First Review of Edwin!

The first review of Edwin: High King of Britain, from the indefatigable Publishers’ Weekly, is in, and it’s a goodie:

In the first installment of the Northumbrian Thrones, a new historical fiction series, Albert launches readers into the tumultuous world of 7th century Northumbria…Albert’s focus on the religious element does not detract from the political and dramatic aspects of the history he is portraying. Rather, it lends an extra dimension of psychological turmoil, because characters must deal with the problem of not only individual identity but also the beginnings of a national identity related to religion. Albert’s offering is a highly entertaining and refreshing work of historical fiction thanks to his emphasis on the precarious intersection of religion and identity.

Read the rest of the review here.

Justin Hill’s read my book!

This just gets better and better! After the wonderful message from Bernard Cornwell on Friday, my editor received an email from Justin Hill, author of Shieldwall (only the best novel about Anglo-Saxon England out there) this morning. He’s read Edwin: High King of Britain as well and he likes it too!

Justin Hill
Justin Hill

So, here’s what Justin (we’re on first name terms now, you see!) has to say about Edwin:

‘At the dawn of England seven kingdoms struggle for supremacy: but there is more than honour and power at stake; paganism, Christianity and the future shape of the English nation will be decided.  A fast-paced and gripping tale of the great Northumbrian King Edwin, reclaiming one of our great national figures from the shadows of history.’

I am, I must admit, feeling slightly overwhelmed at the moment, but in a good way! By the way, if you’ve never read Shieldwall, I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s my review of it.

Shieldwall
Shieldwall

Bernard Cornwell’s read my book!

Yes, that Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe books (I’ve read 23 out of 24 of them, only excepting the one where Sharpe is cuckolded by his wife and falls out with William Frederickson, as I couldn’t bear to read it) and the Saxon War novels, and, now with Patrick O’Brian gone, probably the best and certainly the best-known writer of historical fiction in the world, that Bernard Cornwell – he’s read my book! My publisher, Lion Fiction, sent Bernard’s (we’re on first name terms now he’s endorsed my book!) agent a copy of Edwin: High King of Britain, but without any real hope of getting a reply – we had no ‘in’ with him, beyond the fact that he had once visited the Bamburgh Research Project. Then, to our astonishment, we received an email yesterday from the man himself. He’s read my book! He likes it!! He’s written a commendation for the cover!!! He’s given me even more reason to use exclamation marks!!!!!

So, when I say that I think the book is actually really rather good, I’ve now got Bernard Cornwell to back me up. Now, you want to know what he said, don’t you? Me, I kept re-reading it all yesterday. Well, here you go, this is what Bernard said, I’m sure it will have pride of place on the cover:

Edwin, High King of Britain, brings to life the heroic age of our distant past, a splendid novel that leaves the reader wanting more.

 

In the Pink on Yeavering Bell

Yeavering Bell is an Iron-Age hillfort in Northumberland, one of the largest in the country. The tumbledown ramparts, still clearly visible in the photograph below, were originally 10 feet high and they enclose an area of  some 12 acres.

Yeavering Bell with ramparts clearly visible.
Yeavering Bell with ramparts clearly visible.

The hillfort looks over the site of Ad Gefrin, Edwin’s royal palace and the place where Paulinus baptised for thirty days in the River Glen at the bottom of the valley. Ad Gefrin is now a wind-swept field of grass, but it remains a hugely evocative place.

The field of Ad Gefrin, with Yeavering Bell in the background. 'Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair.'
The field of Ad Gefrin, with Yeavering Bell in the background. ‘Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair.’

The rock that was used to build the ramparts of Yeavering Bell is a local andesite that, when first quarried, is bright pink, before lichens and weathering grey it. Where a stone has tumbled, revealing a previously hidden face, it’s possible to see just how Barbie-esque the fortifications would have been when first built.

The salmon pink of fresh andesite - once all the hills were laced with it.
The salmon pink of fresh andesite – once all the hills were laced with it.

There is, to my mind, something wonderful about the thought of these grim hills – almost all of them had hillforts on them – necklaced in salmon pink.

New Back Cover Copy for Edwin: High King of Britain

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.

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Edwin in the mail

It’s been a long eight months of work but this morning I sent off to the publishers, Lion Fiction, the final text for Edwin: High King of Britain, the first volume in the projected trilogy of books about the Bretwaldas of the northern kingdom, The Northumbrian Thrones. The series title was the publishers idea, but a good one – there is something very Game of Thrones-ish about Anglo-Saxon England, even down to the rumours of monsters and dragons in the wilderness (and Beowulf’s hall).

The next volume will, naturally, be about Oswald – king, saint, martyr and, according to Max Adams’ biography, prototype for Aragorn, son of Arathorn.

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Blurb for Edwin: High King of Britain

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.

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