My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Max Adams' book, 'The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria' is a welcome addition to the limited number of books available about 7th century Northumbria. It is well-written and well-researched. My main quibble is the fact that I had hoped to find out a lot more about Oswald, who I was researching for my own writing. The book actually covers the whole century and really only has a handful of chapters dedicated to Oswald specifically, though Adams does make reference to him and his influence in later chapters. However, these references sometimes feel a little forced and oblique, and Adams does seem to have a tendency to make a conclusion via deduction and then state it in a matter of fact way, as if there could be no other interpretation of events. Considering there are very limited primary sources for the period, this approach felt somewhat contrived.
However, these are minor points. All in all the book's style is engaging, and the overall history of the north of Britain in that troubled century is illuminated in the spotlight of modern research and archaeology.
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