Oswiu: King of Kings: Edoardo Albert

★★★★

The Northumbrian Thrones: Book III

In this third and (currently) last instalment in The Northumbrian Thrones, the ramifications of Oswald‘s untimely death spread across the feuding kingdoms of Britain. It is now 642 AD and the unification that seemed within reach during the reign of Edwin has crumbled away. Even Northumbria is no longer united. Oswald’s younger brother Oswiu faces a long, hard battle to secure his kingship against the mightiest ruler in the land: Penda, ambitious and ruthless king of Merica. But Oswiu has one advantage that Penda lacks: the posthumous, miracle-working reputation of the murdered Oswald.

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Oswald: Return of the King: Edoardo Albert

★★★★

The Northumbrian Thrones: Book II

Having warmed to Albert’s Edwin in its second half, I was keen to follow the struggle for Northumbria into its next generation. Oswald opens in 633, with High King Edwin’s death in battle against Penda of Mercia, and Cadwallon of Gwynned. His fall throws his kingdom’s future into the balance as predators circle the vacant throne. Cadwallon would have Northumbria as a client kingdom, but there are still men living who have the right to rule as independent kings. These come from two rival families: the Yffings (descendants of Edwin) and the Idings (descendants of Edwin’s predecessor, Aethelfrith). And whoever becomes king must now face up to this new power that has grown, unchecked, in the west. Northumbria desperately needs a worthy leader, but the one who can best answer that call is, ironically, the one claimant who wants nothing less than to be a king.

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Edwin: High King of Britain: Edoardo Albert

★★★½

The Northumbrian Thrones: Book I

There’s a bit of a thrill in reading a story whose exact dates are lost in the mists of time. In this first novel of Albert’s series, we are in the early years of the 7th century, perhaps in 616 or thereabouts. The Romans are long gone, leaving their ruins and their roads behind them; the raiders from the east have yet to come over the grey whale-road. Britain is split into kingdoms, roughly following the lines of the old tribal lands from the days of Boudica. But times are changing. A man who has moved from host to host, keeping one step ahead of the king who wants to kill him, has a dream of a united country, its petty kings subject to one overarching High King. It’s a grand dream, for a man who doesn’t even have a single kingdom to his name yet, but Edwin is shrewd and brave and has loyal men. As he inches his way back to power, his own rise is mirrored by that of a new religion, brought over from the Franks: a religion which will change the face of Britain forever.

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