I was browsing through Fantastic Fiction, looking at new authors (as you do, when you really can't face doing any more uni work and it's the holiday so there's not a whole lot to do), and happened to spot this one. The cover, I confess, grabbed my attention. Let's face it, we all judge books by their covers, or you'd never be able to make a decision about what you wanted to read. Anyway, clicking on it, I discovered that this was based on an old English legend I'd never heard of... Well, as a great lover of Robin Hood (I'm up to six different interpretations of it at the moment, with another on the way from ebay), I thought it was well worth a go.
Ah, before I go any further, I should perhaps say this version is by James Wilde, and should be easy enough to distinguish from others as it seems to be the only recent one.
Anyway, this is a fascinating read. I'm going to be doing the period in which it's set next year at uni (and I can't wait!), so it was interesting from that perspective. The sources from that period are so scanty that you can basically make up what you will, but it did feel fairly solidly based. I'm not an expert yet, probably never will be an expert expert, but I would hope I'll know a bit more this time next year.
Hereward is a brilliant hero, though not without his flaws and darker side, and I love the monk, Alric, who becomes his constant companion after a chance meeting. Alric is also portrayed very sympathetically, which often isn't the case with churchmen in historical novels (you only have to look at Angus Donald's version of Robin Hood, called Outlaw, which has a horrendous priest). Mind, the early church is not completely safe from attack. A rich cast of characters, and a great 'feel' to the story keep it compelling, along with some great sword play and action scenes. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out not just for anything else by James Wilde (this is a debut novel, but he's definitely left space for a sequel--perhaps a Hereward trilogy is in the making?) but also anything else about Hereward. The story's brilliant, and I love the fact that Hereward isn't portrayed as perfect, and also the way the story manages to cover a fairly long time span without feeling contrived.
This is a fantastic book, I thoroughly recommend it. Rescues a great hero from obscurity (or reinvents a great hero), and provides a brilliant adventure/historical novel too.