Once I got to the third chapter, you would have had to pry *Edwin: High King of Britain* out of my hands. The reason? It reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. I read this paragraph....
"The wind blew harder and Edwin shivered, but it was not from a cold to which he was inured that he shook. 'He made me bow to him. He forced me to my knees in front of his men, in front of mine, and made me do homage.' Edwin turned to Forthred, and his eyes were as grey and cold as the sea.
'He bought me my kingdom and defeated my enemy, but he ground my knees into the blood soaked mud and forced the homage I would have willingly given. But he is dead now, and no other man will make me kneel.'
'But I will kneel to you lord,' said Forthred, and he went down on one knee before Edwin. 'Get up, get up.' Edwin hauled Forthred back to his feet. 'We have endured too much together for you to kneel to me, old friend.' "
And I said to my friend "This is a real-life Middle Earth kind of story."
I like learning history through novels, and I love the fact that this book is a true-to-history account. However, I was sucked in by the story and the characters, and the factual basis was all an extra benefit. This books reads like Tolkien, and a bit like a Stephen Lawhead novel, with kings and queens and battles and warcraft.
One thing really struck home to me: Nothing is new under the sun. People still do horribly violent things to one another. Weapons are still formed to take life and spill blood. Power and empires are still sought. And the Gospel still goes out- a very tiny seed that grows greatly in good soil, an insane idea that saves souls, a beautiful word amidst the evil and coarseness.
Edwin, a man who walked this earth and saw the sun and impacted history, had to choose how to live and whom to serve. This novel imagines how he made those choices. His bride, Æthelburh, another true figure, came to Edwin's house with Christianity and two spiritual counselors, a priest Paulinus, and a deacon James. These men are humble and devout without becoming cliches, just as Edwin is hard-headed and determined.
Christianity at its most unadulterated, life-giving form is about to enter this pagan land. That's what makes this book so cool... it wrestles with the introduction of Christ into history, and shows how men's hearts changed when they encountered the Gospel, but it is not your typical poorly-written tract style novel. Readers can enter it without fear of anything but accuracy meeting imagination.
Thank you Lion Fiction for my review copy!
I am, on paper at least, a surprisingly exotic creature: Italian, Sinhala and Tamil by background, and growing up in London among the polyglot children of immigrants (it was only when I, finally, went to university that I actually got to know any English people). However, it's worth bearing in mind that the work of mine that produced the most extreme reaction in a reader was, in fact, a lonely-hearts ad. The reader, a friend checking the ad for me, was reduced to a wheezing, helpless, tear-stained mess of hicoughing flesh, so uncontrollable was his laughter. This was not quite the reaction I had hoped for. One day, I hope to produce something to match that reaction, but preferably without acquiring a wife, as I later found one by slightly more conventional means.