What a truly impressive book that I didn’t like very much! The premise of this book is looking at a turning point in Anglo-Saxon England right after 1066 as a kind of apocalypse for those involved. Some recently books I’ve read (Gone with the Wind; The Grapes of Wrath) also treat the lives of the primary characters as if they are facing down the apocalypse….this too is a theme in a lot of other books like Doomsday Book and many different encounter narratives by indigenous groups.
So the story then is that our narrator is a local, smallish thane in 11th century England who is facing down a new king, the Norman invasion, tension and anxiety his identity as an Englishman, apocalyptic visions, the dying of the mythological world, and personal survival.
The trick (and maybe gimmick depending on what you think of it) is that the novel is written in kind half-dialect of Anglo-Saxon. The reason this feels like a gimmick is that simply put, it’s not Anglo-Saxon, so it feels deeply affected. I like the idea of how the language the narrator would be speaking would shape and affect and control his thinking, but that’s not exactly what we’re getting here. So it’s interesting and curious, but it’s also not as authentic as it purports to be. I also think there’s some noodling tricks happening here —- there’s a heavy leaning on swear words and repetition to make this book happen, with mixed results, and lastly, the story is not nearly as compelling as it seems like it should be. Those who have read enough fantasy novels already have a lot of this novel in their consciousness — both story and language.
The audiobook by Simon Vance, is however, truly a wonderful performance.