that took place at that conveniently named place in Sussex (yes, Battle), what I know of what led up to it can be summed up by a length of embroidered cloth in Bayeux. If you too feel like that, this novel will remedy any ignorance, pitched so that it shares all the great facts of non-fiction with the sparkle and pace of good fiction.

We're introduced to the manoeuvring and in-fighting on both sides of the Channel. The politics are intriguing as being on the good side of royalty and fighting for survival become the two sides of a see saw. Which side the seesaw falls is decided on by a capricious king. In fact at one point even Harold, his father and brothers have to run for their lives closely pursued by Edward's forces.

It's fair to say that Glynn has a way with characterisation. He brings us a considerable cast (bless him for that cast list at the front!) and yet, once we become accustomed to the numbers, each has a definite personality and many have unforgettable traits. For instance Sweyn, one of Harold's brothers, does a memorable line in gross sadism and fair maidens'/nuns' reputation spoiling. (Not a novel for the kiddies!)

Then there's King Edward himself, the man who listened to many advisors (perhaps too many and the wrong sort) before putting his own spin on their advice. Glynn's Edward is balancing on a thin line between eccentricity and madness. We also notice that the author deals with rumours of Edward's gay tendencies (in the modern sense of gay) with subtlety and, although this is by no means a comedy, there are wonderfully wry moments of twinkle to contrast against the darkness. The abhorrence Edward feels towards his wife ripples through the story when we least expect it, causing me to guffaw more than once.

A passion for history does indeed shine through each page. Most of us will know the ending (which is brought to us here in full shades of battle bloodthirst) so the author makes the journey to that point hugely enjoyable so our interest doesn't waiver. This is definitely a meaty slice of well-pitched and sometimes astonishing factoid heaven. For instance we learn about the dangerous, drink-fuelled practice of oar walking and gawp at the 'humane' law which states no man is to be sold as a slave in his own country therefore… you're ahead of me aren't you?

Oh yes, this is a novel written by a bloke who knows his stuff and how to communicate it. So much so I have a rating dilemma. Technically it's not perfect as there is the occasional instance of dialogue clunk possibly reducing to 4½ stars. But that only happens a few times and I had such a great time reading the story, my heart and freshly nourished mind both say 5. Speaking as a history-hungry reader, 5 it will be. As for Glynn's dream of being a full time author one day, let's hope it's one day soon.

(Thank you so much to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you like a bit of meat in your hist-fict, we heartily recommend The Brethren (Fortunes of France) by Robert Merle. If you'd like to read more about the origins of William the Conqueror and his parents, even before he was born, The Leopards of Normandy: Devil: Leopards of Normandy 1 by David Churchill is the first part of a trilogy about the chap.

You can read more about G K Holloway here.

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Buy 1066: What Fates Impose by G K Holloway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy 1066: What Fates Impose by G K Holloway at Amazon.com.


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