Book Review: Richard Liveth Yet (With Giveaway)

Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day

(Book I in the Richard Liveth Yet Trilogy)

by Joanne R. Larner

See below for how you can win a free, signed copy of this fantabulous novel!

On occasion I receive a book for review that makes me a bit nervous. Perhaps I don’t typically care for that genre, or the setting isn’t one I am usually drawn to. In this instance I was thrilled to be asked to review Joanne Larner’s Richard Liveth Yet, as it had two strong points going for it: time travel and Richard III, both of which are amongst my favorites. And that great judgment everyone makes: the cover. A painting of the author’s “fantasy Richard,” it is attractive and true to how the last Plantagenet king probably looked, with a more subtly modern appearance to its frame.

richard-liveth-yet-book-i-coverHaving also previously read time travel featuring the medieval king and later criticism of how he too quickly adapts to his new surroundings, I wondered how the author would handle his transition in this book. I knew that covering every possible nuance of the immense amount of change he would encounter would simply be impossible, that a certain amount of summary, as with the aforementioned novel, would have to occur if the story was ever to take place. So I wasn’t preoccupied with Richard moving into the modern world too fast—it was more a case of anticipation, like unwrapping a Christmas present to see what’s inside.

As it turns out, Larner knows exactly what to pick out and wrap up, and how much to leave to the imagination. As I got started I could see the novel was, as described in a showcase blurb, a lighthearted story, easy to read, perhaps not seeking to take itself too seriously.

Having said that last bit, I would caution that the tale of Richard meeting Rose and what happens between them also develops some rather poignant and lovely scenes, strong enough to bring humor into the mix and provide an all-around delight for readers every step of the way.

Like her creator, Rose Archer is an osteopath, so her experience in treating musculoskeletal problems comes in handy when she meets up with the time-transported Richard III, who suffers from painful spinal curvature. Larner cleverly avoids potential awkwardness between the two—as well as between characters and readers—by displaying Rose’s suspicion that her friend Laura, knowing of her obsession with the medieval monarch, has set her up in this situation, only to laugh at her later.

Richard, for his part, is tense but curious, periodically restraining himself for fear of sorcery or the unacceptably alien. With his behavior the author also introduces the concept that in fact a medieval man might very well have enjoyed some of our ways or technological advances if given the chance to sample them—even if the introduction entails a bit of hesitation, or he balks at other elements. Indeed, why not?

As the story moves forward, Richard and Rose get to know each other better, she introducing him to the ways of her world and he talking about his life and history, both of them at times filling in the blanks for each other. As their mutual trust begins to build and Richard’s back problems come up in conversation, he agrees to therapy, and readers are treated to a taste of time-transport humor, which mixes in a bit of Richard’s own.

From the new patient’s case history sheet:

Name: Richard Gloucestre, aka Ricardus Tertius Rex

 Date of birth: 02/10/1452

 Age: 32/561

 Address: Middleham Castle, Middleham, Wensleydale; Crosby House, London; Nottingham Castle, Nottingham; Windsor Castle, Windsor; and many others.

 Occupation: King

 Phone number: (Puzzled frown)

 Road accidents (e.g. whiplash): Was whipped occasionally as a child!!!!

 Presenting complaint: Chronic mid and low back pain and stiffness, with associated headaches, twenty years’ duration, getting worse

 Medication: Willow bark

At some point, as readers themselves know, and Rose as well, though she tries to avoid it, Richard would encounter information about his own end in all its horrifying details. They both know he cannot remain in the twenty-first century indefinitely, and they begin to develop a plan to return him to face what he must. Looming before he left his time was the Battle of Bosworth, where Rose knows he will die. With the benefit of hindsight in all the historical details in our time, continual training and Rose’s treatments and instructions how to care for himself, King Richard sets about adding to his plans for complete victory in the dreaded battle that otherwise would lead to his demise and the start of the Tudor dynasty.

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Introducing Rose Archer, the female lead character from Richard Liveth Yet.

In her introduction Larner writes that she aims for historical accuracy, though she does—and this is true of most historical novelists—take some liberties in unclear areas. This would certainly be linked to one disputed event in which John Neville, who like his brother the Kingmaker died at the chaotic Battle of Barnet, is said to have been wearing Yorkist colors beneath his armor, despite his stated allegiance to Warwick and the Lancaster cause. While there are those who call into question this version of events, Larner utilizes it to show a side of the king she and Rose both see, one who mourns for even the divided dead, recognizing the tragedy of having to choose between treasured loyalties. “I wept for [John] and Warwick. It should have been so different.”

Even Richard’s pleasures of the new age reflect what concerns him. After a particular treatment Rose asks,

“How was that, Sire?”

 “Reem!” he replied. He had heard the expression on one of the reality TV shows and used it all the time now. He never ceased to surprise her, the strange things he liked about modern life. He enjoyed the reality shows because he said they were about ‘real people with real problems and emotions.’ It seemed to be true that he genuinely cared about ordinary people.

Rose is a person who enjoys getting to and doing things, seeing various sights, and having a time-traveling visitor doesn’t stop her. In fact, her active lifestyle becomes a method of research in the pair’s aim to restore Richard to the fifteenth century, in turn revealing the author’s strength in connecting her narrative to history and significant locales within it. We are given insight into how various places appeared in Richard’s day while he takes it in, as do we, within that new moment. It brings the worlds together in a manner that guidebooks by their nature don’t, and places within it a humanity absent from such literature. We witness Richard’s responses to the changes—for better or worse—and see a bit of the reality from his time: “real people with real problems and emotions” once walked these locales and through Larner’s story their spirits continue to breathe meaning and life, allowing their significance to remain part of what continually makes these places dear to those who live or visit there now.

Also addressed in the novel is the universal effect of music, which Larner presents as scene headings named after songs on “Richard’s Playlist,” an inventory of songs included on an iPod he is gifted. While the lyrics don’t always exactly match what occurs in each passage, the titles do reflect scene content and speak to the manner in which so often music resonates with events in our lives, providing a backdrop that can comfort or even exacerbate sadness in moments when we sometimes need to let that emotion play itself out. Not only a very creative manner in which to involve Richard with music, it is also cleverly mapped because this medium would be inescapable to someone traveling to our time, it being such a large part of our lives. It being vastly important is of course true for other eras, but newer technology enables its ever presence in the day to day, and it is absolutely on target that Larner has it play such a role in the book as it does.

