England, 1044. Harold Godwineson, a young, respected Earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish King, Edward. In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power. Brutal and dangerously smart, William sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.
In 1066, with the old King Edward dying, England falls vulnerable to the winds of fate-and the stubborn will of these two powerful men. In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes.
(Terra's Thoughts) As I am writing this I must admit that I have not finished the book as of yet. This is not because I don't care for it because I do. This is a book of meaty substance that cannot and should not be rushed. A book to be savored for the incredibly artistic literary work that it is. A book that no matter if you have read it once or ten times, you will always find something you might have missed and enjoy each and every moment and word within.
Harold Godwineson is such a richly portreyed character that you can't help but love him right from page one. Second son of Earl Godwineson, Earl of Wessex, Harold has found favor with the King of England. Given a duchey of his own he works hard and learns quickly all that will be important to him if he is to succeed and stay in favor. We all know that nothing is perfect and there are many bumps in the long road of life but Harold takes each bump in stride and comes out that much stronger for it.
Helen Hollick has done a supberb job with the cast of characters that filter through this story. You can't help but love some while love hating others. The story is rife with uncountable emotions, vivid descriptions to actually make you want to reach out and touch someone. Smells and sights that color the painters palete in your mind with a richness that is as rare as the Hope Diamond. You will cry, laugh, find yourself cursing as you slowly and delicately devour page after page.
This book is an extension of Helen's book called "The Forever Queen" and should be read as such so that you won't get lost with some of the back referencing. I can't wait to finish this book but will do so with patience and reverence so I can enjoy it for the wonderful work that it is.
Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (March 1, 2011)