Tuesday, July 19, 2016

G724 Book Review of The Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

Name of Book: The Sons of Godwine

Author: Mercedes Rochelle

ISBN: 978-0-9973182-0-3

Publisher: self published

Part of a Series: The Last Great Saxon Earls

Type of book: Godwineson family, Britain, Anglo-Saxon, Normandy, William Duke of Normandy, Harold Godwineson, Toasting, Swegn, marriages, battles, ruling kingdoms, power, politics, Edward the Confessor, 11th century prior to 1066, family relationships, deaths, loyalty, saints

Year it was published: 2016


Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King's most trusted advisor, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor's death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn't particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.

This is a story of Godwine's family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.

This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor's reign. Unfortunately, Godwine's misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha's disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold's career was just beginning as his father's journey was coming to an end.

Harold's siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig's case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.

Harold was his mother's favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig's vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig's love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.


Main characters include Harold who seems to be a bit full of himself as well as trying to do good, but in some cases that is the case for failure. In the book he strikes me as rarely reflecting on his actions and what he has done. There is also Toastig, Harold's younger brother who at one point hero-worshiped Harold but then starting harboring his own ambitions which seemed to be ignored. Gyrth, Leofwine and Wulfnoth are also mentioned. Two of them are neutral and tend to look up to Harold. The other brother, Wulfnoth, was a hostage at William Duke of Normandy's castle and is best seen as resourceful as well as a bit foreign towards his family. There are other characters from the previous two novels, but I will not discuss them here for fear of spoiling the surprise.


One never knows how actions impacted others


The story is in first person narrative from Harold, Toastig, Gyrth, Leofwine and Queen Editha's points of views. I personally would have liked more of Queen Editha's viewpoint on things that were going on in the story. Aside from that, I was really drawn into the drama and the roller-coaster ride that was 11th century prior to Battle of Hastings. While there are some details, the author doesn't spend pages and pages on them but instead takes the reader into where the action is which makes it more story driven plot, I also liked learning about how the seeds of hatred were planted between British and Scottish people.

Author Information:
(From back of the book)

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation, She lies in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.


Previously I've had an honor to read and review the author's previous two novels; Heir to a Prophecy as well as Godwine the Kingmaker. With each novel the author greatly improves in writing and in storytelling qualities. For me it was a very engaging story that focuses a lot on the events prior to 1066, the Battle of Hastings. Because I want to know a lot of background information about the characters, I don't think the novel is a good stand-alone book because when I started to read it, I wanted to go back to Godwine the Kingmaker and see why Godwine's wife doesn't like her firstborn son and so forth. The book also has a special surprise for her fans which I will not reveal. While I appreciate the clear narrative of the story as well as helping me learn about the Godwineson family, I do feel that some of the characters, in particular Wulfnoth, Leofwine and Gyrth were not as fleshed out as Toastig and Harold, but I did enjoy reading their point of views.

This was given to me by the author for an honest review 

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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