As historical fantasy, Richard Liveth Yet covers a lot of bases: through a magnificently-written story readers learn a great deal about historical events and possible explanations, including very plausible bits of information coming from Richard himself. It does not seek to portray him as perfect, and indeed the king admits to some of his own flaws. Narrated in third person, it enables us to get a taste of both Rose and Richard’s perspectives, as well as a reasonable evolution of their friendship and all they both encounter presented with a weight that satisfies the thirst to know how he views the modern world, without dropping into tedium. It is an exceedingly readable tale encompassing the history with a touch of romance and of course a bit of magic, leading to a conclusion we don’t expect but that primes us for the sequels, A Foreign Country and Hearts Never Change.

Larner has taken great pains to match history with her portrayal of Richard, simultaneously cracking the stereotypical portrayal of a medieval man who naturally hates everything in the new time, and in which his presence within it only chaos can ensue. In so doing she adds to his character by showcasing his willingness to examine the alien, even to embrace some, and care about the people amongst it all. She also provides an address to the controversial decision regarding his final resting place, and Richard’s own views on the matter may surprise some, while they reveal Larner’s idea of what Richard III himself finds most important.

A finely crafted novel, easy to read and carrier of a wealth of information and ideas, Richard Liveth Yet is a joy to unwrap; to encounter and witness the characters’ own discoveries and connections is a privilege, and traveling the roads of time through their eyes is indeed a gift from the author, unforgettable as it settles into our own landscape, making us all the richer.

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For your chance to win a free, signed copy of Richard Liveth Yet, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here. All names will be entered into a giveaway and a name drawn in three weeks. 

Update: Drawing November 21

About the author …

larner-author-imageJoanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UK.

Richard Liveth Yet‘s sequel, A Foreign Country, is also available for purchase at BlurbAmazon and Amazon UK.

Her third book, Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change, is almost completed and should be published on Kindle and Blurb by the end of the year.

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To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at FacebookTwitter and her blog.

We are also delighted to note the music video, called “Richard Liveth Yet,” by the Legendary Ten Seconds, with images of locations from the book, and the book itself.

A lovely photo album of places and people depicted in Richard Liveth Yet.

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All images courtesy Joanne Larner.

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A copy of Richard Liveth Yet was provided to facilitate an honest review. 

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This post was updated to add specific date of drawing

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950: 1066 Remembered, Excerpt: 1066: What Fates Impose (With Giveaway)

Today Glynn Holloway, author of 1066: What Fates Impose, graces our pages with a passage from his novel–and a tense moment he shows us. In remembering the cataclysmic events of 1066 we look back at the day King Harold, having left troops guarding the English coast against invasion from the east, rushes north to stave off another one there. Harald Sigurdsson, King of Norway, has defeated York and the two monarchs are about to face off. It is September 25, 1066 and as the armies are about to meet at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold also faces his brother Tostig, who has allied himself with the foreign king. He keeps his wits about him, and somewhere along the line is mentioned the promise of “six feet of English earth.” If Harold prevails, where would it take him next?

See below for your chance to win a signed copy of this gripping, thrilling novel of a year like no other. 

Congratulations to Joanne Larner, winner of a free signed copy of G.K. Holloway’s 1066: What Fates Impose. The author has been notified and your book shall be on its way quite shortly!  

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At Stamford Bridge

A 19th century illustration for Harold Hardrada Saga, Heimskringla by Wilhelm Wetlesen (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)
A 19th century illustration for Harold Hardraada Saga, Heimskringla by Wilhelm Wetlesen (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

In  the Viking camp by the side of the river, the Norsemen were in good heart, enjoying a glorious summer morning. The scene was bathed in a golden light that lifted the spirits. The earth was still dry and cracked, even so late in the year. Most of the men had finished breakfast and were waiting for the hostages to arrive. Some of the soldiers were playing board games, some idly chatting and exchanging banter. A small group gathered on the riverside were throwing stones at a washtub, which had jammed itself in some reeds on the far riverbank, upstream from the bridge.

‘King Harald, after we have the hostages, what do you intend to do?’ asked Tostig, chewing on the last of his bread.

‘We’ll take them to Riccal, and then we’ll go to London.’

‘When you’ve . . .’

‘What’s that,’ Harald interrupted, ‘on the ridge up there?’

Tostig looked across the river to the top of the valley. There on the skyline, underneath a cloud, he could see bright flashes and glints.

‘Does that look like ice to you, Tostig?’

By now, most of Sigurdsson’s soldiers could see what their king was looking at but none could make it out.

‘No, it’s sunlight catching on something,’ said the earl.

‘It looks like ice.’

‘It can’t be; it’s much too hot. It’s metal. It’s the sun catching on metal.’

‘That cloud is dust. That’s the dust kicked up by an army. The sun must be catching on their swords and armour. This means trouble, Tostig.’

‘Well, it might mean trouble but then again, it might not.’

‘That’s not very helpful, Tostig,’ growled Sigurdsson, glaring at him.

‘It might mean some of my kinsmen have come to welcome you. The word must be out that York fell easily into your hands; perhaps they’ve come seeking mercy and friendship.’

The Viking camp looked full of statues as everyone stopped and stared at the horizon; as they did so the vision on the ridge grew bigger.

‘King Harald,’ said Tostig, looking concerned, ‘I think that’s the English army. Why don’t we retreat to the ships at Riccal?’

Battle of Stamford bridge (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)
Battle of Stamford Bridge (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

‘I didn’t come all this way just to run away at the first sign of trouble. We can handle this lot. What we’ll do Tostig, is send three men on our fastest horses to Riccal to fetch help. It’ll be the Englishmen who’ll have the biggest surprize of the day.’

‘It’s your decision,’ Tostig said. ‘I’ve no wish to retreat, either.’

Sigurdsson gave him a cutting look, then ordered three men to ride to Riccal and a dozen more of his finest berserkers to cross to the York side of the river to defend the bridge. While his men donned their armour, Sigurdsson planned to cross the river to pay King Harold a visit.

The horses were brought up and Tostig mounted effortlessly; Sigurdsson lost his footing in the stirrup and fell to the ground with a thud. Embarrassed but unharmed, he rose to his feet and with his second attempt climbed into the saddle. With a small troop behind them, he and Tostig made their way across the bridge and rode boldly to where the English army lay poised on the ridge.

On his side of the River, Harold saw Sigurdsson fall from his horse.

‘Does anyone know who that man is, the one in the blue tunic, wearing the fancy helmet?’

‘That’s Harald Sigurdsson himself,’ answered the ealdorman.

‘He’s certainly a big man,’ said Harold, ‘but I don’t think this will be his lucky day.’

