.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Grizzly Mama

There's a Grizzly who has escaped the City of Brotherly Love..(and she's going back to homeschooling!!)

My Photo
Name:
Location: Out of Philly, Pennsylvania, United States

"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." Aristotle - Greek Philosopher.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

'Shields!'

I have just finished reading 2 books. I had been working on the first for several weeks and not making much headway due to exhaustion. I, not very wisely, started the book in the midst of our end of schoolyear crunch - and as my only chance to read is before falling to sleep - well. Let's just say that I read the same half-page every night and then woke up several hours later sitting up with the book still in my lap and my reading glasses still perched on the end of my little nose. This happened every night for quite some time - until - - until -- swim team practice started. While the girls were swimming laps I saw the perfect opportunity to read. Now I'm smokin' through those books and I'm going to tell you what I think. I loved them and recommend them heartily!

The first was The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Chronicles Series #1, by Bernard Cornwell.


The second was The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Chronicles Series #2), also by Bernard Cornwell.


This is historical fiction, set in 9th and 10th Century England. It is the story of King Alfred the Great and his defense of Wessex from Viking invasion. Several of the characters did, in fact, really exist. Ivar the Boneless, Ubba, Halfdan, Guthrum, Asser, Alfred and his nephew Athelwold, aldorman Odda and others. The main character, Uhtred, is fictional.

In the first book, Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh Castle) is a young boy in Northumbria. When he is 10 he is captured by the Dane, Ragnar, in a battle in which Uhtred's father is killed. (The 'Danes' are not referred to as 'Vikings' in the book. Sometimes 'Northmen' or 'Pagans' are used. Viking is a verb that means 'raiding'.) He is raised by the Danes and looks to Ragnar as a father and truly Ragnar loves him as a son - unlike Uhtred's dead father who never showed love to his son while he was alive.

When Uhtred grows up he is not quite sure where his loyalty lies. Back and forth he goes a couple of times between King Alfred - who is not the most likeable fellow - and Ragnar's surviving son. Also called Ragnar. Uhtred has never forgotten his home in Bebbanburg and vows to have it back, but as a freeman, no gift from the Danes. I think it's his evil Uncle who took over in Bebbanburg and it appears that Uhtred will have to face this nasty man - and probably fight him - in order to take back his birthright one day. In any case - he's in the south now.

The second book starts after the battle in which Uhtred, fighting on the side of King Alfred, defeats Ubba Lothbrokson, a formidable foe. Many leaders in the North have submitted to the invading Danes and pledged loyalty to them in exchange for their lives and the illusion of being left in power. King Alfred has refused. Alfred is a skinny, weak and sickly man who does not like Uhtred but realizes in the end that the Uhtreds of the world are the ones who fight and win the battles. Uhtred refuses to give up his Pagan beliefs, much to Alfred's dismay. Anyhoo - Alfred and his family end up hiding in the swamps of Aethelingaeg. (Athelney near Taunton.) They have been driven there by the Danes and are in a desperate situation. Uhtred finds himself there with a British sorceress as his companion. He was pretty much forced into marriage with 'Mildrith' who has a young son by him. He has left them behind after tiring of the farming life - plus, it was time to go a'viking!

Alfred rallies in the swamp and decides to stay and fight even though others are trying to persuade him to get on a boat and get somewhere else, and fast! You have to give Alfred credit - weenie though he may appear, he had the stuff to gather the forces and make a stand. The book ends with the Battle of Ethandun (Edington, Wiltshire). The noble King and his strong, if unseemly, fighters win against all odds. Svein, the Dane on the white horse, and the Danish armies led by Guthrum and assembled against the Anglo-Saxons, are thoroughly routed.

The descriptions of the battles, behind the 'shield wall', are riveting and brutal. I am half tempted to draw my own weapon and go dancing in that space between 2 armies with Uhtred, taunting and tempting and threatening. The bloodlust is there, buried. Perhaps I have a few drops of the Danish blood in me. I am of Cornish and Irish descent, afterall. The Cornish were able to repel the 'Vikings' - but they made some good headway in Ireland.

