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The King's Shadow

The King's Shadow

4.6 13
by Elizabeth Alder

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Evyn, a young Welsh serf, has dreamed all his life of becoming a storyteller. But in a cruel twist of fate, Evyn and his father suffer a brutal attack by a group of murderous ruffians. Evyn's tongue is cut off and his father is killed. Orphaned and unable to speak, Evyn assumes he is destined to a life of slavery. But Evyn is resilient and teaches himself to read


Evyn, a young Welsh serf, has dreamed all his life of becoming a storyteller. But in a cruel twist of fate, Evyn and his father suffer a brutal attack by a group of murderous ruffians. Evyn's tongue is cut off and his father is killed. Orphaned and unable to speak, Evyn assumes he is destined to a life of slavery. But Evyn is resilient and teaches himself to read and write. He is then appointed the personal companion to Earl Harold of Wessex, who later becomes the King of England. The two travel the countryside together, forming a close father-son bond. Evyn chronicles all of their exciting journeys, which culminate at the Battle of Hastings, where the future of the country is decided.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alder's clunky debut charts the rise and fall of King Harold, as seen by the fictional Evyn, the king's loyal Welsh servant and foster son. A regular Horatio Alger hero of Saxon England, Evyn finds his promising career as a storiawr (wandering storyteller) stopped short when his tongue is cut out by the high-born ruffians who killed his father. A few days later, Evyn's uncle sells the mute boy into slavery on the vast estates of Lady Ealdgyth Swan Neck, who, for some reason, arranges for the boy to be taught to read and write. Later, Evyn leaves Ealdgyth's household to serve her lover, Harold, Earl of Wessex. At this point the narrative really bogs down, becoming essentially a star-struck account of Harold's ascent (``It seemed to Evyn that all the power of the Saxon people was concentrated behind the muscle and bones of the Earl of Wessex'') and his defeat at the hands of William the Conqueror. Characterizations are wooden and oddly distant: it's hard to get a sense of Harold's repeatedly emphasized charisma from Alder's cliched phrases. A wealth of potentially fascinating historical details indicates thorough research; unfortunately, these snippets are poorly integrated into the story. Ages 12-up. (May)
The ALAN Review - Anne Shaughnessy
Evyn, a young Welsh serf, dreams of becoming a traveling storyteller and freeing himself and his father from the land. On the very day Evyn is about to realize his dream, tragedy strikes. Evyn's father is murdered, Evyn's tongue is cut out, and he is sold into slavery. Although all seems lost, Evyn quickly gains the good will of his new mistress, Lady Ealdgyth, who provides for his education in a nearby monastery and introduces him to Harold of Wessex, soon to become the last Saxon King of England. Set during the last years of Anglo-Saxon rule and climaxing with the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Alder's first novel is an engaging narrative, rich in the history and life of the time. Real and fictional characters are convincingly brought to life. Only William the Conqueror is over the top as a villain. This novel has it all - adventure, suspense, mystery, and romance - and can be enjoyed for itself or would work well as part of an interdisciplinary study.
Children's Literature - Alexandria LaFaye
This rich historical novel tells the tale of Evyn, a young Welsh serf who is left mute by a brutal attack by the enemies of his uncle and sold into slavery. As a slave to Lady Ealdgyth, the common-law wife of Harold Godwinson, Evyn is taught to read and write. Because of his knowledge of Wales, Evyn is taken on a military expedition as Godwinson's scout. When Godwinson becomes the king of England, Evyn is made his squire. He stands by the king's side at the Battle of Hastings and lives to write Harold's life story.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9A Welsh orphan is mutilated and sold into slavery before finding a place for himself beside England's last Saxon king. Fully fleshed out characterizations and nonstop action. (July 1995)
Chris Sherman
Eleventh-century Britain is the background for Alder's finely written account of a slave who becomes the chronicler of Harold, last of the Saxon kings. When Evyn is brutally attacked and rendered mute, his hopes of becoming a storyteller and escaping his life as a serf are shattered. Sold into slavery, he joins the household of Lady Ealdgyth, the common-law wife of Earl Harold of Wessex. Illiterate, mutilated, and feared by the thralls, Evyn becomes known as Shadow. When he is sent to a monastery to be educated, his future is altered forever. After his return, he saves the life of Earl Harold and follows Harold, as his squire and later as his foster son, from Wessex to London and eventually to the Battle of Hastings, where he witnesses Harold's death. On the journey, Evyn learns about loyalty, honor, and bravery, and he comes to realize that by chronicling the fate of his king, he has actually become a storyteller. Alder's vivid descriptions of the harsh conditions and customs of medieval life make the story come alive, and her brisk pacing never wavers. Evyn is an observant, sympathetic narrator, an apt recorder of the perilous times.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.72(d)