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Author Glynn Holloway is so generously gifting a signed copy of 1066: What Fates Impose to one lucky winner. For your chance to win the contest, simply comment below OR at our Facebook page, located here, and your name will be entered into the drawing. Good luck!!!

Drawing November 15

(Please be sure to leave contact info in the event you are our winner!!)

To read the review for 1066: What Fates Impose, click here

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Author Glynn Holloway also writes …

gk-hollowayI’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.

Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.

After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.

what-fates-imposeFrom Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.

What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.

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(My favorite part of that: “That somebody ought to be me.”)

You can sign up for Glynn Holloway’s newsletter at his blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 1066: What Fates Impose is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK.

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This post was updated to include blogger introductory corrections from final draft and date of drawing.

Journey to Zürich: The Brothers Path (Book Review)

Today we set off on a new series and bit of a journey to sixteenth-century Zürich, by way of author Martha Kennedy and her magnificently-told tales. Her second novel, Savior, previously reviewed in these pages, brings us next to The Brothers Path and the six Schneebeli brothers, descendants of characters in its predecessor. Stay tuned for more from this wonderful author and what she has to say about it all.

The Brothers Path by Martha Kennedy

the-bros-path-cover-fb-headerIn The Brothers Path, set in 1520s Reformation Switzerland, author Martha Kennedy brings us to an era that often seems to get the short end of the stick in history classes. These are the days of Zwingli and Manz, when infant baptism was rejected, then, by Zwingli, supported. Barely concealing the selling out of his beliefs in exchange for the influential support of the Zürich council, Zwingli rose in prominence and power. Using corruption of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy as an overture, his teachings turned to condemnation of Lenten fasting and the use of images in worship, and promoted clerical marriage. He also re-organized the structure of the Mass.

Manz, for his part, continued his activism against infant baptism believing, as Zwingli had originally declared and Andreas, one of six Schneebeli brothers in The Brothers Path frantically ruminates in the novel’s opening pages,

that children should be baptized only “… after a firm faith had been implanted in their hearts and they had confessed the same with their mouth ….”

Manz’s support of adult baptism led to the refusal of parents to baptize their infants as well as the rise of the Anabaptists—“re-baptizers”—who believed their adult baptismal was the only true one, having come after their own freely chosen confession of faith in Christ. The Anabaptists were ordered by the council to cease their activities; they refused and Manz was executed by drowning under the authority of a newly minted edict outlawing the group’s religious practices.

As the novel opens and Andreas is left alone with his prematurely newborn brother Rudolf, his monk brother Hannes is summoned and Andreas directed to baptize the dying infant. He silently declines, later rebuked by Hannes, who insists the child unable to be buried with its mother in consecrated ground.

In this manner the Reformation propels its way into the Schneebeli household, one of some standing in the village outside Zürich, though past its prime. Hannes, who has been questioning particular angles of his faith, though not his devotion, is the first to realize the forceful manner in which the new ways will overtake the old. He sees some validity in their messages, but sympathizes with Catholics who wish to remain such. It is here that Kennedy’s neutrality really shines in its honor, for she not only gives the old prior at Hannes’s monastery voice, but also a compelling, humane position.

“Look at the women who go to that battered little Virgin.” The prior crossed himself. “They believe she will help them conceive a child. Some leave her money, which we collect and use for the poor. Do these women believe they can ‘buy’ help from that statue? I don’t know. Perhaps. Still, when they return home, their heart is lightened. They have told their troubles and they feel less alone.”

He goes on to assert the power of art distinct from any idolatry and the manner in which each new generation utilizes scripture for their own ends. Hannes expresses his mixed feelings as the two prepare for their church’s denudation—objects newly prohibited for worship will be seized and sold or melted down for money for the poor—and feels gladness upon noticing that the linden-wood Virgin has disappeared, surely taken by the prior to the safety of Einsiedeln or Luzern.

Brother by brother, the author journeys us through the march forward of the new religion, allowing us to bear witness not merely to events that affect them, but also the manner in which the new ways touch all lives. Zwingli’s declarations do not allow for people to “live and let live” or simply keep their heads down, and there is no room in this new order for respecting the beliefs of others as the theocracy some scholars believe he created begins to take shape. Kennedy’s personal religious beliefs do not make themselves apparent because, while those on all sides of the dispute state their criticisms and she gives them free reign to do—it is Zwingli and his forces who oblige their whispers—we recognize the coercive nature of beliefs and the ramifications of such coercion as the destructive agent. When Hannes travels to Zürich for information we are given an early glimpse into the manipulative manner in which the demolition persuades its way into the tolerance of good people.

Jud paused. “Join us. As I said, all of the canton will have to join us sooner or later.”

 “Have to, Brother Jud?”

 “Well, yes. It would be most unkind of us to allow our neighbors, our brothers and sisters to continue on the road of sin, not knowing our Lord and Savior, in thrall to superstitious idolatry, believing they can buy their way into Heaven.”

 Hannes began to fear for the abbey.

It should be noted also, that this is more than a tale of people working or riding their way through a religious crisis. In itself that would be a compelling story, but under Kennedy’s guidance we are gifted scenes in the lives of love, dreams, disappointment, regret, honor, compassion, loyalty and more. With dexterity she lays out, for example, the inner running of Old Johann’s flour mill, written succinctly, but with the detail we need in order to understand the passion he has, a fervency that led to him acquiring it, building it from near nothing and passing it on.

Also striking is the manner in which the family —including extended members, spouses, children and so on—and villagers care for each other and attempt to provide physical, spiritual and emotional shelter for others even when they wrangle. It’s not that Kennedy’s characters are always agreeable; they’re not. They clash with each other, sometimes bitterly, and terrible heartbreak ensues resulting from poor choices paired with selfishness. But they can also pull it all together to act on behalf of those in danger, or simply to live up to the respect they know others deserve, even when the other party had not done the same, especially in the matter of religious belief. This gives reflection to an underlying tenet of what religious perspectives they all do share, of forgiveness and doing unto others, perhaps the most difficult of all.

Throughout the novel, with shifting perspectives and labeled as such at the start of each chapter, the author magnificently transports us from village to city and various scenarios, often via a trail referred to as The Brothers. Named for three brothers, children of two characters in Kennedy’s previous novel, Savior, the pathway provides a link not only to other locations, but also to ancestors and their experiences, and a guide to how they got to be who they are and, ultimately, who they want to be. In better times and in crises, including escape from authorities who have by now begun to bear down on even the lying-low Schneebelis, the trail provides connection, later revealing a discovery that harkens back to a time before the rise of what simply is a new master and a destructive campaign to be free of it.