I see now that there is a 3rd book in the Series: 'Lords of the North'. Perhaps Uhtred finally finds his way home. I'll be reading that next.

Would you like to go A'Viking with me?

20 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Grey Ghost said...

Good reviews! I may check 'em both out when I get a chance.

23 June, 2007 02:09  
Blogger tshsmom said...

THANK YOU!!
Historical fiction is my favorite leisure reading genre. These are now on my Amazon wish list.

23 June, 2007 11:04  
Blogger Mike's America said...

"Ivar the Boneless."

Isn't he your Senator in PA?

23 June, 2007 13:40  
Blogger City Troll said...

no thats Spector the Spineless

23 June, 2007 14:53  
Blogger MonicaR said...

Mr. GG - I completely enjoyed them. I will be interested to hear what you think of them after you've read them.

Tshsmom - me too! I hope that you get your wish!

Mike and Troll - LOL!

23 June, 2007 23:16  
Blogger tshsmom said...

Good one, Troll!!

24 June, 2007 08:23  
Blogger BillT said...

Thanks for the heads up. I've always been a big fan of 1042 forward, but this looks like a fun read.

24 June, 2007 14:22  
Blogger MonicaR said...

It's a rollicking good read, BillT. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

25 June, 2007 00:33  
Blogger Henry Cate said...

"Let's just say that I read the same half-page every night and then woke up several hours later sitting up with the book still in my lap and my reading glasses still perched on the end of my little nose."

I have been cursed, or blessed, with being able to stay awake late into the night reading a book. I have to be careful not to start a book late in the evening. Once I started a Tom Clancy around 10:00 PM. I was just going to read a couple chapters. As I neared the end of the book I heard birds chirping. It was 5:15 AM. It was a good book.

27 June, 2007 00:11  
Blogger MonicaR said...

Henry - Tom Clancy ALWAYS does that to me. lol!

27 June, 2007 11:03  
Blogger tweetey30 said...

These sound like great books.I love books like this. I will have to check them out next time we go to the book store.

27 June, 2007 12:38  
Blogger MonicaR said...

I found them at the library. I'm going to look for the next book this afternoon while the kids are in a first-aid class at the library.

27 June, 2007 15:03  
Blogger Abouna said...

Please forgive me, but you have been TAGGED by me. Please see my blog's Friday posting for the questions.

God Bless.

28 June, 2007 22:25  
Blogger MonicaR said...

All is forgiven, Abouna. I will do the tag this weekend!

29 June, 2007 12:14  
Blogger Ann said...

Cubed here.

"Ivar the Boneless."

"Spector the Spineless"

LOVE THAT! Maybe we can make up titles like that for ALL the idiot politicians from every state! It would be a long, long list...

Monica,

The use of good historical fiction to catch our interest in various periods of history is absolutely the best way to use as a "hook" to interest people in history (I'm thinking students, of course, but it applies to anyone)!

No matter what the period, it puts you (or your student!) right in the middle of the action, and makes a participant out of him (or her...) and provides the emotional "glue" that helps him (or her!)(or any of us!) retain the factual info provided. It also helps with the great task of "connecting the dots," since it's so much easier to see that the lists of names, dates, and events that we were so often handed when we were kids don't just happen in a vacuum. After the fiction, it's so much easier to be interested in the dryer stuff, because we already understand that these were real people, with real lives, and they were a lot like us!

My daughter once recommended a book called "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett; you probably already know about it, but just in case, it's the story of a family in medieval Britain involved directly and indirectly with the construction of a cathedral. It's fascinating; it tells the story of the politics etc. of the era, of day-to-day life of lower to middle class people, and also illustrates the engineering involved with the construction.

He wrote a lot of historical fiction, mostly around WWI and WWII (the girlies may be old enough by the time you get to that period to enjoy them), but I have to agree with my daughter that "Pillars" must have been his passion; it is absolutely the most compelling of any of his books that I have read; it got the same response out of me that you are describing in the books you have mentioned - and which I now want to read!

