Monday 8 November 2021

#BookReview - The Wolf Banner (Sons of the Wolf, Book 2) by Paula Lofting @Paulalofting

The Wolf Banner
(Sons of the Wolf, Book 2)
By Paula Lofting

Publication Date: August 26th 2020 / Second Edition: 
Publisher: Longship Publishing
Page Length: 428 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction


 "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…

Being a man is not just about fighting wars and battles. It takes courage to right the wrongs one has made.

It also takes wisdom to understand that some things are not so easily forgiven. Wulfhere seemingly has it all. He has a loyal wife who loves him and a beautiful family, but this was not enough for him. He needed more. Over and over again he has committed the same sin, never quite ready to leave his mistress's bed, but the time has come when he must face up to the facts that his indiscretions and disloyalty have consequences. But has he left it too late to ask for forgiveness?

Drowning in a sea of Godwinsons, Alfgar, Earl of Mercia, is running out of options. But when the moment he has feared transpires, when King Edward informs him that he is about to lose his lands, he knows exactly what to do. But will the men of Mercia stand with him, and if they do, will he be victorious?

Having read Sons of the Wolf, it was with an eager anticipation that I began to read The Wolf Banner: Sons of the Wolf Book 2. I expected big things from this novel because Paula Lofting is an accomplished bard who is not only gifted at writing believable and gritty battle scenes, but also has an empathetic understanding of human nature. Lofting’s compelling narrative made this novel utterly enthralling from start to finish. 

Lofting has once again presented her readers with a book that has not only been meticulously researched but one that is filled with action and adventure. There is no let-up in this novel, no time to catch one’s breath as the events unfold, hurtling towards a future that will change the course of English history forever. 

The historical detailing of this story is staggering. The hours and hours that Lofting has dedicated to research shines through in her elegant and authoritative penmanship. The historical backdrop of this story is magnificent. There was no doubt in my mind while I read this book as to which century I was in. 

Conflict is a central theme that runs throughout this book. At court, tensions are rising for there are those who have taken exception to the Godwinsons' good fortune and royal favour. Men such as Alfgar, who is out of favour, is not about to sit ideally by and let the puppet-king, Edward, take Mercia from him. He is confident in his position of power, trusting of his allies Gruffydd ap Llewelyn and Magnus Haraldsson, and assured of his son’s loyalty, but this is an era of cloaks and daggers and no one, not even those closest to you, can be trusted. The humiliation, the threat of obscurity, is a driving force that leads Alfgar down a very dangerous road. The King is weak, but the Godwinsons are not. Which leads us on to The Battle of Hereford. Lofting is incredibly gifted when it comes to writing believable and realistic battle scenes. The Battle of Hereford was depicted in all of its horrors. 

There are some very fascinating characters in this book, each with a wonderful story and insight into the events of the months leading up to the end of Edward’s reign. The character that intrigued me the most was Ealdgytha, Wulfhere’s wife. Ealdgytha comes across as a cold-hearted, stern and, at times, exceedingly cruel woman, but that is not the kind of person she is, or perhaps it would be better to use the word was. Ealdgytha is a woman who has lost so very much and she has been emotionally abused and betrayed most terribly by her husband. I could not help but weep when she discovers the identity of a baby that her husband “found” in the stable, and how, after bestowing a mother’s love on the child, she is forced to give her back. It is of little wonder as to why she finds herself in such a fragile mental state. Ealdgytha's story is one of a woman who keeps giving her husband numerous second chances, but who finally realises that he will never change. Saying that, however, sometimes Ealdgytha was hard to like as she is quite domineering of her children and exceptionally blunt, and she is happy to use physical punishments if her anger is raised beyond endurance, but she does love them and her helplessness at not being able to predict or stop events from occurring was heart-rendering. 

Wulfhere is a man who has made mistake after mistake and yet he is seemingly trapped in this never-ending circle of self-destruction. He is the cause of so much suffering in his household because of the things has done outside of it, and yet, at times he acts as if he is the wronged party. He seemingly lives in fear of his wife’s wrath, but he is arrogant and ignorant enough to continue to lie to her. As a man, Wulfhere is likeable enough but, in this novel, I did find it difficult not to judge him because his affair and actions affects everyone around him.

I adored the depiction of Harold Godwinson. I thought Lofting had really captured the essence of the man. Harold is a man of integrity and honour, but he is also a husband (by hand-fast) and a father. Lofting has presented her readers with a very loyal, very clever man who is, despite his determination to keep his position, as well as gain from it, exceedingly likeable. 

The Wolf Banner: Sons of the Wolf Book 2 by Paula Lofting is a historical fiction triumph. However, to get the most out of this novel, you really need to read Book 1 for the character list is vast and it would be very easy to become confused as to who everyone is and what role they have to play in this story. 

The Wolf Banner would certainly appeal to readers who enjoy battle heavy historical fiction and emotionally gripping family sagas.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club

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This novel is available for FREE with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

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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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx