Sunday 22 March 2015

REVIEW: The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria by Max Adams

The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of NorthumbriaThe King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria by Max Adams
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.

4 stars.

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  1. I had a similar take on this book, sir. Oswald has been a subject of some fascination for me for about 25 years, ever since I first encountered his tale in English history books. So when I found about the Adams volume I had great hopes. For the most part, Adams does not disappoint, and I suppose the explanation for the expansion of his discussion lies mostly in the dearth of real information we have on his principal subject. But I, like you apparently, was looking for something a bit more Oswald-centric.

    Congratulations on "The Serpent Sword." Someday I hope to emulate your success.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Ken.

      Oswald makes his entrance in my series late on in The Serpent Sword, but he has a prominent role to play in the sequel, The Cross and the Curse.

  2. It's very difficult to get a lot of gen on the personages of this period. Authors of non fiction can't fill in the gaps like we do and to be honest, I'd feel happy if there were two chapters dedicated to King Harold in my period of interest! We know very little of the men of this AS period than we do others and conclusions are pretty much conjecturous most of the time. Yes i do believe i just made that word up.