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Savior is a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree (click image)

Having previously reviewed Savior and come to care about Rudolf, the Schneebelis’ ancestor, it was a small delight to encounter reference to him here. The Brothers Path also continues to confirm Kennedy’s strong sense of a people as she realistically and compellingly paints a portrait of a time with her dialogue, historical events and individuals—including Heinrich Schneebeli, her own ancestor—mingled with those of her imagination, producing a greater understanding of what it was to experience life in a dangerously divided society.

There is great loss in this novel, though as mentioned earlier, it is not merely a catalogue of oppression and war. A glimpse into the Schneebelis’ lives, even during disputes, carries us through the steps of how creeping conversion takes hold and people seek to stand by their values while by necessity quietly resisting. The language is lovely and we can understand, through the awareness of how much family means to these people, how even a character not really all that likeable can come across as sympathetic.

Also as mentioned before, the novel does not take sides—except perhaps with freedom—and the author beautifully presents elements of worship without proselytizing. This, of course, broadens the potential readership, which naturally is a wise strategy, but it isn’t strategy that keeps readers with a book after the first few pages if it isn’t well written. From start to finish the Schneebelis’ story draws reads in, perhaps at first for the expression, later for the family themselves and ultimately what it all means for every one of us. The Brothers Path is another work of art from an award-winning author who generously shares her gift of story with us, and hopefully will again.

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Stay tuned for more from the “Journey to Zürich” series and author Martha Kennedy!

About the author…

Martha Kennedy has published three works of historical fiction. Her first novel, Martin of Gfenn, which tells the story of a young fresco painter living in 13th-century Zürich, was awarded the Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society Indie Review and the BRAG Medallion from IndieBRAG in 2015.

Martha KennedyHer second novel, Savior, also an BRAG Medallion Honoree (2016), tells the story of a young man in the 13th century who fights depression — and discovers himself — by going on Crusade.

Her third novel, published in July 2016, The Brothers Path, a loose sequel to Savior, looks at the same families met in Savior three hundred years later as they find their way through the Protestant Reformation.

Kennedy has traveled intensively in Switzerland, journeys that have at once inspired and informed her writing. She has also published many short-stories and articles in a variety of publications from the Denver Post to the Business Communications Quarterly.

Kennedy was born in Denver, Colorado and earned her undergraduate degree in American Literature from University of Colorado, Boulder, and her graduate degree in American Literature from the University of Denver. She has taught college and university writing at all levels, business communication, literature and English as a Second Language. For many years she lived in the San Diego area, but has recently returned to Colorado to live in Monte Vista in the San Luis Valley.

All of Martha Kennedy’s novels are available in both paperback and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other online booksellers. You can also contact the author!

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Follow Martha Kennedy to learn more about the author and her books at her website, Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Indie B.R.A.G. author page, or her Savior blog and Facebook pages.

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The blogger was furnished with a free copy of The Brothers Path to facilitate an honest review.

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950: 1066 Remembered, Book Review: 1066: What Fates Impose

1066: What Fates Impose by G.K. Holloway

The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Gold Medal Winner 2014

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1066: What Fates Impose is a Gold Medal winner for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards (2014) (click image)

Mention the year 1066 and most people, even if unaware of actual events, seem instinctively to know that something of great consequence happened. Having learned about it at school, I myself knew the basics but after that did not read much about it until several years ago. Still, seeing the cover of G.K. Holloway’s 1066: What Fates Impose stilled the moment a bit: resolutely straightforward, not unlike a steely glare, it communicates great import with such details as a Saxon shield and somber implications of a decided destiny.

The gist is this: while the new year dawns, King Edward the Confessor’s twilight looms, and being without an heir creates a considerable problem for England’s future. There is no shortage of contenders for the throne, though this decision—according to English custom and law of the time—is in the hands of the Witan, the king’s council. They choose Harold Godwinson, son of the late Earl Godwin of Wessex, and his coronation takes place on January 6, one day after Edward dies.

Across the channel in Normandy, Duke William is enraged. He claims Edward promised him the crown and that Harold pledged an oath to support his ascension. Vowing to take the throne, by force if necessary, William commences preparation for full invasion of England, further supported, though indirectly, by Norwegian King Harald Hardrada’s assertion that a treaty secures the crown, in fact, for him. Though King Harold emerges victorious in late September’s Battle of Stamford Bridge, where the Norwegian is killed, his army, distracted from forces gathering in the south, is spent. Nevertheless, they head toward William’s position, engage, and Harold falls on October 14.


In the clear black summer sky the stars and the golden moon shone brightly. On the breeze, the chords from someone’s lyre floated on the night air; the music mixed with the sound of the gentle breaking of the waves, forming a lullaby to send the warriors to sleep. 


It was no easy victory for William the Bastard. The Saxons put up a determined fight and are said to have menacingly chanted “Out! Out! Out!” at William’s forces as they faced the formidable Saxon shield wall. The duke had also had to secure support for the invasion, which came via Pope Alexander II, an endorsement that attracted forces in great number. As the year draws to a close, he ascends to the throne and is styled King William I, history later remembering him as William the Conqueror.

Though he was to face a series of rebellions in following years, 1066 covers these only in reference, albeit a powerful one. Holloway opens his novel at the end, depicting William pronouncing his deathbed confessions, owning up to ruthless slaughter of a magnitude most couldn’t imagine for its horror. Nearby stands the bloodied, battered apparition whom in life he last saw 21 years earlier, and who has haunted him ever since.

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Battle of Hastings (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

The author then brings us back in time to 1045 and the tale moves forward in linear fashion, point of view changes allowing us a clear pathway to characters’ perceptions and motives, with Harold Godwinson as the central figure. Holloway has a sharp and succinct manner with words, couching his phrases within passages that reveal strong observation and experience with human nature and its attendant habits.

Godwin looked thoughtful and a silence descended on the room. Over the years he had learned to be on his guard at the sight of Harold’s huge grin; it was genuine enough most of the time but his son had learned how to use it to disarm any reaction to bad news.

The author also crafts his dialogue in such a way that readers get a fuller sense of what others in various scenes often are missing: a glint in the eye, ever so slightly tilted head, raised eyebrow, knowing glance or sarcastic tone. This technique brings his characters’ words into sharper focus, gasp-inducing realization coming to the reader before it does to characters, creating a suspense hanging on the imminent revelation as well as the observation of a person unaware of the situation’s full extent.

As William and his 700-strong armada make their way across the channel, the duke outpacing his support, it is

… the warm morning sun on his face that woke him; that and the sounds of activity on deck.

