Hollick (A Hollow Crown) constructs a magnificent epic in this unabashedly pro-Saxon recounting of a turning point in Englishhistory. Twenty-two years before the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinesson lives happily with his wife in the turbulent era of Edward the Confessor, but as a member of the most powerful noble family in England, Harold is drawn into a political drama that will eventually lead him to assume the rule of England as the last of the Saxon kings. While Edward's Norman associates stir resentment inEngland, an enemy is consolidating his positionacross the channel: the ruthless William, dukeof Normandy, who considers himself heir to Edward's throne. Hollick's enormous castand meticulous research combine to create a convincing account ofthe destructive reign of the hapless Edward and theinternecine warfare that weakens England as Williamprepares to invade. Thanks to Hollick's masterful storytelling, Harold'snobility and heroism enthrall to the point of engendering hope for a different ending to the famous battle of 1066. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
" Hollick's enormous cast and meticulous research combine to create a convincing account of the destructive reign of the hapless Edward and the internecine warfare that weakens England as William prepares to invade. Thanks to Hollick's masterful storytelling, Harold's nobility and heroism enthrall to the point of engendering hope for a different ending to the famous battle of 1066." - Publishers Weekly
"Shut off the phones, order takeaway, and have beverages at hand because once begun, this book is close to impossible to set down. I adored I Am the Chosen King and highly recommend it to all readers, do not be put off by the size of this book for in the end I fancy the reader will have wished it longer." - Rundpinne
"This was a book that was very hard for me to put down. I found myself immersed in time and place and just about felt like I was THERE. Ms. Hollick is a master at delivering a tale that you don't want to end." - The Broken Teepee
"One thing for certain, reading a historical novel by Helen Hollick will leave you feeling satisfied if a little sad that the novel has ended. Even though you basically know the ending before you start the novel, it is in the telling of the story in between that will captivate you and keep you reading." - Peeking Between the Pages
"In the days when I was reading I Am the Chosen King, I felt I was kidnapped by this story of the Saxon England. When I couldn't read the book, I thought about it during the day, I researched what I didn't know online and when sleeping, I dreamed about the characters. I think it will not be an exaggeration when I say that Helen cast a spell on me, the one that made me fully absorbed in the world of I Am the Chosen King." - Reading Extravaganza
"The descriptions of the Battle of Hastings were breathtaking, and heartbreaking, I had goosebumps reading these scenes. Hollick's author notes were a wonderful addition and much appreciated by this reader. All up, another winner for Helen Hollick and fans of historical fiction." - Queen of Happy Endings
"The genius of Hollick's writing is her rare ability to combine accurate historical fact with damned good storytelling." - A Reader's Respite
"Helen Hollick is an author who is conquering the world one country at a time with her intricate way of bringing the past to life, especially through the historical fiction favorite; I am the Chosen King." - Suite 101 Romance
"I really enjoyed this book and I know that historical fiction fans will absolutely love it. Hollick has the ability to take a very detailed historical account and give it life. Her style is very approachable and leaves the reader feeling like they have learned a lot, while still being entertained." - Deb's Book Bag
"Like Beethoven's Symphony Number 7, I am the Chosen King starts out quiet and touching and then slowly, almost without you realizing it, it moves to a stunning and powerful conclusion. For the last two hundred or so pages, I found myself totally obsessed with the book. " - Laura's Reviews
Read an Excerpt
Emma, twice married, twice widowed, Dowager Queen of England, watched her only surviving son dance, tripping and prancing with dainty steps among the boisterous twirl of men and women. With the solemnity of the coronation ritual completed, and the pomp of the banquet ended, this evening's celebration and merry-making came most welcome to the guests here within the King's Hall at Winchester. A pity that the crowned king had to be Edward.
Emma sipped at her wine to disguise the flare of contempt. Edward, her firstborn son, crowned and anointed this day as King of England. She would have to learn to accept it. She took another sip, savouring the richness of the red grape as it warmed her throat, overcoming the taste of bile that rose from her stomach. Accept it, maybe, but she would never come to like it! Edward was as weak and shallow as his incompetent father, Æthelred, had been. How well had the clerics who wrote the history of these things mocked that name! Æthelred, Noble-Counsel-and how soon into his dithering, floundering reign had that been altered to un-raed, ill-counselled?
A thunder of laughter from the far end of the crowded Hall drew her attention. Godwine's two eldest sons, Swegn and Harold, stood among a group of fine-dressed young men sharing some, no doubt lewd, jest between them. For all their faults-and where the Earl and his brood were concerned, there were faults a-plenty-they were sons to be proud of. Swegn might be wild, more interested in the pursuit of enjoyment rather than the demands of decisionmaking, but these faults were outweighed by better traits. All Earl Godwine's sons were strong, courageous and manly, aye, even young Leofwine, who was but seven years of age. Where was the manliness in her son Edward?
