The Abbot’s Tale

Conn Iggulden. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $25.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-68177-730-6

Having already taken on Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, and the War of the Roses, Iggulden (The Dangerous Book for Boys) successfully dramatizes the life of Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury and confidant of King Aethelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great. At Aethelstan’s side, Dunstan takes part in the Battle of Brunanburh in 937 CE to protect England from Viking and Scottish invaders and is rewarded with the Benedictine monastery at Glastonbury, to which he is named abbot. Over the years, Dunstan will serve several of Aethelstan’s descendants, be named treasurer of England, become involved in court intrigues, and undergo banishment to Ghent. Upon his recall from exile, he travels to Rome to meet Pope John XII, is named archbishop of Canterbury, and helps build a cathedral there. Purported by the author to be a “found” document, this tale is narrated by Dunstan in wittily modest fashion. There are more than enough holes in the historical record for Iggulden to fill out Dunstan’s life story imaginatively. And though this is less dramatic than Iggulden’s novels about other historical figures, it nevertheless immerses the reader in 10th-century England. (May)