Now you've got me going, and I'm going crazy trying to remember a wonderful historical fiction about Michaelangelo and the Sistine Chapel; the author's name had "Irving" in it, I think, and I can't remember the title at all.

Help...

01 July, 2007 15:52  
Blogger MonicaR said...

Was it 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' by Irving Stone?

Great to hear from you again, Cubed! I wish I had discovered the genre in my teens - it is now one of my favorites. I will be sure to introduce the girlies to all of the possibilities. The older has read some books geared toward children that would be considered historical fiction. Her favorite so far was a book about the soldiers at Valley Forge National Park in the Revolution. It's from a fictional young girl's perspective and her experiences seeing the soldiers marching in ragtag fashion. (and many other exciting things...)

The younger is fascinated with WWII. I'm not sure why - but she is. She recently checked out a book at the library - for kids - telling about Pearl Harbor, and the day that would live in infamy. She loves it and it shows all of the equipment that soldiers/sailors/marines of different ages were outfitted with. She also loves 'Call of Duty 2', a PS2 game that I'm sure that I would have never allowed her to play but that Troll has encouraged. She loves bazookas. *sigh*

In any case - I am determined to make history much more enjoyable than it was for me and reading novels with historical facts is one very enjoyable way to do that!

Your daughter's suggestion has gone on my reading list - and if The Agony and the Ecstasy is the novel you were thinking of then it will be on my list, too!

I hope that you enjoy Cornwell's version of the Northmen invasions!

02 July, 2007 00:55  
Blogger Ann said...

Cubed here -

Monica,

THAT WAS IT! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I do so appreciate it! I have remembered the story and the fragments of title and author, but not enough to do a search for it! Old age, I guess!

I wish I had discovered historical fiction years ago too. Wherever I went to school, it always seemed that some P.E. coach (or the equivalent) was also saddled with the job of teaching history, and history was usually taught as if it were some sort of shopping list that we had to remember just long enough to pass a test. No wonder it didn't exactly light any flames...

I am just thrilled to know that the girlies are showing an interest in history; for one thing, I am convinced that Santayana was right on when he said that people who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. Lord Bolingbroke was right too, when he said that history is philosophy, teaching by example.

When they are old enough (maybe Number One Daughter is nearly there), they might be interested in another of my favorites (at least I can remember the title - this is so embarrassing!), "The Cry and the Covenant."

It's a fictionalized biography of Ignaz Semmelweis, the Hungarian doctor who recognized how "childbed fever" was spread and how to prevent it ("Wash your hands!" was his battle cry) before bacteria were even discovered. In his little hospital, he had virtually NO deaths from puerperal fever in an era when new mothers were dropping like flies from it. It's a terribly exciting story of discovery.

In the end, Semmelweis... Naw, I won't tell you that!

Wow. What a great list could be made.

Thank you again so much!

02 July, 2007 19:12  
Blogger MonicaR said...

LOL - I'm so glad that was the one you were thinking of!

I am most definitely going to get the book about Semmelweis.

I hated history in school. Hated, hated, HATED it. Troll had a great history teacher in junior high and it fueled his passion for history through all. I only recently (last 20 years...) discovered the wonders of it. ;-)

I really should get to bed. We've been searching for a new house and working hard to get our house up to snuff to sell. Need a shower and we're up early for swimteam practice.

Thanks for everything, Cubed!

03 July, 2007 00:26  
Blogger tweetey30 said...

I just bought these two and am through the Prologue of the first book. Its a great book so far. I am going to send them to Tshsmom when we are done with them and then I am waiting till Jan of 08 for the third one to come out in paper back. I got the first one in paperback and the second in hard cover because it was in the bargain books. Not to bad. Well thanks for the review and the sugggestion.

03 July, 2007 09:53  
Blogger MonicaR said...

Tweetey - I'm thrilled that you are enjoying reading them so far. I want to know what you think of them after you're done, too.

The 3rd book was checked out at the library - so I have to wait a bit on that. I'm reading something else now that is completely blowing my mind. LOL!

Happy raiding!!

03 July, 2007 21:15  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home