 ’Good morning,’ he called to his comrades, over the sound of the gulls, the sea lapping the ship’s sides and the gentle wind slapping the sail.

 ‘Good morning,’ echoed the replies.

 ‘She’s a fine craft, the Mora, isn’t she?’ the Duke said to no one in particular.

 “Very fine, my Lord,’ replied Odo, with some obvious discomfort.

 ‘I see you’re feeling seasick too.’

 ‘It’s not that, my Lord. It’s just that I feel a little uneasy.’

 ‘Why do you feel uneasy? It’s not like you.’

 ‘It’s the fleet.’

 ‘What about the fleet?’

 ‘Where is it?’

 Holloway engages us in this playing with of various characters, but also teases it out to create another effect, this time with us, and in dual fashion. This particular scene lulls us to a calm rising indicated by the soothing sounds of water against the ship, the sun’s warm rays, admiration of the wonderful vessel the duke’s party sails in. The understanding we gain just before William does jars our perception, chilling the moment.

Additionally, we know the story of the historical Harold, and that William’s approach brings the king closer to his last day on earth. As events unfold, however, Holloway provides us with glimpses such as these that cause doubt to arise—perhaps Harold can make it after all. How, we might wonder, could someone who can’t keep track of his own ships hope to conquer an entire nation? It is a testament to the author’s storytelling expertise that in his hands the entire account is more than merely a series of episodes written out. For brief moments we feel we can believe that somehow he finds a way to alter the outcome; our hearts can remain unbroken.


‘I’ll not, at any price, deliver up my country and its people as a result of an oath obtained by trickery and deceit.’


Throughout the novel, though, this impression duels with the running theme of fate and free choice in opposition, perhaps best illustrated by the circumstances of Harold’s official marriage. He plans his actions deliberately and accordingly, but is still ensnared in a condition that seemed to already have been decided. Will the forces who control his destiny continue to steer him to that awful, fateful day?

As he tells his tale, Holloway relates events in a manner that could be identified as neutral, but which also play into the sense of suspense as we speculate as to who he is gunning for. At the Easter feast in 1053, table conversation perilously turns to yet another accusation from Edward regarding Godwin’s culpability in the death of his brother Alfred. In defiance Godwin cries out that if he is guilty, God would choke him; a moment later he smashes a piece of bread into his mouth, collapses and dies several days after.

It has been asserted that this account of Godwin’s death is Norman propaganda, and its inclusion points to Holloway’s method of relating events from both the English as well as Norman perspective, continuing our journey through the year uncertain as to how we will reach the end. It is a neutrality lending the story greater grip as it manages to keep us on the edge of our seats.


What Pomeroy relished as much as violence itself was the knowledge that inside his victims’ terror lived the faint, foolish hope that complete submission might lead to their lord sparing them. How little they understood his sport.  [W]hat delighted him most was the feasting of his eyes on his victims’ faces as they realised they were about to die and the fascinating fading away of the light in their eyes as their life drained from them.


Perhaps the best part of 1066: What Fates Impose is the dialogue. Lively, morose, revealing, engaging, informative and at times waggish, it brings characters to life and links them to others as well as us. The novel covers over two decades within which a rather extensive cast of characters appear. Owing to their numbers and familial links as well as contemporary attitudes dictating responses to events and the actions of others, a great deal of information is presented, and Holloway pulls it off succinctly and in an accessible manner. It is entertaining in its robustness and I would highly recommend it to anyone, naturally, interested in the Anglo-Saxon era or this most important year in English history. I would also, however, enthusiastically name it as a dramatic saga of passion and intrigue, fear and depravity, ego and ambition that just about any reader could get hooked into.

The conclusion of 1066 implies a sequel, and though I have ideas where Holloway might go with it, one really can’t be sure, though that is, as examined above, part of what makes this book so riveting. A brilliant portrait of a fascinating era that ended nearly a thousand years ago, Holloway’s ability to bring us there is all the more wondrous, and I look forward to reading more from this author—and hopefully very soon.

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Author Glynn Holloway writes …

gk-hollowayI’ve always liked stories ever since I was a kid and not fussy about what format they came in; whether it be stories read out loud on the radio, TV, comics, books or films, I still get great pleasure in listening to people telling me their own stories, whether it be at a bus stop or some heart to heart conversation, whatever. When other people get bored or impatient at the supermarket checkout, I find myself picking out other customers and working out their back stories or develop a character in a novel. I just love stories, so, I suppose, it’s only natural that I tell stories as well as listen to them. The only people I didn’t listen to were teachers – unless they taught history, literature or Bible stories.

Being dyslexic, I never really read much, until, at the age of eight, I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Lying in a hospital bed is pretty boring and as there was no TV in hospital wards in those days, I read through all the comics I could get my hands on. So my Mum brought me in a couple of books and that’s what got me into reading. In my teens I progressed through every Biggles book ever published to Penguin Modern Classics and most of what they had to offer.

After leaving school I became a compositor on a local newspaper; trained in a job that should have seen me set for life. Along came photo-film-setting and I watched as printing changed overnight and saw a machine doing the job of half a dozen men in a fraction of the time they could. I knew this was just the beginning of the end for me and decided to get myself an education and a different career. Studying O Levels and A Levels part-time at the local technical college, I went on to take a history and politics degree in Coventry.

air-detectiveFrom Coventry I went to Bristol, studied to be a Careers Officer, worked in Gloucestershire in schools, colleges and Adult Education, before becoming a Student Welfare Officer.

What made me write? My wife, Alice, bought me a book for Christmas, which I just loved. It was called Harold: The Last Anglo Saxon King, by Ian W Walker and it shone a light into the dark recesses of history I knew little about. I found the whole period so fascinating I just read more and more about it. In fact, I found the whole era so exciting I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been covered more in films, TV, books, etc. (think Tudors). ‘Somebody ought to write a novel about this,’ I thought and decided that somebody ought to be me. Fortunately, things worked out in such a way I was able to realise my dream. The rest is historical fiction.

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 You can sign up for Glynn Holloway’s newsletter at his blog, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. 1066: What Fates Impose is available for purchase at Amazon and Amazon UK

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A copy of 1066: What Fates Impose was provided to the blogger to facilitate an honest review. 

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This post has been updated to accommodate a new image from the Bayeux Tapestry with added caption

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950: 1066 Remembered, Book Review: Sons of the Wolf (Updated, With Giveaway)

Please see below for your chance to win one of two copies of

Sons of the Wolf

by Paula Lofting. 

