Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: The King's Shadow - Elizabeth Alder

Synopsis: Evyn, a young Welsh serf, has dreamed all his life of becoming a storyteller. Blessed with a beautiful voice, he loves holding an audience captive with his words, reciting verses that have been passed down from generation to generation.

But in a cruel twist of fate, Evyn and his father suffer a brutal attack by a group of murderous ruffians. Evyn's tongue is cut off, and his father is killed. Because he is orphaned an unable to speak, most assume Evyn is destined to a life of slavery. But Evyn is resilient and teaches himself to read and write. Having mastered these skills, he is appointed the personal companion to Earl Harold of Wessex, who later becomes the King of England. The two travel the countryside together, forming a close father-son bond. Evyn chronicles all their exciting journeys, which culminate at the Battle of Hastings, where the future of the country is decided.

Review: This was almost worthy of Rosemary Sutcliff, in both story and writing. The Author's style does a wonderful job in capturing the love of the Briton countryside and heritage, as well as weaving historical fact and fiction together superbly. Her battle scene was well written, unlike so many modern stories. She did not focus on the fighting as individual scenes, like a movie does, but as a whole, and yet she does not neglect relating certain events through Evyn's eyes. Her storm-at-sea, too, was related masterfully, being blessedly short, but exciting and never dragging at the same time.

Normally, I do not like it when a main character is mute, but Elizabeth Alder managed it extremely well. The King's Shadow has very little dialogue the way it is, reading instead more like a narrative (almost like one of G. A. Henty's stories) so Evyn's muteness fit in perfectly, enduring his character further and developing his personality in a way that talking could not. By the end of the book, I was thoroughly attached to him and silently begged those printed words that he wouldn't die. The Author makes her other characters just as easy to attach oneself to, from the graceful and kind Lady Ealdgyth, to the curious and lively Brother Lewys, and even King Harold himself.

I absolutely loved this book as much as I love Sutcliff's books, and I hope to add it to my collection very soon.

Overall Rating: 

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