The Norman Pretender takes up the story where Gildenford left off, as the powerful Godwinson family returns to England after King Edward forgives them for their role in the massacre of his brother Alfred and 600 of his Norman followers. The old Earl dies and his oldest son Harold becomes The Earl of Wessex and the story then details Harold’s life as he battles the Welsh and his bitter enemy Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, while also struggling with his jealous brother Tostig. We also see the return of the fictional character of Brand the Woodcutter (who has been living in Duke William’s court), along with Wulfhild, the daughter he didn’t know existed, as he returns to England and Harold gives them the lands surrounding Fallowdene.
For those familiar with the period and its history you know what happens
next, but for the sake of those that don’t I won’t detail too much further, just suffice it to say that Anand weaves a fine tale of Harold Godwinson and the events leading him to make an oath of fealty that he cannot keep, the final treachery of his brother Tostig that exhausts Harold and his army, finally culminating in that fateful October day in 1066 and the Battle at Hastings.
While this book is not quite as good as Helen Hollick’s Harold the King (a must read!), I had a very hard time putting this down and I am very much looking forward to reading the last in the trilogy, The Disputed Crown. These books are out of print and from some of the prices being offered quite rare, but if you can find copies at a reasonable price and are interested in this period I’d go for it. 4.5/5 stars.