By: Mercedes Rochelle - Top Hat Books, $20.95
Description: Harold Godwineson, the Last Anglo-Saxon King, owed everything to his father. Who was this Godwine, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker?
Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans?
Verdict: The answer depends on who you ask. He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King.
Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine�s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn. Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court.
Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.
In all truth, if you enjoy well-written, thoroughly researched historical fiction, I can highly recommend Godwine Kingmaker: Part One of The Last Great Saxon Earls.
Admittedly an ambitious prose to undertake by author Mercedes Rochelle, set in the early 11th century, it tells the story of Godwine, son of Wulfnoth, the disgraced Thegn of Sussex, from the early days of his youth, through power and exile, until his death.
As aforementioned, we follow his progress from Saxon shepherd, who, seeing no future for himself, aids the invading Danes, unsure as to whether he is behaving treacherously or not.
Rochelle�s character development is quite extraordinary, for she captures the personalities of each son and daughter of the the first Earl of Wessex, their complex interactions with one another and others that befall them.
So, come the end, was he protecting the English against the Normans, or selling out the English to the Danes in his own struggle to gain and preserve his Earldom?
I�m surely not going to reveal that here and now, but if you are even the slightest bit interested in such a Godwine book, you almost assuredly know the answer beforehand.
The kind of read you don�t want to end, and can�t wait for the next in the series, the rise of the house of Godwine (First Earl of Wessex) under Canute and the struggle to hold onto his power in later years, is so beautifully described in the political and military confrontations, that come the end of this first part, if you don�t have the second part ready to go, you will be kicking yourself, trust me!
More than just a tale of politics and war, this is a story of a family, and it is through Godwine�s eyes as a father of a dynasty that we view the events of a fascinating period of history.
The author, much like she did in Heir to a Prophesy, balances well-researched historical events (she includes an impressive bibliography for future reference) with a very human story that allows us to identify with the characters and their motivations.
Simply put, we not only get the What of the history, but the Why for the book cleverly, if a little frustratingly at times, sure, foreshadows the rise to power of Harold, son of Godwine, as he takes his own place in Edward�s court; and then dutifully sprawls out before us, all that comes thereafter.
About the Author - Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves.
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