Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from Sourcebooks for Review
“England, 1044. Harold Godwineson, a young, respected Earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. He marries Edyth despite her lack of pedigree, pitting him against his turbulent family and his selfish King, Edward. In France, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power. Brutal and dangerously smart, William sets his sights on England, finding ambition a difficult lust to conquer.
In 1066, with the old King Edward dying, England falls vulnerable to the winds of fate—and the stubborn will of these two powerful men. In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the last Saxon King, revealing his tender love, determination, and proud loyalty, all shattered by the unforgiving needs of a Kingdom. Forced to give up his wife and risk his life for England, the chosen King led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honor and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes.”
Helen Hollick’s I Am the Chosen King had a big role to fill in my reading life – this was my first book that revolves around the Norman Conquest of England – and it more than fulfilled my expectations. Most books that broach this subject approach it from the Norman perspective, however Hollick shakes it up by primarily covering the Saxon portion (with some Norman mixed in). As history is primarily written by the victors (and then repeated by subsequent writers) the Saxons and King Harold have had to fight to be heard – Hollick brings them right to the front and center!
I was excited to be immediately engulfed in the stories of some of my favorite characters from The Forever Queen upon cracking the spine of this novel. Queen Emma is back as is Earl Godwin and his wife Gytha. These familiar characters helped to introduce me to the newer main characters of this novel – mostly Harold Godwinson and his hand-fast wife, Edyth. I quickly found myself loving Harold and really all of the crazy Godwin family – even the not so nice ones! In a time when most of the nobility married purely for logistical dynastic reasons, Harold married for love and held on to it until the last possible minute. Set opposite to the Saxons, we have William “the Bastard” Duke of Normandy (and his wife, Matilda). He is a power hungry, ruthless, persistent man who is determined to always get what he wants. I got the feel from this read that the author is writing from a pro-Saxon standpoint – and I found myself being instantly drawn to them as well, and at the same time, really despising William.
I was most impressed with the writing of the actual Battle of Hastings – because, quite frankly, even though I loved seeing the characters stories, this was the part I was most interested in. I found it well written and that the outlooks of both sides in the battle were presented in a fair and well rounded manner. I have noticed that many times battle scenes can be too gory or that I lose interest in the intricacies of the battle – but that did not happen here. There was just enough detail without going overboard. I kept hoping, all the way to the last page, that history would be changed and that the Battle of Hastings would somehow go the other way!
Helen Hollick also has written The Pendragon Trilogy: The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner, and Shadow of the King as well as the companion book to I Am the Chosen King – The Forever Queen. You can visit Helen Hollick’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
You can also watch the book trailer below.
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