Well, I have another review for you! If you enjoy historical fiction – then you will really enjoy this book. There were times I hated the characters, there were times I loved them, but through it all – the book pulled together really well, and it covered a person who has largely been forgotten in history. I have given this book 4/5 stars.
England was far from settled, and the early days of the country are beset by death, turmoil, and of course, a few great men who would rise from the ashes…
Dunstan came from humble beginnings. While his father was a well known lord, Dunstan was a lesser son. He and his brother would have to work for whatever they wanted to achieve in life, while their older brother would inherit the bulk of their fathers estate.
Dunstan and his brother Wulfric are taken to the abbey at Glastonbury, to work and to eventually take holy orders. They are to be taught, and guided. Life for the boys was not easy, and Wulfric suffered much more than Dunstan. Dunstan is a quick learner, and he picks up everything that is brought his way. From the forge, to herbs, to devouring the languages presented, he grows and yearns to learn more. He wants to build, design and bring the abbey into a new life. As the time at the abbey goes forward, Dunstan pulls a stunt that he says had him “carried by angels.” This of course makes the abbey more popular, as everyone wants to see the boy who has been touched – but it also marks a turning point in his life. While he does his best to get rid of the bullies and those who have wronged him – it turns against him, and they accuse him of murder. He begs his teacher for confession, and then pulls him over the cliff with him. As Dunstan struggles to get to the kind lady Elflaed, he hopes that they have not left him behind. Yet, she is there waiting for him when he stumbles out of the woods, broken, dirty, and exhausted.
After that, life takes Dunstan on a new road. Lady Elflaed takes him to court where she introduces him to her brother, the king. He also meets his uncle, who is a very well known bishop in England. He is eventually confirmed in his holy orders, although the king at the time does not take kindly to Dunstan. He is sent away to be the Abbot for the Glastonbury abbey, and to fulfill the vision of rebuilding and growing the community. He is met with some dissension at first, but as time goes on, the priests settle back into a routine. Dunstan however, is not done. He becomes treasurer for the next king, and serves him faithfully, as he does the next several kings.
Dunstan is a figure that is enigmatic. He could have been killed any number of times, but he always managed to survive. He worked for what he wanted, but as a priest – he still suffered from the fall of pride. Any injustice to him had to be answered, and that included kidnapping a queen and selling her into slavery for the pain and embarrassment she caused him. He plotted and carried out his plans carefully, selecting those who were indebted to him (and not letting them forget it either). In his own way, he was exactly what many of the upper clergy of the time had become. They had their wealth squirreled away, and were their own tiny kingdoms in a larger kingdom. He served those faithfully who supported him, and did his best to raise them up when he could, but his temper would always get the best of him.
I did enjoy this book, although there were several times that Dunstan really got on my nerves! He was that character that you really want to hate, but at the same time, you want to see what happens to them. He is someone that has not been written about extensively, and Conn Iggulden did a great job in bringing this forgotten life back to the world of the living.
This book is due out May 1, 2018. Put it on your pre-order list now! Thanks to Edelweiss for an advanced copy for a unbiased review!