Hereward by James Wilde – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the thrilling historical fiction novel Hereward, written by James Wilde and published by Bantam Books.
“A wonderful, bloody, gory, page-turning and epic journey that sees James Wilde soar to the top of my list of historical fiction authors that I want to read more of. Unmissable.” ~The Founding Fields
As you’re well aware, I have been reading a lot of historical fiction lately from a variety of eras, and in the past few weeks I’ve reviewed titles that have been set in Victorian London the Roman Empire. This is my first taste of a novel set around the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, and Hereward is a wonderful read that will see me buying more novels not only by this author, but also in this setting. As I was reading this, I couldn’t believe it when I found out that Hereward was a debut novel, the book was just so enthralling. I couldn’t put it down, and hopefully you won’t be able to as well. James Wilde’s first book is one that you won’t want to miss out on, fan of either historical fiction or epic fantasy, as Hereward could easily fall into that genre as the period that it’s set in is similar to the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin’s epic masterpiece which everybody should read, however it stays firmly in the historical fiction setting.
1062: While the ailing King Edward, known as the Confessor, wastes his final days building monuments to God, across the Channel the brutal William the Bastard of Normandy plots to swamp all England in a tide of blood. The war drums are beating, the ravens are gathering. But with the king’s closest advisors scheming and squabbling, any hope of resistance to the Norman duke lies with just one man. Hereward is the King of Terror. Hereward is a warrior, trained in the lethal art of spear, axe and sword, a master tactician, a mercenary, and, to both ally and enemy, the devil in human form – as adept at slaughter as the foes gathering to claim Edward’s throne. Yet the men who need him most have made him outlaw, and Hereward must carve a bloody swathe from the frozen hills of Northumbria to the war-torn fields of Flanders just to stay alive. Here, during the darkest age in history, are the early days of the man who would be forged into one of England’s greatest heroes. It is the story of two mismatched allies, Hereward the Warrior and Alric the Monk, one fighting to save the land he loves, the other to save his friend’s soul. This is the story of the last Englishman, the first terrorist…the forgotten hero.
I don’t know much about this period, so I can’t tell you if Hereward is historically accurate so far although no other reviews that I’ve read have mentioned any glaring errors, so if historical accuracy is something that you want to have in your books than Hereward will be the novel for you. As I said earlier, if you’re a fan of fantasy novels (particularly dark ones such as Martin or Abercrombie), I reckon you’ll like this one. Fans of this period should love Hereward as well, as it’s a really good read and offers a different perspective on the events of 1066.
The characters in this novel are memorable and are well developed, and with this novel being the opener in a series (which I will be reading more of for sure), there is a potential for them to develop even further. Hereward is a great lead role, as his companion, Alric the monk. Both characters are well created, and Hereward takes just as much time to develop them as it spends hurling you headfirst into one bloodthirsty battle after another, with the action-scenes being an enjoy to read, and Wilde manages to bring something new to the table each time to keep the reader hooked.
Hereward is going to be a contender for one of the best debut authors of 2012, I think. It’s an awesome read, one that completely blew me away, and I love the fact that this is only the first novel in a series, which I will be picking up the next book of upon release for sure. The amount of battles and blood featured in this novel is up with some of the Black Library novels set in either the Warhammer 40k or Warhammer Fantasy Universes, and might even have a bit more bloody battles than what fans of either universes are used to. Hereward is a very entertaining piece of fiction. We care about the characters, the Monk Alric in particular, and the world is well developed and the final encounter between Hereward and the Normans rounds off the book nicely and leaves room for a sequel.
If there’s one issue that I had with the book, the cover art is a bit misleading as Hereward only wields a bow and arrow for not very long in the book, and when he does, he isn’t a master of it. Although this could potentially lower the rating of the book, the scene in which Hereward used a bow was more enough to make up for it, and was one of my favourite parts of the novel.
More Hereward by James Wilde: Hereward, Hereward: The Devil’s Army (Coming July 2012)