Review: The Wolf Banner: Sons of the Wolf by Paula Lofting

“Best battle description ever!”

1056…England lurches towards war as the rebellious Lord Alfgar plots against the indolent King Edward. Sussex thegn, Wulfhere, must defy both his lord, Harold Godwinson, and his bitter enemy, Helghi, to protect his beloved daughter.

As the shadow of war stretches across the land, a more personal battle rages at home, and when it follows him into battle, he knows he must keep his wits about him more than ever, and COURAGE AND FEAR MUST BECOME HIS ARMOUR…

My Review

In THE WOLF BANNER author Paula Lofting brings us a story of turmoil: we see families carrying on a decades-long feud; we see marriages stretched to the breaking point, children fighting their parents, earls in exile fighting to come back, Viking invasions, and senseless battles. Welcome to the eleventh century, where loyalties are uncertain and nothing can be relied upon except the steel in one’s heart and the strength of one’s arms. This is a sequel to Paula’s debut novel SONS OF THE WOLF, and continues the story of Harold Godwineson’s thegn Wulfhere of Horstede, a strong warrior who hates battle and loves his family, though he seems to have trouble controlling them. But this novel contains much more. We are placed in the year 1058, when Earl Aelfgar of Mercia has once again rebelled against King Edward and has allied with his Welsh neighbor Gruffydd ap Llewelyn in an attempt to force himself back into power. In the first book we already saw how devastating Aelfgar’s partnership could be, when in 1055 he and the Welsh burnt Hereford to the ground. This time, they have enlisted the help of the Vikings under Magnus Haraldsson, and the ensuing battles occupy much of the action.

I was surprised to see the introduction of Burghred, eldest son of Aelfgar who I never even knew existed. Burghred’s factual history is relatively undocumented, which gave Paula the opportunity to bring him to life, and this turbulent eldest son goes on to wreak havoc with his father’s invasion. It seems that Burghred felt that he deserved Mercia for himself if he could stop Aelfgar’s advance. Is it treachery to turn against one’s father if that father is a traitor? Once again, loyalties are tested and usually found wanting:

Harold’s words whistled through his ears as he rode and though he tried hard to forget them, they would give him no peace. The promise of Mercia…. But could he trust Harold?

He liked Harold, had always found him to be fair and decent, a world apart from Alfgar. Though to betray his father again would be betraying not only his grandfather, but also himself. Blood was worth more than gold, was it not? Though Mercia was a great prize for a second betrayal; at least then Mercia would stay with their bloodline. Or would he simply be a game piece for Edward and Harold to use as they wished?

What had he to lose? He had no lord, no father, few lands to call his own. This might be his only chance to win an earldom for himself. Mercia. He had to take it.
(This excerpt taken from the second edition)

Any reader who enjoys battle scenes will be more than satisfied with the details provided by a reenactor who knows her weapons and tactics. Our Wulfhere, after delivering a rousing speech, goes on to prove, once again, that he is the best. But what does he gain for his courage and prowess? Apparently, nothing. For in this world, there is very little fairness meted out by the Lords, and there is no reason to expect that evil deeds will ever be punished, except by the sword.

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Meet Paula Lofting

Paula Lofting is the author of 2 volumes in the Sons of the Wolf series of which she is working on her third instalment. She has been a prolific reader all her life, inspired by authors like Rosemary Sutcliffe, Mary Stewart, and Sharon Penman. She is a psychiatric nurse by day and writes in her spare time whenever she can. Mother of three grown up children and 2 grandchildren, she lives in Sussex and is also a re-enactor of the late Dark Age period. 

As a reenactor of the period I can actually say that I have fought and died at the Battle of Hastings at least three times.

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