Winner of the indieB.R.A.G. Medallion

In June 2013 I read and reviewed Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf, an endeavor that initially unnerved me, given my lack of study since school into Anglo-Saxon times and the seemingly endless, complex detail I imagined overwhelming and intimidating me. I was, however, to receive a marvelously splendid surprise in my response to the debut novel, which I found to be a most rewarding read. I cared about the characters and, perhaps a true test of any story’s gripping power, wanted to read more, so was pleased to learn of a planned sequel, The Wolf Banner, which has since been released and will also be discussed in these pages.

Since being beckoned into the Anglo-Saxon world I have been reading bits of history here and there, both awestruck and grieved by the real people of the time: their difficult lives and how they persevered to find joy, what they endured to carry on. I have always valued learning about the “regular” people of any given era, and this one brought me closer to them than in any other I have studied, for which I will always be grateful. They are, after all, our people, without whom we would not be.

In this 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings leading to the Norman Conquest of England, we remember those long-ago events, write and read about them, keep them alive  for future generations also to pass on in remembrance of the those who fought and lost so much. With ongoing exploration of the period, only now are we realizing the magnitude of the cultural loss suffered when the English language was suppressed in favor of the invading French. With this study, however, the loss has been at least partially reversed, as today we retain some knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon culture, rich with art, literature, language, history and more. In thankfulness and appreciation we hold that understanding for those who passed it to us, or died trying.

Please join us in remembering 1066, throughout the rest of this year, with book reviews, guest posts, interviews (you may be surprised who we chat to!) poetry and more from a group of authors whose talents and contributions are immeasurably treasured.

We begin the series today with an updated review and examination of Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf, set in the years approaching 1066.

To read the original review for Sons of the Wolf, click here.

For your chance to win an e-copy of Sons of the Wolf, simply comment below OR at Before the Second Sleep‘s Facebook page, located here. Drawing will be held in two weeks. 

Added note: Owing to some illness in the Zlitni shack, things got a bit stalled around here so the contest timeline has been extended! Huzzah!! I’ll be back with a definite date of drawing, but for now, please comment and share!

Update: Drawing November 19

Harold is coronated as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)
Harold is coronated as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry (Wikimedia Commons) (click image)

 Sons of the Wolf (Book I in the Sons of the Wolf series)

Paula Lofting

History informs us of Wulfhere, a recorded landholder of Horstede, but not much more than of his existence. Inspired by mention of him in David Howarth’s 1066: The Year of the Conquest, author Paula Lofting brings this figure and his imagined family to marvelous life as she depicts a tumultuous and eventful year in the time of this Saxon thegn.

sons
New edition cover of the B.R.A.G Medallion-winning Sons of the Wolf (click image)

That he was indeed a thegn—an aristocrat granted land by the king in exchange for military service—is guesswork on Lofting’s part, a fabulous example of how she deduces detail from historical reality and research. To be more precise, given the amount of land Domesday records Wulfhere as holding, it is quite within reason to conclude he must certainly have been a thegn. Drawing on this framework, the author creates a cast of characters and builds their world within the Anglo-Saxon era, during the years leading up to the Norman Conquest, in which the real people would have lived.

Sons of the Wolf opens as our protagonist and his right-hand man, Esegar, return from campaigning in the north, both men looking forward to routine days of family life and maintenance labor on their lands. Things soon heat up, however, when a long-running feud with Helghi of Gorde, an abusive, sordid schemer and holder of a nearby homestead, intensifies, and the guilt of abandonment draws Wulfhere back to the bed of his former mistress.

The warrior’s wife Ealdgytha, too, has much to contend with: their fourteen-year-old daughter Freyda has taken up with Helghi’s son and defies her parents, particularly her mother, at every turn. The woman whose presence in her marriage generated such anger in her had once been a close friend, and Ealdgytha was wracked with grief and guilt when Wulfhere was away on campaign.

While old wounds are opened for both husband and wife, events seem to conspire to complicate their lives, the center of them being the feuding between Wulfhere and Helghi, which the powerful Earl of Wessex, Harold Godwinson—to whom Wulfhere owes allegiance—had sternly advised must end. Helghi conspires to sieze Freyda’s holdings from her once she is married to his son, and Wulfhere suspects such a scheme. However, Earl Harold, in the interest of peace, effectively forces a betrothel, and there seems no way for Wulfhere to stop the destruction of his daughter once she marries into Edgar Helghison’s family.

As the author lays out this first part of the story, the characters both grow and grow on the reader. They are multi-dimensional and human, and Lofting’s skill in presenting the events of their lives brings a richness to the narrative that produces a smooth rhythm and such insight into even the smallest of details, it leaves one wondering if perhaps she isn’t a Saxon time traveler herself, simply describing details she would naturally know.

Being a reader absolutely smitten with the regular people who populate history, I loved the book the first time I read it. Lofting provides the sort of detail I hungrily consume, without ever risking ordinary overload. She gives humanity to characters and we observe them, strangely understanding that while they are very different to us, we reach through history in search of how they also are similar. This dual actuality reveals a cyclic lifestyle unfamiliar to many today, but also, that even though they lived nearly a thousand years ago, just like us, people felt the cold, wondered if they had enough food, sometimes felt lazy or uninspired, and gathered in groups.

With summer lingering a little longer than usual, the autumn winds waited patiently before scattering dying leaves over the succulent forest bed. There, in Horstede, with the days growing shorter as the evening cast its shadows over the village, life carried on much as usual despite the excitement of recent events. It was threshing time for those who worked the land; the time when grains were separated from the ears of the newly harvested sheaths and stored in barns. For Sigfrith, the domestic chores in her mistress’s household spared her from having to pick up a grain flail.

The author also allows us to see events through different perspectives, such as Tovi, who is horrifically bullied by his stronger and more aggressive brothers. Twins, the two sons of Loki, as their father calls them, provide historical significance as their diametrical opposition to Tovi’s timid nature embodies a sort of case study into personalities and what influences might lead people to greatness or obscurity. While labeled sibling rivalry on the surface, it opens the door to exploration of medieval childhood, without the author ever directing it to—their own words and actions stimulate it and, like so much else in the book, support a deeper study within a fantastic tale.

Sons of the Wolf cover for first edition
Sons of the Wolf cover for first edition

We also are privy to some more routine but exciting events in Wulfhere’s days, such as the bi-annual meeting of the Witan, the kings counsel, where rivalries and plotting hold hands, in turn triggering feuds not so different to that of Wulfhere and Helghi, but potentially more destructive. Not quite as comforting as the similarities discussed earlier, they affect society on a grander scale as allies become enemies and traditional foes utilize each other for their own gain, never truly partnering and therefore cruelly unconcerned with the widespread and devastating consequences.

