Wednesday 7 June 2017

Review ~ The Harrowing by James Aitcheson


What's it all about...

Five strangers. Five secrets. No refuge. No turning back.

In the aftermath of 1066, a Norman army marches through the North of England: burning, killing and laying waste to everything in its path. The Harrowing has begun. As towns and villages fall to the invaders, five travellers fleeing the slaughter are forced to band together for survival. Refugees in their own country, they journey through the wasteland, hoping to find sanctuary with the last stand of the Saxon rebellion. But are they fleeing the Normans or their own troubles?

Priest, Lady, Servant, Warrior, Minstrel: each has their own story; each their own sin. As enemies past and present close in, their prior deeds catch up with them and they discover there is no sanctuary from fate.

What did I think about it...

Five travellers come together, all have very different reasons for shielding themselves, but all have one intent and that is to keep hidden and well out of the way of marauding Norman soldiers, who in the aftermath of 1066 are to be found plundering and stealing their way across the North of England. No-one is safe, not a lady and her servant, or a minstrel and a warrior, and not even a man of God can escape the flickering shadows of the past.

As this disparate group of travellers make their way north, they start to reveal snippets of their lives, and by the glow of a gently crackling wood fire they share the reasons why they are all fleeing shameful secrets.

I think that the author has done a really good job of creating such a harrowing past. The immediate years following the invasion by the Norman war lords were a dangerous time in England's history. Villages were stripped and laid to waste, and death cries, blood and destruction echoed throughout the land. Gone was the old ordered way of life and its place was a lawless and dangerous society, that knew no peace and gave  succour to no-one.

There is no doubt that The Harrowing paints a grim picture of what life was like during this time of great unrest. The author proves that he has more than enough in-depth historical knowledge to maintain authenticity as time and place are captured really well. The characters are well written and their individual stories sit comfortably against the wider backdrop of all that happens to the travellers as they make their way to the border lands between northern England and Scotland.

The Harrowing is a stand-alone novel by the author of the Bloody Aftermath of 1066 trilogy.

Best read with...vegetable pottage and a mug of small ale...

James Aitcheson was born in Wiltshire in 1985 and studied History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he developed an interest in the Middle Ages, and in Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest in particular.

My thanks to NetGalley and Quercus for the opportunity to read this book


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