Thursday 21 July 2022

A Discovering Diamonds Review of In the Shadows of Castles by G. K. Holloway

Fictional drama/ military
11th Century / 1066
England / Normandy

It's the 1060s, and William of Normandy is establishing a new and brutal regime in England, but there are those who would defy him. As Norman soldiers spread like a plague across the land, resistance builds, but will it be enough to topple William and restore the rightful king to his throne? The English have the courage to fight, but the Normans, already victorious at Hastings, now build castles seeking to secure their tenuous foothold in these lands. And what of the people caught up in these catastrophic events? Dispossessed but not defeated, their lives ripped apart, the English struggle for freedom from tyranny; amongst them, caught up in the turmoil, are a soldier, a thane and two sisters. As events unfold, their destinies become intertwined, bringing drastic changes that alter their lives forever.”

This is a long awaited follow-up to Mr Holloway's first novel '1066: What Fates Impose'. It can be read as a standalone, but as with all books of a series worth reading it is worth starting at the beginning.

The author is obviously passionate about his subject and the period – the aftermath of the Norman Conquest at the Battle of Hastings, 1066. He develops his characters with that same passion, bringing to life the bewilderment and devastation of the English and the crowing, and, in part, equal disbelief of the conquering Normans.

From our view in hindsight of the events of 956 years ago, we know that the Normans were not to be defeated, and that their regime of feudalism (not existent in England pre-1066) lasted for more than two hundred or so years – more if you include the ongoing influence of the Normans in our speech, architecture, government and sovereignty etc. But back then, in those months and few years after the dreadful defeat at a battlefield seven miles inland from Hastings, the hope, the will to survive and the (alas) unfulfilled determination to send the Normans back to where they came from was strong among the defeated English.

Although, in a way, these English people that so resolutely populate Mr Holloway’s novel did win, for we speak English, not French, and many of us regard our rightful kings - Harold II and Edward the Confessor’s great-nephew, Edgar the Ætheling - as the true last English kings of England. Our heroes are the defeated, not the winners. Our Anglo-Saxon ancestors are regarded with affection and loyalty, the Normans are still thought of as unwanted foreign invaders. (Although strictly speaking, so were the Anglo-Saxons when they originally migrated to 'Engla-land' in the 400-500s AD!) But whether you are an ardent Anglo-Saxon supporter or pro-Norman this novel gives pause for thought. What did the people at the time really think, hope, and believe?

I came across a few errors, but this was a pre-publish ARC edition, so I assume these have been corrected.

I personally do not agree with all of the author’s ideas and theories, as 1066 and its era is a subject very dear to my own heart, but if we all agreed on these things there would be little scope for discussion, speculation and the writing of fiction, so this is an interesting and entertaining story for readers who are intrigued by the events that changed English history forever.

(Although I still wish that the outcome of Hastings had been very different.)

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Helen Hollick
 e-version reviewed

might I also suggest...

an anthology of 'what if' alternative stories set during the year 1066
G K Holloway has an excellent contribution which 
fits admirably with his two novels.
available as e-book and paperback

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