With various layers of understanding and several plot lines, Lofting has written into the story both global and local conflict, each reflecting the other. She brings this to bear also on a scene in which several of the women examine the goods within a chest bequeathed to Ealdgytha. From the trove the women uncover an extraordinarily long and elaborately decorated tapestry that simultaneously anticipates and is reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry, the events depicted on which even now, as the summer of 1055 draws to a close, are being written into the book of time.

Like the famous tapestry, this one depicted in a chapter entitled “The Wolf Banner” and presumably central to the next installment of the same name, this immense work of art has been hidden away for quite some time. It lays out the story of the Wulfheresons’ ancestors in images sewn onto the cloth, metaphorically representing them as wolves crossing the sea. As with the tapestry now displayed in France, it has tatters that would be repaired, and the women point out scenes added later, in the case of this particular work, “to make it seem more Christian.”

“Look , Aunt Gunnhild, there is a scene here with a bishop and a church … and people instead of wolves.”

 “Aye, it seems that those scenes were added later, to depict the baptism of the wolf people,” Gunnhild informed her, joining her at the end.

 Here, too, Lofting replicates the local version of a larger phenomenon, complete with the human inclination toward stories, opposing interpretations and details disguised or altered to camouflage true intent or significance. An indisputably gifted storyteller, she manages her narrative with an understanding of the time so deep, readers don’t bear any of the weight, yet can recognize the pathways she takes us upon as the tale moves forward. At times these passages are even quite short yet filled with significance, such as when Aunt Gunnhild answers Ealdgytha’s derision of, for her, an unwanted representation of idolatry, her reply containing an admission and also an entire history of a people within it.

Ealdgytha shook her head dismissively. “There is something frightening about it,” she whispered gloomily. “It is like a … like a portent of doom.”

 “Nonsense,” declared Gunnhild. Nothing frightened her, thought Winflaed. “They are Brimwulfas,” she said with certainty. “The Sea Wolves. That is what the people whose land we took called our ancestors.”

It truly is impressive how many layers Lofting has woven in to Wulfhere and the others’ stories, a tapestry in itself so detailed that repeat examinations secure new understandings each time.

Indeed, having read this novel twice now, and myself possessing a greater grasp and appreciation of the eleventh century, I “recognized” many of the players more instantly and the connections were more apparent. Some of these are connections between historical figures, others between real events and characters in the story and still others between characters, all of which Lofting sews together in her masterful manner on this magnificent portrait of a family, a village and a society. Flawed and imperfect, they touch us most because this is true of ourselves as well, and their various searches in life mirror our own.

Whether readers approach Sons of the Wolf diving into the depths of significance or simply for a smashing read, they will not be disappointed. In this year, the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, or any other, this is a tremendous account of life before and behind the scenes of 1066 and the people, much like us, affected by the customs, mores, laws and relationships of the era, and given their due recognition by an author with even better yet to come.

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Stay tuned for my review of The Wolf Banner and upcoming installments in the “950: 1066 Remembered” series.

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About the author …

Paula has always wanted to write. Since she was a little girl, coming home from school to sit at the table with her notebook and write stories that buzzed around in her head. A prolific reader, she loved nothing better than to spend weekends with a book in her hand. Earliest influences such as Rosemary Sutcliffe, Leon Garfield, Charles Dickens, C.S.Lewis, inspired an interest in history. It became her lifelong wish to one day write and publish a book, but not being able to type, and having no funds for a typewriter to learn on, this ambition was reluctantly put on hold.

duckie-pooWith the advent of PCs and a need to retrain and use a computer, this old ambition was stirred and she decided to rekindle her love of books and writing at the grand old age of 42. At this point, she had reached a turning point in her life and studied nursing, and also decided to write the book she had promised herself one day she would write.

Her debut novel, Sons of the Wolf, was first published with the assistance of SilverWood Books in 2012. More recently she has republished it with her new publishing company, Longship Books, in Kindle. A new paperback version will be published by June. It is a story set in the years leading up to the Norman Conquest of England and the first in the Sons of the Wolf series, about this amazing time in English history.

She has always admired the works of Sharon Penman and Bernard Cornwell, Edith Pargetter and Mary Stewart, amongst many others. History is a great love of hers and her interest in the subject goes beyond that of the keyboard. She also enjoys Anglo-Saxon re-enactment with Regia Anglorum, also a great source of research for her writing. Paula says: “Write for enjoyment, write for yourself, regardless of what others say you should; for if you don’t write what you love, then how can you expect others to love what you write.”

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Follow author Paula Lofting and keep up with her news, including her magnificent new blog and impressively researched and written entries about 1066, as well as the upcoming Wolf Bane, third in the Sons of the Wolf series. You can find her at her blog, Twitter and Facebook.

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Sons of the Wolf was was previously reviewed at Before the Second Sleep and a copy provided to facilitate review. 

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This blog was updated to reflect the giveaway in post title, extension of contest timeline, indieBRAG status as winner of the BRAG Medallion and exact date of drawing.

The Age of Æthelflæd: Anglo-Saxon Warrior Queen, Cover Crush: To Be A Queen

This week’s entry concludes our series, “The Age of Æthelflæd: Anglo-Saxon Warrior Queen,” with a cover crush of this multiple award-winning novel’s front image. It has been my pleasure and privilege both to work with author Annie Whitehead and also write on—and therefore learn more about—the amazing and inspiring woman that was Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians. She has carved a spot for herself in my heart. 

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to-be-a-queen
To Be A Queen is the recipient of the HNS’s Editors’ Choice Award 2015 and a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was long-listed for the HNS’s Book of the Year 2016.

Occasionally I marvel at the phrase warning readers not to judge a book by its cover because despite the truth of this caveat, the reality is that a cover image speaks to readers—or doesn’t, as the case may be—nearly as much as the story inside does. It gives one a “visual” into the world of the pages within, and a really great jacket design matches some element or aspect of the narrative: perhaps it depicts a crucial scene or the novel’s background is discernable within its layout.

When first I took in the cover for Annie Whitehead’s To Be A Queen, I saw its strength went one step further by including the title in its mood, in a skillfully subtle manner. Now this is no image simply to match a “thing” in the title, for it doesn’t contain a random noun, but rather a mood in itself.

My initial thoughts upon seeing the cover drawing were of longing and perhaps loss. Placing myself in the scene would put me near the tree; it occupies the foreground and I could reach out and touch it. Farther away lie the ruins of what once was another world, and so the loss shows itself: the structure has crumbled and the world it once occupied has slipped away from us through time.

