Title: Oswiu: King of Kings (Book#3 of the Northumbrian Throne series)
Author: Edoardo Albert
Published By: Lion Fiction (1/27/2017)
Pages: 560 (Paperback)
Blurb: In the third entry chronicling the rise of Christian kings in Britain, Oswald dies and the great pagan king Penda becomes overlord in his place. To stand against the increasingly powerful Penda, Oswiu, king of Bernicia, tries to unite the smaller neighboring kingdoms by marrying a daughter of Deira. But the struggle for power leads Oswiu to order the assassination of the king of Deira. He wins the throne but loses the approval of the people. In atonement, he establishes a monastery at the site of the slaying.
What will happen when Oswiu and High King Penda at last meet in battle? Though the kingdom may become politically one, both the Celtic and Roman strands of Christian faith vie for supremacy, mirroring the king’s own struggle for power.
My Take: What a thrilling book this one was. This was one of my first forays into historical fiction, and this proved to be an exciting and enjoyable experience. Even without reading the previous books, I never felt like I was missing something. There are certainly references to certain battles and events, but it never made me feel like I lacked an important piece of information in order to better understand things. And perhaps that is one of the benefits of historical fiction, because you can get at least some sense of the events before and during the book prior to ever picking up the book itself.
The tension on display between the Old Gods and the New God is fantastic. Even though much of the country had, by this time, converted to following Christianity (influenced by the decisions of their kings, as also displayed well in here), there were still strong pockets of those who clung to the Norse-like gods of their ancestors. Penda was one of the major figures of that time who stuck with the old gods, and his presence as the antagonist in this book helped to strike that conflict. This is certainly one of the best undertones in the book. Also on display is the great position and influence that bishops held among the more fervent Christian kings, and the tension that could arise between two Christian kings who were at odds with each other. It all plays into a wonderful dynamic.
Yet at the forefront is Oswiu, a king who must emerge from the long shadow cast by his older brother. The opening chapters revolve around this emergence in quite the exciting way that opens up new conflicts and tensions that remain unresolved until far into the book. The subtitle of the book promises that he will become the King of Kings, a bold promise. Yet for the entirety of the book, there is another character who is the King of Kings: Penda. Even among the squabbles of the minor kings and lords in the land, the tension and conflict between these two remains at the forefront and eventually comes to a head in a manner that will leave the reader satisfied.
Overall this was a wonderful book to read and I look forward to jumping back and getting into the first two in the series. It has made me a series of not only Eduardo’s writing, but of the historical fiction genre in general. If you are an old hand at reading fantasy, like me, you may enjoy a dive into this book. If you enjoy the time period, historical fiction, or even if you want to read about some of the early Christian kings, this is definitely a book I would recommend.
I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.