*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: England is in crisis.
King Edward has no heir and promises never to produce one. There are no obvious successors available to replace him, but quite a few claimants are eager to take the crown. While power struggles break out between the various factions at court, enemies abroad plot to make England their own. There are raids across the borders with Wales and Scotland.
Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, is seen by many as the one man who can bring stability to the kingdom. He has powerful friends and two women who love him, but he has enemies who will stop at nothing to gain power.
As 1066 begins, England heads for an uncertain future. It seems even the heavens are against Harold. Intelligent and courageous, can Harold forge his own destiny. Or does he have to bow to what fates impose?
I am not often drawn to reading historical fiction, as I always feel slightly odd immersing myself in a story that I already know the ending of, and characters whose fates are already well-known. It takes a skilled author to get me past those reservations and keep me excited about the story throughout, which is exactly what G.K. Holloway achieves here.
While I was vaguely aware of the big-picture view of this period of English history, I had no idea of the motivations or surrounding events to give context to those headlines. It is here that this book really came into its own, as Holloway avoids getting too bogged down in fictional characterisations and, instead, gives a clear account of the known actions and reasons behind them. It is very clear that huge amounts of research and historical knowledge have gone into the writing of this book.
Still, instead of a dry recount of historical facts, this turned out to be a well-written and fascinating story in its own right – full of battles, political alliances, shifting fortunes and earldoms granted and revoked. Some of the action is gory and brutal, and some of the morality, logic and expressed sentiments feel almost unfathomable to the mind and experiences of the modern reader; you really get a sense that these were different times.
Also, as the title expresses, you get an overwhelming and lasting impression of the lack of justice or ‘fairness’ in the events that unfold. The characters are pushed and pulled by the tides of blind fate, with no real control over what will happen to them. Despite this, the author really brings the characters to life for the reader, and I found myself desperately rooting for certain characters to succeed, even when I knew what the eventual and inevitable outcome would be.
1066 What Fates Impose is accessible historical fiction, which is as entertaining for the lay-reader as it is educational.
In his bed the King, who can never be killed, lies dying. The old hag was right after all. He would not die on the battlefield. So, here he is, inside the church at Saint Gervase, sixty years old, white haired and corpulent, waiting for fate to find him, while his courage deserts him and terror creeps through his being.– G.K. Holloway, 1066 What Fates Impose
Six weeks previously, at the height of battle, the Conqueror’s horse bucked and threw him high into the air. He dropped back onto the pommel of his saddle, splitting his pelvis and puncturing his bowel. The infected would turned his insides putrid.
As he lies in his sweat-soaked sick bed, his fevered mind flits back and forth to deeds both past and present. The old king feels his life slowly slipping away. He urgently needs to make his peace with God. Only the Almighty can help him now.