The author has kindly donated e-book copies of Sons of the Wolf to2 lucky readers. To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave a comment below or on our Facebook page. The draw will be made on 25th March 2016. Good luck!
1054, pious King Edward sits on the throne, spending his days hunting, sleeping and praying, leaving the security of his kingdom to his more capable brother-in-law Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex. Against this backdrop we meet Wulfhere, a Sussex thegn who, as the sun sets over the wild forest of Andredesweald, is returning home victoriously from a great battle in the north. Holding his lands directly from the King, his position demands loyalty to Edward himself, but Wulfhere is duty-bound to also serve Harold, a bond forged within Wulfhere's family heritage and borne of the ancient Teutonic ideology of honour and loyalty. Sons of the Wolf is a panoramic snapshot of medieval life and politics as the events that lead to the downfall of Anglo Saxon England play out, immersing the reader in the tapestry of life as it was before the Doomsday Book. With depictions of everyday life experienced through the minds of the peoples of the time; of feasts in the Great Halls to battles fought in the countryside, it cannot help but enlighten, educate and entertain.
This week has seen the re-release of Paula Lofting's wonderful novel, Sons of the Wolf. Set in the reign of Edward the Confessor, the story revolves around one of the king's trusted thegns, Wulfhere. A real-life thegn who we know little about, beyond his name, Ms Lofting has created a world around him, imagining his home, his family and his life.
Opening with Wulfhere's return from the Battle of Dunsinane, the novel leads us on a lively ride through Wulfhere's frenetic domestic life, full of family dramas and neighbourhood feuds, with one or two unexpected twists along the way. This is expertly contrasted with Wulfhere's public life; as a thegn of Edward the Confessor, and with Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, as his Lord he is close to the centre of English politics, called on to attend the Witan and witness to the political machinations of the great and the good - and bad.
The combination of national politics and domesticity balances nicely throughout the book, leading to a dual climax of the Battle of Hereford and its aftermath and a family drama that could have fatal consequences....
This wonderful story gets you hooked from the very beginning, with Wulfhere's homecoming introducing us to a complex hero, affected by war and plagued with nightmares, who tries to balance his family life with his responsibilities as thegn. Although it is a period I know little about, Paula Lofting is an aficionado, a fact which comes across from the beginning. She uses her knowledge of the customs and practices of the era to recreate a stunningly authentic world, evoking the language, sights and smells of the period simply by her words.
...He removed his helmet and gave it to one of the twins. Wulfric immediately set it on his head as his brother, Wulfwin, tried his best to snatch it from him in an amusing display of mock sibling rivalry. The thegn stood before his wife with the reticence of a child and waited for her to speak.
"Welcome home, husband!" Ealdgytha smiled with genuine warmth and stepped forward with her arms open. She pushed herself into him and he enclosed her in an embrace. Bending his head, Wulfhere felt her face against his cheek as she softly breathed the words into his ear. "Welcume."
The strength and power of Sons of the Wolf is in its characters. They are all complex, interesting individuals - human. Created with the usual mixture of insecurities, fears and hopes that we would recognise today. Paula Lofting has developed strong, intelligent female characters, while still forcing them to remain within the confines of the 11th Century. And yet they manage to express themselves and their feelings. The disillusioned, disappointed wife, the rebellious daughter who wants love on her terms and the ex-lover trying to hold on to someone else's man; all create a tapestry of interwoven lives which threaten to overwhelm the hero as he tries to live up to his responsibilities.
Wulfhere is a sympathetic, flawed hero who is trying to find his way in a turbulent world. His weaknesses are laid bare to his wife, family and close friends; while his abilities on the battlefield earn him respect and admiration from his peers. He has to cope with a willful daughter, wayward sons and an angry wife, whilst dealing with the villain of the piece. Helghi just makes you want to punch him! His actions are despicable, and yet he always seems to come out on top - it's a mark of the power of the book, that you can feel such anguish for Wulfhere, and disgust for Helghi even as you read.
Paula Lofting's wonderful characters benefit from her extensive knowledge of the era. She manages to seamlessly intermingle the fictional characters with the historic. With the author's vivid descriptions it is not hard to visualise Wulfhere's longhall, the crowded Witan of Edward the Confessor, nor the battlefield of Hereford. Ms Lofting skilfully describes the nightmare of battle, it's aftermath and the fear and pain of combatants and non-comabatants alike, drawing the reader in so they feel they have been a part of the history.
The author cleverly sprinkles her prose with Saxon words, which has the effect of emphasising the protagonists' feelings at critical points in the story - and makes the reader feel even more like an observer of the actual events, rather than a reader of fiction.
Paula Lofting has done a wonderful job of recreating pre-conquest England and the world of Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson, in a book which is almost impossible to put down (even to sleep). The best thing is, this is book 1 of 2 - and now I can't wait to get my hands on Book number 2, The Wolf Banner....
(All pictures courtesy of Paula Lofting)
Paula Lofting was born in Middlesex and brought up in South Australlia. At the age of 16 she returned to the country of her birth where she always dreamed of writing a historical novel. Her dream was not realised until nearly thirty years later when she finally set about writing her first novel, Sons of the Wolf, which she first published in 2012. She has recently re-published it under a new publishing name of Longship and the sequel The Wolf Banner is due for release in May 2016. Paula is also writing a series of blog posts to commemorate the 950th anniversary of 1066 this year, which can be found on her website, paulalofting.com.
Sharon Bennett Connolly has been a reviewer for The Review since 2015. Fascinated by history for over 30 years she has studied the subject both academically and just for the joy of it - and has even worked as a tour guide at historical sites. She is now having great fun passing that love of the past to her 10-year-old son; visiting abbeys, hunting dragons in medieval castles and searching for fossils at the beach. Having received a blog, History . . . the Interesting Bits, as a present for Christmas 2014, she is now enjoying sharing her obsession of history with her readers.