Genre: Historical fiction
Pub date: 6 November 2013
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
This is the true story of Aethelflaed, the ‘Lady of the Mercians’, daughter of Alfred the Great. She was the only female leader of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. It is the tale of one family, two kingdoms and a common enemy. Born into the royal house of Wessex at the height of the Viking wars, she is sent to her aunt in Mercia as a foster-child, only to return home when the Vikings overrun Mercia. In Wessex, she witnesses another Viking attack and this compounds her fear of the enemy. She falls in love with a Mercian lord but is heartbroken to be given as bride to the ruler of Mercia to seal the alliance between the two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. She must learn to subjugate her feelings for her first love, overcome her indifference to her husband and win the hearts of the Mercians who despise her as a foreigner, twice making an attempt on her life. When her husband falls ill and is incapacitated, she has to learn to rule and lead an army in his stead and when he subsequently dies, she must fight to save her adopted Mercia from the Vikings and, ultimately, her own brother.
I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, as a fan of TV shows such as The Vikings and The Last Kingdom, I am intrigued about Aethelflaed, daughter to King Alfred the Great, and how she became the Lady of Mercia.
Annie Whitehead had written such an entrancing portrayal full of emotion as we follow Aethelflaed from a young girl until her demise. Aethelflaed is married to the Lord of Mercia, Ethelred in order to strengthen the bond between the two kingdoms. Ethelred would not have been her choice and she has to hide her feelings for the one she truly loves. Once in Mercia the Mercians do not make her life easy but they come to love her just as she comes to love Ethelred. He is her strength when she has to ride out herself at the head of the army.
When I say emotional I really do mean it, I sobbed at some parts.
The losses, heartbreak and ordeals faced by her are immense.
The story is told from various viewpoints including Aethelflaed, Edward and Ethelred and through them we journey the numerous battles they faced when trying to rid Mercia of Vikings. The characters are wonderful, I particularly liked Wulf, Ethelred (something I never thought I’d say after watching The Last Kingdom) and Frith. I loved how they interacted and could also see myself sat at a mead table or stood in a shield wall with them.
What I liked about this book was the striking battle scenes from the view of the men to the agony of the females awaiting their return. We are taken through the battles in Chester, Tettenhall and Derby to name a few.
Ethelred stepped from the shield wall and smashed his shoulder against the man with the foul-smelling breath. The man raised his shield against Ethelred’s sword, lowered it as Ethelred tried to slice into his thigh, but was too slow to raise it again and Ethelred brought his blade down on the man’s shoulder, driving deep towards his neck until it severed the ties of life
Annie Whitehead explains in her authors note how some of the names spelling have been amended to make it easier for readers to keep track which I was grateful for.
This era is fast becoming a favourite of mine (maybe a little obvious from my recent reviews of MJ Porters books, The Last King, The Last Warrior and The Last Horse) and I’ll be looking for more books like this as well as reading more books from Annie Whitehead. If anyone has any suggestions for more books like this please let me know!
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