Posts Tagged ‘Northumbria’

Adventures in Bookland: Ecgfrith, King of the Northumbrians, High King of Britain by NJ Higham

Monday, October 24th, 2016

517twmhyeqlProfessor NJ Higham is probably (no, definitely) the foremost academic expert of the history of the kingdom of Northumbria. (In one of those peculiar coincidences, he is Emeritus professor of History at the University of Manchester but, just to cause confusion, the University of Manchester has another eminent professor who is also called NJ Higham – and Nicholas is the Christian name for both of them. The other NJ Higham is the Richardson Professor of Applied Mathematics.)

So imagine my delight when, reading Professor Higham’s latest book, I found…me! Yes, I was referenced and footnoted, and not just once but multiple times. It turns out that the great man has read the book on the history and archaeology of Northumbria that I co-wrote with Paul Gething, the director of the Bamburgh Research Project, the ongoing archaeological investigation of the castle and its surroundings. Turning to the back of the book, not only is Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom in the bibliography, but so are Edwin: High King of Britain and Oswald: Return of the King!

All I can say is that I wish this book had come out before I began writing the Northumbrian Thrones. It is quite the most rigorous and thorough treatment of the kings of Northumbria’s ascent to dominance, and the perfect foil to Max Adams’ book The King in the North. Where Adams treatment is poetic and anthropological, pursuing the limited evidence by recourse to cultural parallels even if they are far removed (an approach that suggests much that is intriguing but one that establishes very little), Professor Higham’s book is much more restrained, not seeking to push the evidence beyond what we know but, by bringing a lifetime of scholarship to bear, Professor Higham extracts every last bit of inference from what we do know, creating the fullest possible picture of the kingdom of Northumbria in its heyday. Indeed, for the period of Northumbrian dominance, this book is now the definnitive work, overtaking Professor Higham’s own magisterial The Kingdom of Northumbria AD350-1100.

Book review: The King in the North by Max Adams

Sunday, July 20th, 2014
The King in the North

The King in the North

Not surprisingly, Max Adams’ book finds an appreciative reader in me: it’s all about Northumbria! Although ostensibly a biography of Oswald, in fact it tells the story of the great age of the kingdom, starting with its emergence into history under the ‘Twister’ Aethelfrith, through my favourite, Edwin, to Oswald, Oswiu and Ecgfrith, with an afterword about the golden cultural age of the eighth century. Adams is never less than fascinating, he brings to light all sorts of nuggets of information and parallels – I particularly liked the comparison between Oswald and Thomas Cochrane, the premier frigate commander of the Napoleonic Wars and a man of such daring his exploits would appear ridiculous in a film – and his book brims with a life-long love of the subject. In fact, the only other book on Northumbria I’d recommend as highly is my own, and Adams beats me into a cocked hat with the absolutely superb double page map on the inside front cover, which shows Northumbria and the other kingdoms of northern Britain in the style of the map in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, all hand-drawn hills and sketched forests. Superb, and on its own responsible for an extra, fifth star! Well done, Mr Cartographer.

New Back Cover Copy for Edwin: High King of Britain

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Now my publishers, the lovely people at Lion Fiction, have had the chance to read the complete text of Edwin: High King of Northumbria they’ve written a fresh draft of the back cover copy. I’d be very grateful if you could read it and let me know what you think.

Edwin: High King of Britain | Back Cover Copy

Edwin is a king. Yet he is about to be betrayed and butchered.

Edwin, the long-exiled king of Northumbria, thought he had found sanctuary at the court of King Rædwald – his friend and now protector.

But as Rædwald faces the draw of riches and the fear of bloodshed, rumours abound that he will not hold firm to their bond.

As Edwin contemplates his fate and the futility of escape, hope is offered by a messenger from an unknown god. It is prophesied that Edwin will ascend to greater power than any of his forefathers.

Through cunning victory in battle and a strategic marriage to the Kentish princess Æthelburh, Edwin’s power grows.

But his new wife and her missionary priests bring more than political alliance. Where should Edwin look to for a power not of this earth: with their new God, or with the Anglo-Saxon gods of old? And can any power raise Edwin above all other thrones?

Edwin: High King of Britain is the first book in The Northumbrian Thrones trilogy – a riveting read seeped in the intrigues, bloody battles, and romance of the kings of Anglo-Saxon Britain.




Blurb for Edwin: High King of Britain

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Here’s the publisher’s blurb for Edwin: High King Of Britain. What do you think? Would you be inclined to read the book after reading this and looking at the cover?

Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure – the missionary Paulinus – who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point. Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to great power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life …This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade – and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.


Edwin: High King of Britain

Thursday, September 19th, 2013


Here it is, the cover for the first volume of my trilogy of historical novels on the kings of the north, The Northumbrian Thrones. Edwin: High King of Britain is due out in March 2014 from Lion Fiction and I am really rather excited.

It’s available to pre-order on Amazon, the Book Depository and Waterstones.

It’s Here!!!!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Now, pdfs and all the other technological and digital whizz bangs that allow files and pictures to be shared between computers and tablets and pills and potions and what not are all very well, but, believe me, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to compare with holding the first paper copy of the book you’ve spent the last three years working on in your hands.

There it is, pictures, words, the whole blessed shebang: a real, actual, frankly all-but-breathing thing! You can take your Kindles and your iPads and all the other devices that depend on moving electrons around and shove them. Give me paper, give me vellum, give me inky fingers and pages you can flick through marvelling at the pictures, the design, the way the words sit upon the page.

So, here it is, Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom, held in my slightly shaky hands!

In my hands.




Northumbria is Middle-earth

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Now, as you may know (and if you don’t, I’ll need to make my self-advertisement even more blatant), my ebook on Tolkien, Professor Tolkien of Oxford, has just come out, and my old-fashioned paper book on the history and archaeology of Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom is out 1 October. What I had not known before is that other eyes than mine have seen the connection between the two. When places are touted as the inspiration for Middle-earth, the areas around Birmingham where Tolkien grew up (which were then bucolic expanses of greenery rather than suburbs) usually win out. But, it turns out, and this will not be a surprise to visitors, Northumberland fits better today. For the poster for The Hobbit features Gandalf striding across the Shire, but the backdrop is Northumberland. The ruined castle to the right of centre is Edlingham Castle. The hills are the Simonside Hills, according to folklore the home of dwarves, the duergar, who lead travellers astray.

So, Northumbria is Middle-earth. I knew it!

Nearly There

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

I’ve just finished going through the final batch of corrections for Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom. Emailed off this morning, Lindsey, our editor at The History Press, will input them on Monday and then off the file goes to the printers. It looks like we’re on track for the official publication date of 1st October 2012.


Cover Quandaries

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

It’s an exciting time: the History Press has sent me a trial cover for Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom. I quite like it, but what do you think?

Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom

Things You Never Knew: First in an Occasional Series

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

According to Theophilus Presbyter, an eleventh-century monk and metalworker, the best way of quenching a pair of red-hot tongs is by plunging them in the urine of a red-haired boy.