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The Sons of Godwine: Part Two of The Last Great Saxon Earls by [Rochelle, Mercedes]
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Length: 306 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King's most trusted advisor, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor's death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn't particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.

This is a story of Godwine's family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.

This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor's reign. Unfortunately, Godwine's misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha's disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold's career was just beginning as his father's journey was coming to an end.

Harold's siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig's case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.

Harold was his mother's favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig's vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig's love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1048 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Sergeant Press (7 March 2016)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01CPPBRC2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #247,736 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to delve deeper into history? Read this one! 5 January 2017
By Heather B Matz - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Ms. Rochelle has filled in the well-known history of the people/events in early 1000's England with little-known, but historically accurate details, personalities, and motivations. Written in a memoir style, historical figures speak in their own individual voices as the sensitive, flawed human beings that they were. Recommend this book to those who are well acquainted with this time period and to those who are new to historical "fact-ion."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars family rivalry, power, deceptions and rule 29 March 2017
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The Sons of Godwine

Within the pages of this novel you will be privy to many different voices and accounts of the same incidents or happenings. You will hear these events recounted by members of the same family each one giving their own slant or viewpoint. As Queen Editha, the wife of King Edward the Confessor creates her prologue each one of Godwine’s sons narrates his own viewpoint of events that happen. Harold, Tostig, Leofwine, Wulfnoth and Gyrth all present different perspectives related to things that happened, about to happen and the future of what their father has lost and hopes to reestablish. Some stories present a one sided point of view with the narrator’s account hoping to get the reader to side with his point of view. This novel focuses on the reign of Edward before William the Conqueror became England’s next king. Each character presents his case in such a way that they often seem devoid of emotions, stating the facts as they happen and relating them in a short, crisp and cold fashion. Harold takes the leading role and eventually emerges as the successor to the Earldom of Wessex. This of course did not exactly please all of his brothers who hoped to rise to the title of Earl too. Within twelve years, Harold as we get to know him better became loyal to King Edward and one of his most trusted advisors allowing him to take control of much of the government. Reminding readers of the first in the series where we get to know King Canute, his relationship with Godwine who is impulsive at times. As Earl of Wessex, Godwine worked with Canute and rose to high esteem with Edward the Confessor. Godwine’s thoughts and ideas are not always quite thought out and although his other sons are bright or have positive attributes we learn more about Swegn the oldest son who is more like an outcast within the family, creates friction, discord and unlawful acts drawing the family into a series of difficult situations and causing rivalries to rise up among brothers. The choices each one makes seems to link to his own advantages and not always what is right for the people they govern. Harold comes across strong, not of royal blood and although he appears to have what he feels events under control his actions often need to be rechecked and he is not guiltless. His older brother causes much strive and when told to leave the kingdom and once again exiled by Edward matters take on an ugly turn.
Eventually Harold becomes King when Edward dies. Power is his mainstay and reaching it at any cost even if those close to him suffer from the fall out. Because of her older sons behavior and actions she is brought down and to disgrace. They are forced into exile for one year and then return to London. Harold is about to take on the same journey as his father who is coming to the end of his own line. Harold is the one at the top and all of his family seemed to pale in comparison as we hear their voices as Harold takes center stage. Tostig when his older brother loses his earldom is devastated when Harold and several others are each given part of his kingdom. Tostig is angry and jealous; Harold seems to have too much self-esteem and overlooks his own flaws and imperfections. Sometimes there is one child who is favored over the rest and that would be Harold in relation to his mother. Tostig is supposedly next in line but does not fare too well and after a while he becomes angry and vindictive. The core of this novel is sibling rivalry, the thirst for power and the hope that one-day one of them would rule. Hearing the throngs of people regale in the presence of the Godwines when they return to London, the end result might destroy they had and accomplished and leave them open to foreign countries trying to take over. Harold marries Edith Swanneck and for a time is happy until he leaves her and his sons to go off on missions for the king and his father. Swegn kidnaps the Abbess of Leominster, and the violence in Godwine’s town takes the limelight during a visit from Eustace of Boulogne. But, Tostig gets his earldom but his brother Wulfnoth and cousin Hagen are taken hostage by the king and sent off to many different places treated fairly yet not freed. Held by Edward and then William, Duke of Normandy we also hear about the Count and why his daughter decided to marry this violent and dangerous man.
Things take on different turn when Godwine closes his eyes for the last time and Harold is asked straightaway to take on his father’s role much to the chagrin of Tostig. Ready to take control, manning his ships and ready to forge ahead we hear Tostig’s encounter and rendition of what he perceives as someone else dies and he moves into his spot. Will this stop the rivalry probably not as Edward does not approve of Harold’s wife Edith because the church did not properly marry them, as he deemed respectable and proper.
The remainder of the novel focuses on how each brother commands his earldom some with compassion and others like Tostig with violence and cruelty. Each one’s true nature comes through as they try and hunt down and stop Macbeth, Malcolm and others that might get in their way. ,
Battle lines were drawn, lives were lost and then Harold went to see Duke William and seeing his brother and nephew after all the missing years. Thinking that he too would get away after a while more battles were fought, William had the upper hand and no one not his brother or nephew would be allowed to leave if at all for a long time. Aelfar although considered a traitor was given an Earldom but died soon after. Tostig recounts many of the battles and although he thought Malcolm would eventually recognize him he was not. Earl Aelgar is dead and King Edward directed his steward to reward the man, and then made a comment to Editha, Harold’s sister. Next they would deal with Gruffydd in a graphic and violent manner leaving his wife all alone. The final scene lets readers know that although Harold promised three things of which I will not reveal to Duke William someone’s freedom would still be held and sacrificed in order to make sure that Harold does not go back on his promises. Brother against brother. Friend against friend and the end result has not been decided for The Sons of Godwine. There is much more to come in the third and final novel of this trilogy.
Besides the various recounts of events the author includes in italics Editha’s very own thoughts about his brother and several other incidents that will enlighten readers as to what really did happen and the emotional effects. The words and memories are part of what Editha shared in this novel, as King William would not longer allow her the protection she needed and she changed the commission t a life of her husband Edward. She preserved her real story as you enter the pages of this novel you will learn the harsh realities and truths. A unique way of presenting different viewpoints yet each brother telling it but yet we know its Editha who created this method of story telling.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book! 10 March 2016
By Marsha - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of The Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle. This is the second part of The Last Great Saxon Earls triology covering the time period of the waning years of Earl Godwine and the rising stars of his sons.