Unable to keep her thoughts to herself, Emma spoke to the man sitting beside her, his hand tapping out the merry rhythm-beat of the dance on his knee.
"I have been wife, and queen, to two men who have ruled England." Her wordsoozed contempt.
"You would have thought one of them could have sired upon me a man worthy to be called son."
"Harthacnut, your last-born-" Godwine began, but Emma irritably waved him silent.
"My second husband, Cnut, gave me a child of each sex, both of whom had the constitution and life-span of a mayfly." Briefly, an expression of regret clouded Emma's face. To be queen for over two score years, to rule as regent, survive attempts of murder and the harsh bitterness of exile: such a woman needed to shield her weaknesses from those who would, at the drop of an autumn leaf, oppose her. But Godwine knew Emma well, better perhaps than either of her husbands. Harthacnut, her youngest son, she had genuinely adored. A boy like his father, wise and disciplined, with a sense of duty and purpose; strong of body and mind. How much had she endured for that lad! And for what? For him to die of a seizure when he was but three and twenty and crowned king for less than two short years.
"The life of the wrong son was ended," she said softly. Godwine assumed she referred to Harthacnut's untimely death, winced as she murmured, "It ought have been Edward killed, not Alfred."
Godwine made no comment to that. Emma had borne two sons to Æthelred: Edward and Alfred, and Alfred was a name that still conjured difficult memories that brought the blood stealing into Godwine's cheeks. As young men, exiled from England, the brothers had tried and failed in a pathetic attempt to claim their right of succession after Cnut's death. Captured, the boy Alfred had been placed in Godwine's care. It had not been good care for the lad had fallen into the murdering clutch of Cnut's illegitimate son, Harold Harefoot. Imprisoned and cruelly blinded, Alfred had not survived the torture. Ever since, Godwine had carried the blame for that wicked death.
But such was the fate of young men who tried to take by force a crown from the one who was already, rightly or wrongly, wearing it.
Earl Godwine's hawk-sighted blue eyes followed Emma's narrowed gaze. Edward was an elegant fine-featured man, two years short of forty years of age, tall and slender, dressed in bright-coloured, extravagant clothing.
Disdainfully, Emma snorted. "A pious weakling with neither brain nor balls." "Give him time, my Lady. He has been almost thirty years an exile. He was but eight when forced to flee to your birthplace in Normandy."
Aye, it must have been hard for the lad and his brother Alfred, when they left London, muffled by the concealing darkness of night, bundled into a boat and taken, alone and frightened, across the sea to live among those of a foreign tongue and way of life. Never knowing when they would return to their mother, and England. Knowing, later, that when she agreed marriage with their father's usurper, Cnut, that the "when" would not come until the Danish conqueror met with death. And even then, only if their place had not been superseded by other sons.
"Look at his hands! Too delicate to wield a sword," Emma announced with scorn. "I pity England if she is ever again faced with invasion. At least Alfred, for all his childhood mewling and whimpering, had the stomach for a fight once he was grown."
Godwine refrained from answering. Alfred, as king, would not have survived beyond the turn of a season, not against experienced, battle-hardened men such as Magnus of Norway or Svein Estrithson of Denmark-those two Viking seafarers had always been far too concerned with England's affairs. But at least the roving greed of their ancestral cousins, Emma's kindred the dukes of Normandy, were of no consequence to England's future. The present Duke, William, was yet a boy. He would have problems enough keeping his head attached to his shoulders. With tact, Godwine commented, "Edward is amenable. He listens to his elders and accepts the wisdom of the Witan, his council."
"He does not listen to me! I came into this world nigh on four and fifty years past. I have been Queen of England from the age of thirteen when I was wed to that weak fool Æthelred. I ruled as regent for Cnut, when his duties as king of Denmark and Norway took him across the seas. I guided Harthacnut through his brief but glorious reign-yet this whelp Edward, the first-born son of my womb, publicly spits on me and calls me an interfering hag!"
She glared at Godwine, but fell silent as the whirling dance finished amid laughter and excited applause. She watched as Godwine's sons were joined by a few of the breathless dancers, Harold swirling a fair-haired young girl into his arms.
His sister laughed back at him, her eyes bright with youth and excitement, her cheeks flushed pink from exertion and the heat of the crowded Hall. Edith was a resourceful girl, determined to enjoy herself whenever opportunity presented itself. Watching her, one eyebrow raised, Emma had a suspicion that she might also have high-reaching ambitions, and the shrewdness to take full advantage of those offered opportunities. Pride was as ripe in the daughter as it was in the sons. Edith would make a good wife for some power-seeking young earl.
Or...Emma sucked the inside of her cheek, then sipped again from her silvered goblet. Or perhaps Edith, only daughter of the noble lord Earl Godwine of Wessex, would marry higher?