Dunstan by Conn Iggulden
My own copy
One man. Seven Kings. England’s bloody throne.
Tenth century England: a divided and broken country of misrule. Yet King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, seeks to unite the kingdom under one crown. By his side is Dunstan of Glastonbury – priest, soldier, visionary and, some insist, traitor – whose task is to steward seven kings through fire, war, murder and fury to see Athelstan’s dream come true. But what stain will it leave on his mortal soul?
Dunstan is a fictionalised account of the life of Dustan of Glastonbury, although it is heavily based on historical accuracy/fact. Which given the era, must be an incredible task to undertake. I was a huge fan of The Emperor series, which I read back in 2006/7. My husband actually bringing them back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan for me to read. The Emperor series focuses on the life of Julius Caesar and if you were ever a fan of the TV show Rome. Then you will LOVE the series.
The prologue opens, with Dustan leading the narrative, he speaks as if in reflection of his life once lived. As he writes his story, you are aware death haunts him at every turn.
‘I have broken my vows. I have betrayed those I loved and those who loved me. I have murdered innocents’
‘There never was a sin I could not learn to love’ – