Saturday, 23 January 2016

Oswald: Return of the King (The Northumbrian Thrones) #bookreview

Edoardo Albert , Oswald : Return of the King, is an epic tale of the life of Oswald, as he seeks to reclaim his father’s kingdom in Northumbria.

What's the story?

The second book in The Northumbrian Thrones series follows the young prince Oswald as he seeks to regain the throne taken from his family by Edwin

The exiled family of King Æthelfrith of Northumbria arrive, after much hardship, on the island of Iona, where the monastery founded by St Columba has become a center of worship and learning. Amid the violence and turbulence of Dark-Ages Britain, the island appears a sanctuary to the hunted princes and Oswald, having become firm friends with a novice named Aidan, enters the church along with his younger brother, Oswiu.

As befits a young prince, Oswald learns to fight and soon becomes renowned for his courage, earning the title Lamnguin, the Whiteblade. However, the peace of Iona leaves Oswald torn between becoming a monk or returning to Northumbria to reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully his. When news reaches Iona that his half-brother, Eanfrith, has been killed by Cadwallon, the king who defeated Edwin, Oswald sails back to Northumbria and meets Cadwallon in battle, defeating and killing him. 

Oswald, now the undisputed king of Northumbria, gives Aidan the island of Lindisfarne as a base from which to take the faith to the English. But Penda, the last great pagan king in England, is raising troops against him . . .

What did I make of it?

I was really looking forward to read this book. It has had some fantastic reviews. The opening chapter suggested that I would not be disappointed. Unfortunately, I very quickly became disheartened.  I became very confused about who the protagonist of the story was meant to be – I thought it was Oswald - but there were so many characters that this wasn’t clear to begin with. Thank goodness for the Dramatic Personae at the front of the book, without this I do not think I would have read passed Chapter 4. Once Albert settled into his story and concentrated more on Oswald, I began to enjoy it a little more.

Oswald: Return of the King is the second in a series that explores this historical landscape and I do feel that I would have benefited greatly from reading book one of the series first.

Albert’s historical knowledge is extensive– he has really taken great care in researching the era and he paints a very vivid picture of Britain in the 7th Century. Albert is a very skilled writer and has a knack for creating beautiful imagery.

I found the antagonist – Cadwallon – very trying, for he winged and whined and was, for want of a better word, delusional. However, I found the supporting characters, particularly Oswald’s brother, Oswiu, very engaging.

Albert has created a very believable political landscape and his battle scenes are very vivid and well thought out.

My advice is to read - Edwin: High King of Britain – first. Then, maybe, you will not become as lost as I was at the beginning of the book!

About the author

Edoardo Albert is a writer of Sri Lankan and Italian extraction based in London. The best response to his writing was when he reduced a friend to helpless, hysterical, rolling-on-the-floor-holding-his-stomach laughter. Unfortunately, the writing in question was a lonely hearts ad. He hopes to produce similar results in readers, without inadvertently acquiring another wife.

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