The Wolf Banner – A Review
Today I am reviewing the much awaited book by Paula Lofting, entitled The Wolf Banner, to be published on 20th August 2016, and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon. It follows on from The Sons of the Wolf, the first in this series about the lead up to The Battle of Hastings.
Were to start? Well, I will start by saying that reviewing a book written from the heart, is not a task, but a joy, and something to look forward to. Paula Lofting writes from the heart, and her books show the evidence of this. Her knowledge of the era in which she writes, demonstrates this, together with a sympathetic understanding of the lives lived then, and those of her characters populating her books, and this is an absolute gift for a reader.
I was most fortunate to receive an ARC (advance reading copy) of The Wolf Banner to review, and it has been an undertaking which I have devoured, greedily.
Most people have heard of The Battle of Hastings, I should imagine. But how many know of what went before?
Paula Lofting’s, The Wolf Banner, takes us there, and carries on from where Sons of the Wolf finished, and takes us further into the lives of Wulfhere and his family.
The characters are laid bare before us, as we learn about them as they weave through the plot of the book. We learn of their foibles, their loves, their anxieties, their strengths, and their weaknesses. We learn what drives them to do what they do; and see the world of 1056 unfold through their eyes, just ten short years before the famous, or infamous, Battle of Hastings.
Lofting has an uncanny insight into their world, as she is a re-enactor in this period with the re-enactment group, Regia Anglorum. With this insight, Lofting describes her characters in such detail, that we at once become invested in their lives. We feel their insecurities, we feel their anxieties, as though they were our own. When there is a conflict within, and between families, we automatically choose a side, such is the writing. We find ourselves urging one to win over the other.
This brings me to the battle scenes. Battles which have an authenticity, to the point where, as though standing on the edge of the battlefield, we duck; shy away; hide, and even look through our fingers to see who has won. The descriptions of the fighting invoke the smell of fear, the smell of the blood. The clash of weapons ring loudly in your ears as you imagine the battle raging on before you. Let me quote from one scene:
The field was heaving with warriors, engaged in fierce battle. The air around them was made thicker with cries of fallen men, and the roars of those administering the killer blows. Steel could be heard clashing on wood and leather. Armour made ripping sounds as spear tips penetrated, stabbing their way through flesh and muscle. These sounds and the sensation of slipping and sliding over bloodied grass, made unrecognisable by human gore and innards, were all that Wulfhere could hear and feel in his heightened state.
Lofting has the ability to engender the tension of battle, and what I would call, the ‘wild eye’ of battle. This, for me, is as though that person fighting, is fighting in the eye of the storm; all around him running in slow motion. And it is only when that fight is won, does the rest of the battle come, noisily, back into focus again. I was left breathless from these battles, and some of them I had to read more than once; not because I didn’t quite get it the first time, but to admire the ‘dance of battle’ as Lofting puts it. It is almost balletic, movements executed with finesse, swirling, and cleaving with the assuredness and skill of a seasoned warrior.
The Wolf Banner is a feat of skillful writing, which will not only immerse you, the reader, into the world ten years before The Battle of Hastings, but will immerse you into the lives of those encumbered with that ordeal. The reader will also be drawn into the families, along with their own trials, and wish, with the knowledge of history, that it would be possible to warn them of what is to come.
I will finish by saying that Paula Lofting’s books will not disappoint, but I feel that so tempting are they, that they will give you, the reader, an eagerness to read more about the rich history that led to that most famous of battles, and in by so doing, find, as I have, a need to find out more.
Paula Lofting will have a new website, soon to go live
Paula Lofting is the founder of the Facebook Group, The Review
And can also be found on Goodreads