Thursday, February 19, 2015

AETHElRED THE ILL -ADVISED RIDES AGAIN



 Do you like Vikings? Do you want  to increase your Anglo-Saxon vocabulary by fifty words, thereabouts? Do these chilly nights make you long for  a thrilling romp through the  byways  of  really Olde England? Do wish to time travel to  shires where aethelings hunker down in burhs to await the arrival of the dreaded Norsemen?If you answer  yes to any of these questions,  Patricia Bracewell's THE PRICE OF BLOOD, the sequel to  SHADOW ON THE CROWN,  is the novel  for you.


This new novel centers of the relationship between King Aethereld of England and  Emma of Normandy whom he married in 1002.   As such, it is a bittersweet romance and a treat for readers who do not mind being served up historical personages who left behind so little data they must needs be recreated from a a piece of bone and a hank of hair.  


Readers who prefer fiction based on documented historical facts will do well to focus on Aethereld, commonly known as the Unready--according to experts in the Anglo-Saxon  language, unræd actually means ill advised.  He is better documented than his wife.  Bracewell does a superb job of turning the  dry facts of his life into  vibrant text. She leads her audience into  a time when Danish marauders-- the ISIS of the  twelfth Century--subject an already  ravaged England that  to a scorched earth  strategy. They burn, rape, pillage  then ask for  higher and  higher tribute. Aethreld's reaction to these events is less than intelligent. He finds it wise to create  wider fissures in the body politic,  as he  orders the assassination of  formers allies, severely limits his sons' participation in government and rejects  Emma's   counsel.  Meanwhile, his Danish opponent, Sweyn the Forkbeard, plots greater  mayhem.

Throughout the story, Bracewell's  sweet and gentle  Emma tries, tries, and tries again to reason with her husband though, frankly, she would just as soon dally with his son Athelston.  At the same, her  foil, Elgiva, concubine of Sweyn the Forkbeard's son  Cnut, has dangerous plans for England's royal house. Leave your garth, buy the book, fasten your headrail and prepare for a wild ride aboard a longship.A glimmer of the high Middle Ages is yet to shine, but I doubt you will be disappointed.

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