The King's Shadow

Elizabeth Alder, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $17 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-34182-4
Alder's clunky debut charts the rise and fall of King Harold, as seen by the fictional Evyn, the king's loyal Welsh servant and foster son. A regular Horatio Alger hero of Saxon England, Evyn finds his promising career as a storiawr (wandering storyteller) stopped short when his tongue is cut out by the high-born ruffians who killed his father. A few days later, Evyn's uncle sells the mute boy into slavery on the vast estates of Lady Ealdgyth Swan Neck, who, for some reason, arranges for the boy to be taught to read and write. Later, Evyn leaves Ealdgyth's household to serve her lover, Harold, Earl of Wessex. At this point the narrative really bogs down, becoming essentially a star-struck account of Harold's ascent (``It seemed to Evyn that all the power of the Saxon people was concentrated behind the muscle and bones of the Earl of Wessex'') and his defeat at the hands of William the Conqueror. Characterizations are wooden and oddly distant: it's hard to get a sense of Harold's repeatedly emphasized charisma from Alder's clicheed phrases. A wealth of potentially fascinating historical details indicates thorough research; unfortunately, these snippets are poorly integrated into the story. Ages 12-up. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
Mass Market Paperbound - 272 pages - 978-0-440-22011-4
Prebound-Other - 259 pages - 978-0-613-02302-3
Prebound-Sewn - 259 pages - 978-0-7807-7121-5
Prebound-Sewn - 259 pages - 978-0-606-11000-6
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