Oswald: Return of the King

This was, hands down, one of the best novels I’ve read this year– enthralling, stirring, poignant and with gentle humor in spots. From a short mention in Bede and with other facts the author garnered from elsewhere–and, a certain amount of dramatic license–he has crafted a well-written life of Oswald, a 7th century king of Northumbria. From boyhood with his brother Oswiu, he rises from exile in Dal Riada and the monastic island of Iona to become king of a united Northumbria. Always desiring the monastic life, he nonetheless is a great and compassionate king. Oswald, in the author’s conception, is an inspirational figure. He spreads Christianity through his realm, much through the simple, unprepossessing example and actions of his lifelong soul-friend, Brother [later Bishop] Aidan to whom he gives Lindesfarne, which becomes a monastic center. Because of the treachery and betrayal of a man he has considered a friend, he faces off against the evil Penda, King of Mercia, in an exciting winter battle at Maserfield.

I did smile at Oswald’s pet raven, Bran, almost a character in itself/himself. I’ve read elsewhere that many early Celtic and Anglo-Saxon saints, of which Oswald was one, had a furry or feathery companion. I am assuming the stunning cover shows Bran, in red outline on black background.

I was on an emotional roller-coaster for the whole novel and still haven’t quite gotten my equilibrium or breath back. I’m not ashamed to say sometimes the writing of particular incidents or conversations was so powerful, my eyes would fill with tears.

Very highly recommended. Many thanks to LibraryThing for sending me my copy in return for an honest review.