The author chose to write this novel in the first person with each of Godwine's sons describing their memories of childhood and the events leading up to the Norman Conquest. The sons are Swegn, Harold, Tostig, Leofwine, Gyrth, and Wulfnoth. Queen Editha, Godwine's daughter also brings her prospective to events. The narrative being written in the first person really draws the reader into the story and one gets a first hand feel of the events and emotions of the person that is being highlighted. Harold, being the most widely known, is prominent in the story but the author does not neglect to give the reader impressions and memories from each of Godwine's sons and Editha.

I really enjoyed the interpretations the author brings to the various individuals and situations in the novel. I have read widely on the pre-Conquest and Conquest era and have to say that this book was a fresh approach to the tried and true historical fiction accounts.

I am greatly anticipating part three of this series and highly recommend this book and series to anyone who likes this time period.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating historical fiction 18 June 2016
By Helen S - Published on Amazon.com
This is the second of Mercedes Rochelle’s Last Great Saxon Earls novels which tell the story of the Godwinesons in the years leading up to the Norman Conquest. The first book, Godwine Kingmaker, follows Godwine, Earl of Wessex, as he rises to become one of the most powerful men in 11th century England. In this second novel we get to know the Earl’s family as his children take turns to narrate their own stories, each from his or her own unique viewpoint.

We begin with a prologue in which Queen Editha, daughter of Godwine and wife of Edward the Confessor, explains that the book she commissioned on the life of her husband – the famous Vita Ædwardi Regis – was originally intended to be a history of her own family and that she had asked her brothers to write down their memories to be included in the manuscript. The Sons of Godwine is presented as a collection of the brothers’ memoirs (fictional but based closely on historical fact).

Editha’s brother, Harold – the future King Harold II of England – is naturally the most famous member of the family and much of the novel revolves around him, but we also hear from Tostig, Gyrth, Leofwine and Wulfnoth (though not from the eldest brother, Swegn) and through their alternating narratives the story of the sons of Godwine gradually unfolds.

Having read several other novels set during this period over the last year or two I feel that I’m beginning to know and understand it (though not as well as other periods, such as the Tudors or the Wars of the Roses). The Sons of Godwine takes us through all of the famous events and incidents of the time, including Harold’s marriage to Edith Swanneck, Swegn’s abduction of the Abbess of Leominster, and the violence in Godwine’s town of Dover during the visit of Eustace of Boulogne. These are all things that have been written about before, but what makes this book different is that we hear about them or see them happen through the eyes and ears of the Godwinesons themselves. I really liked this approach as it made the story feel more intimate and personal; the only problem was that there didn’t seem to be much difference between the narrative voices of the brothers.

As I’ve mentioned, Harold is given a lot of attention, but the other brothers have interesting stories of their own too, especially Tostig, who is made Earl of Northumbria, and Wulfnoth, held hostage by first King Edward and then by William, Duke of Normandy. They also each offer a different perspective on Harold’s character, viewing him with a mixture of admiration, irritation and envy. There is a particularly intense rivalry between Harold and Tostig, which slowly grows throughout the novel. Their relationship is going to be explored further in the third book in this series – Fatal Rivalry.
4.0 out of 5 stars The Road to Hastings 26 January 2017
By A Reader - Published on Amazon.com
The unsteady years prior to 1066 are what led to William the Conqueror's success at Hastings. Edward the Confessor was a weak king who survived by playing off the stronger earls and bishops and assorted other climbers against each other, including the family of Earl Godwine, the strongest of them. Harold and Tostig Godwineson were the strongest of the great earl's sons and were shown in this novel to have more than a little sibling rivalry between them. The author's imagining of the family dynamics of the Godwinesons shines a welcome light on this time before the Anglo-Saxon kings of England were extinguished.

The story is told in various 1st persons - the voices of the sons of Godwine (Swegn, Harold, Tostig, Gyrth, Leofwine, and Wulfnoth) and his daughter, Edith (wife of Edward the Confessor) each recount their side of the events in the 15 or so years prior to 1064. This provides a relatively balanced explanation of the events of those years that a story from only one point of view would not .

To my mind, the story began slowly at first, but by the end becomes compelling as we approach the better recorded episodes that led up to the Conquest of 1066. Recommended.

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