940L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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The King's Shadow 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely Magical! If the thing we call Magic could be distilled into a story or book, this is it! Elizabeth Alder chose her words with such great care, and painted in descriptions so powerful that every time I reread her book, I want to start crying--a common reaction, I think. The reason I love her book so much, is that it's about a boy, a simple, ordinary person who has dreams for the future--dreams that are shattered. But, by the end, he has conquered all the darkness around him, all the fear that plagues his heart, and finally finds peace, though a sad one. The triumph is sweet, the laughter and descriptions timeless, and the pain absolutely devastating! I will forever remember the Battle of Hastings, in the year 1066, and what occurred there because of this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Okay, I only say it's a coming of age book because my Freshman year, we had to read one of our own choice, and I convinced my teacher that it was. And, really, it is, but I don't want to scare away any interested teenagers. It's so cool, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is well writen and thought out. When i read it, i felt like i couldn't talk, just like Evan, it was so powerful. I give Ms. Alder a thumps up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This awsome medievil tale 'King's Shadow' written by Elizabeth Alder takes place during the Anglo Saxon period. I really didn't understand the medievil terms. I guess the only reason why I didn't get any of the terms like squire, or welsh is only because there weren't any descriptive words that were written about any of these medievil terms. The author, Elizabeth Alder could solve this problem by putting descriptive words for all of the medievil slang words. The thing that kept me reading this tale was how Elizabeth Alder mixed the reality and fiction of the medievil times. Evyn who's the protagonist in this story has this dream of being a story teller and traveling the land to tell these stories. Eventually Evyn's storytelling dreams are cut short because his tongue is cut out by these two brothers that killed his father. Evyn is orphaned because there is no one to care for him. Elizabeth Alder feels Evyn needs a second chance but his father was killed he was put up for slavery. Evyn's new misteress, Lady Ealgyth provides him with the proper education. Evyn is later introduced to King Harold which was also the last king of the Anglo Saxon period. The bond between Evyn and King Harold is almost like father and son. In the end Evyn fins that all this time he was living his own story. Alder makes the protagonist Evyn interesting to me by starting the story with Evyn as a poor peasant with dreams and ending the story with Evyn almost being royalty. I highly recomend this book to all readers fom grades six to twelve because this is almost like a rags to riches story. This book also teaches you about second chances. This is a great novel by Elizabeth Alder.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. It was captivating and exciting, the author makes you fall in love with Evan. You feel for him as he goes through triumphs and failures. Great story!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book last year, and I fell in love with it! It is one of my favorite books ever! Even though I know what it's about already I still love to read it. I couldn't put it down, and the story was very fascinating to the last page! I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I simply love this book. Reading it was a Communication Arts assignment, and I usually hate books we have to read in school. But I was pleasantly suprised. The King's Shadow is a great descriptive, historicaly accurate, captivating tale. I couldn't put it down, and cried at the end! In my world, that is the perfect kind of book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An awesome tale told by Elizabeth Alder brings out the Anglo-Saxon time period in an enchanting way. Evyn's tale brings out many inner emotions and will definately have an impact on the reader every time! Harold Godwinson and Evyn's bond is like magic, intertwined in each other's fate while they come to love each other like father and son. This is a must read historical fiction book that really carried me to understand the ways of life in the 11th century Britain setting that Alder created ever so perfectly. It is a masterpiece in my opinion and I hope she continues writing books just as wonderful and creative as this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was really descriptive. I love to read those types of books and the book made me believed that I was back in that time. Even though I am not there. Eyvn he was so brave and honorable to Harold who soon beame his foster father. It was a really great book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The King's Shadow is one of the best books I have read. Being a Junior in High School we are forced to read many books. The King's Shadow is by far one of my favorites. I was unable to put down the book for more then a few minutes. I felt as if I was part of the book itself. The King's Shadow has it's own magic about it. It will intrige you, make you cry, and leave you in awe. I highly recommend buying and reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. Once I started it, I could put it down until I finished it. I liked it because I could never tell what was going to happen next. I hope that Ms. Alder will write more books which are as good as this one is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book over two years ago, and I still like it. I've always liked historical fiction, but I never knew much about the Battle of Hastings. I liked reading about the time period, but I also enjoyed the characters personalities, especially the interaction between Evyn and Lewys. I liked Evyn a lot in how he keeps going even when everything falls to pieces around him time and time again. Stripped of everything he held dear, he survived and became a stronger person. At the time I first read this book, my favorite book was Johnny Tremain, and I noticed that the plots of the two books were really similar- if you liked the one, you'll probably like the other.