I felt these sentiments when I spoke the title aloud, and to me they seemed to carry the weight of a melancholy, perhaps a wistfulness in memory of letting go. After reading the book I mused on how well the cover did its job, for indeed the novel’s titular character had long contemplated what it means to be a queen, while knowing from childhood she would never be one. The circumstances of this knowledge are mixed: in Æthelflæd’s native Wessex, women are by law not entitled to be called queen; in her adopted land of Mercia the office has fled with her auntie, who once occupied it. No matter the courage she displays, the fights she will endure, how many enemies she chases from her people, to be a queen is not in her cards, and she has known it all along, as long as the Vikings have chased her away from security, comfort, digging in of roots—and that has been her entire life.

Æthelflæd_as_depicted_in_the_cartulary_of_Abingdon_AbbeyA haunting statement uttered by her auntie early in the story later reveals itself to Æthelflæd as she contemplates the loss suffered by that queen, who knew it even then to be so: “What can I tell a five-year-old who will grow up to forget that I ever lived?”

Perhaps it would be a comfort to Æthelflæd, as she contemplates her loss of Æthelswith, or herself from the world in the fate of being forgotten, that even the grief of loss requires a memory. She may be in that unreachable part of the landscape we stepped into in order to examine our cover image, though, bittersweet as it is, she lives on as long as we remember her.

The tree we are so near to, reminiscent of the genus pink weeping willow, also lends to the cover’s mood, with its drooping demeanor and symbolism of death. However, it also lends strength for, even in its solitary nature, as weeping trees tend to be, its frame stands tall over time, overlooking the world we cannot quite reach, perhaps carrying memories of its own of a world it once observed.

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About the author …

Annie Whitehead is a history graduate and prize-winning author. Her first novel, To Be A Queen, is the story of Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great, who came to be known as the Lady of the Mercians. It was long-listed for the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Book of the Year 2016, and it has just been awarded a B.R.A.G. Gold Medallion.

whitehead-author-picHer new release, Alvar the Kingmaker, is a tale of intrigue, deceit, politics, love, and murder in tenth-century Mercia, and is available now. It charts the career of the earl who sacrificed personal happiness to secure the throne of England for King Edgar, and, later, Æthelred the Unready. Alvar the Kingmaker is also a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree.

She has completed a third novel, also set in Mercia, and scheduled for publication in 2017. She has twice been a prizewinner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing competition, she won first prize for nonfiction in the new Writing Magazine Poetry and Prose competition, and she has had articles published in various magazines, on a wide range of topics. She is also an editor for the EHFA (English Historical Fiction Authors) blog.

Most recently, she has contributed to the anthology of short stories, 1066: Turned Upside Down, in which nine authors re-imagine the events of 1066, and which has just been awarded HNS Editors’ choice and long-listed for Book of the Year 2017. She lives in the English Lake District with her husband and has three grown-up ‘children’.

You can learn more about and follow author Annie Whitehead and her work at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook and her Amazon author page. Click titles to purchase To Be A Queen, Alvar the Kingmaker and 1066: Turned Upside Down.

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Related post: “Image of the Week: Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians.”

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Stay tuned for my review of Alvar the Kingmaker.

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Image of the Week: Perspective

Image of the Week: Perspective

A few years ago I made many pictures of things I saw that caught my eye, and being around children a lot facilitated that pursuit. Children share a great deal, and are fascinated by so much in the world around them. The trails we frequented at that time were filled with treasures, and links were often made to other activities we participated in, especially reading.

To my great satisfaction, we happened then to be engaged with Alice in Wonderland, a book I’d delighted in as a child and so pleased the children had chosen. They loved the nonsense verse and silliness inherent in the tale, and we looked for portals to Wonderland as we made our sojourns along the wooded areas the trails typically wound through. Evidence of a rabbit in a waistcoat here, a Cheshire Cat there, and their hushed tones of mystery made me feel so happy. They were so much fun to be with.

The concept of perspective occasionally intruded on our great good times—typical for the age group, though, and we sometimes role played in order to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, to experience the world through the eyes of another. Or, as the case may be, from the height of another.

mushrooms

One of their best discussions came on a day when we read the passage in which Alice encounters the Caterpillar as he perches on his mushroom, smoking a hookah. Alice makes a bit of a faux pas as she unwittingly denigrates the insect’s short stature. He, of course, becomes upset—a scene some of the children re-played from having seen the Disney movie production of Alice in Wonderland—and then they engaged in a swift round of “Oh dear.” It was so funny to watch (and listen) as one by one, sometimes repeatedly, they pronounced what seemed to be Alice’s favorite phrase to worry.

There was a large mushroom growing near [Alice], about the same height as herself, and when she had looked under it, and both sides of it, and behind it, it occurred to her that she might as well look and see what was on top of it.

 She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large blue caterpillar, that was sitting on top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or anything else.

 “Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.

 “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.”

 “What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself.”

 “I cannot explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice, “because I’m not myself, you see.”

 “I don’t see,” said the Caterpillar.

 “I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,” Alice replied very politely, “for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes a day is very confusing.”

 Of course this resulted in much and great play as a swirl of children experimented with and play-acted as different sizes, peering over pretend mushrooms (either imagined from thin air or represented by pillows) and taking turns being stern or polite, polite or stern.

As you might imagine, the children themselves were various sizes and, being children, could well make believe and eagerly embrace it all as the learning experience it was, some even chewing on a bit of philosophy in our later discussions, with regard to who one is being affected by what one is—or how tall they are.

This came after we went looking for pretty leaves and came across the above-pictured mushrooms, which I really liked owing to their color. I also joked about it being set up in a showroom manner, as if they were on display. And, as pointed out by more than one quick-eyed observer, it seemed one mushroom even had a bit taken from it!

We had laughed about it all when I showed them the digital picture, achieved by laying down on the wooded floor and snapping the shutter up close to the object of our observation. They said it looked gigantic to them—it was actually about four inches—and that they’d have to climb up to be able to sit on it, or stand on tiptoe and peer over to see if a caterpillar was perched on top. “Imagine the tiny hookah!” (It seemed quite odd to hear such a small voice saying the word hookah.)

“Are you content now?” said the Caterpillar.

 “Well, I should like to be a little larger, sir, if you wouldn’t mind,” said Alice: “three inches is such a wretched height to be.”

 “It is a very good height indeed!” said the Caterpillar angrily, rearing itself upright as it spoke (it was exactly three inches high).

And so it was that we experimented with the act of observing through someone else’s perspective, while doing same with the art of photography, not to mention looking around for that caterpillar.