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(Review) Oswiu: King of Kings,The Northumbrian Thrones III by Edoardo Albert

Publication Date: January 27, 2017
Publisher: Kregel
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction, early part of the middle ages
Pages: 560
Edition: Paperback
Source: Free copy from Kregel
Rating: Excellent

Kregel link for more information


Links for further information on the historical Oswiu:
Early British Kingdoms

Edoardo Albert's website

My previous reviews of books one and two:
Edwin: High King of Britain
Oswald: Return of the King

Supplement information included in the book includes an introduction to the characters. An explanation is given for those characters who are historical and those who are fiction. A glossary of Anglo-Saxon terms. A Pronunciation key of the language. A four page synopsis of the previous books in The Northumbrian Thrones.

The story is divided into four parts.
"Part I: Raid
Part II: Family
Part III: Strife
Part IV: Reckoning"

When the story begins it has only been one season since Oswald's death. Oswald had been the king, and older brother to Oswiu. Oswiu is now king of Bernicia and king of Northumbria.
Oswiu and his men approach a town asking to be let in. They are refused. An awkward situation arises for this new king. He has been disrespected and rebuffed. The town of York has been told there is a different king, and Oswiu is not their king. They believe the king, determined by the witan, is Oswine, son of Osric, the Godfriend.
Later, the two kings have a tense conversation. The scene ends with Oswiu being reminded of the resemblance between Oswine and Oswald.
This first scene grabbed my attention. It is not a predictable scene for a king. It is a scene filled with the errors of humanity. I wondered how the new king, Oswiu, would handle this situation. I wondered if he would learn anything from this encounter. I wondered if this situation was a dark cloud that would hang over Oswiu the rest of his life: his worthiness to be a king.
Oswiu's grieving mother asked him to retrieve the remains of Oswald. The journey to retrieve the remains is dangerous. The synopsis on the back cover of the book explains this mission.
The book is filled with other missions, dangers, battles, marriage problems, betrayal, disunity in families, and disunity among the people.
Oswiu has inherited a realm fraught with tension and peril. His anxiety is apparent. This is just one of the reasons I love his character. He is a dimensional person. I see his positive and negative character traits. He makes mistakes. He wrestles over these mistakes. And hovering over Oswiu and the story is the memory and spirit of Oswald.
Several additional reasons of why I loved Oswiu:
  • The prickly marriage alignments. They do not always work out. How the women felt, as political pawns, are explored through the story.
  • Dialogue. I loved the dialogue between mother and son, between wives and husbands, between children and fathers, and between the kings and their men at arms.
  • Scene descriptions. I was given just enough information to form my own picture of the scene in my mind. The scenes are crisp, clear, and vibrant.
  • Oswiu's love for his brother. He idolized Oswald. He wished to be like him but fell short. He wrestles with the strong memory of Oswald. He wrestles with his grief.
  • England is not a united nation. Several domains align and then break. Intermarrying does not always work. The battles always come. It was a way of life. Bleak. However, it is an unspoken way of life.
  • The two religions. One is Christianity. The other is pagan. The styles of worship is portrayed. The people depend on a higher power for everything, from domestic to war.