This book is the first of a trilogy written by Anand about the Norman Conquest of England and begins in 1036 when Alfred Atheling and 600 of his party were betrayed and massacred at Gildenford by Harold Harefoot, one of the claimants for the English throne. But, did Harefoot have help in the plot to betray the Atheling and lead him to believe he would be safe entering England? His mother Emma? Godwin, the Earl of Wessex? Brand the Woodcutter is innocently drawn into the plot and thus begins his years of service to the very powerful Earl of Wessex as the story then focuses on the reign of Edward the Confessor (Alfred’s older brother), Godwin’s great secret about the massacre at Gildenford and the events that eventually lead England toward it’s destiny with Duke William of Normandy.
Since this is the first of a trilogy, William is a very minor character until the very end and I suspect the second book will have a lot more WOW factor as the story of Duke William and the 1066 Conquest of England unfolds. I really enjoyed this book and would probably have rated it higher if not for the fact that I read this so close on the heels of Helen Hollick’s A Hollow Crown and Harold the King – I had a lot of been there done that. This is the first in a trilogy, the next two being The Norman Pretender and the The Disputed Crown. They are all OOP and very hard to find on the cheap but worth it if you get lucky. Good hunting.