Last year I had the opportunity to review Edwin: High King of Britain, historical fiction set during the second century in England when the Angle and Saxon invaders and the original British kings constantly battled for power. I loved the story. So I was very pleased to have the opportunity to review the second in the series- Oswald: Return of the King.
Some historical fiction is just a story set during a real historical time. The events of history that surround the characters may be factual. But the story itself is all fiction. I like those books. But Oswald: Return of the King, just as Edwin was, is a story grounded in the known facts of the time. It really is a look at history. Many of the characters who are in the story are actual historical figures, including Oswald himself. At the end of the book, the author explains how he came to learn the history and where he may have added details that weren't clearly known. This is truly historical fiction at its best.
From the book's description:
The second book in The Northumbrian Thrones series follows the young prince Oswald as he seeks to regain the throne taken from his family by Edwin
The exiled family of King Æthelfrith of Northumbria arrive, after much hardship, on the island of Iona, where the monastery founded by St Columba has become a center of worship and learning. Amid the violence and turbulence of Dark-Ages Britain, the island appears a sanctuary to the hunted princes and Oswald, having become firm friends with a novice named Aidan, enters the church along with his younger brother, Oswiu.
As befits a young prince, Oswald learns to fight and soon becomes renowned for his courage, earning the title Lamnguin, the Whiteblade. However, the peace of Iona leaves Oswald torn between becoming a monk or returning to Northumbria to reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully his. When news reaches Iona that his half-brother, Eanfrith, has been killed by Cadwallon, the king who defeated Edwin, Oswald sails back to Northumbria and meets Cadwallon in battle, defeating and killing him.
Oswald, now the undisputed king of Northumbria, gives Aidan the island of Lindisfarne as a base from which to take the faith to the English. But Penda, the last great pagan king in England, is raising troops against him...
I was truly engrossed in the reading of Oswald. The author has the unique ability to clearly communicate the events and settings of the time in a way that is truly interesting. And it's not just a telling of information. The characters in the story are very well-developed. And there are many characters to develop. The story has quite a few layers, some picked up from Edwin and some that can lead to the last book of the trilogy (that I hope is coming soon!).
The history of this time has become very interesting to me. As it happens, I'm studying the Middle Ages with my younger girls, and we've discussed the events that led up to the Middle Ages in England. So as I read Oswald, I could picture the kings struggling for power and the unrest in England at the time. This isn't light, easy reading. It's a meaty story in which I was totally absorbed.
I thoroughly enjoy Oswald, and I am waiting anxiously for the third book in the trilogy. I give it 5 stars and a PG-13 rating (for the violence). You can find Oswald: Return of the King on the Kregel website here and on Amazon here.
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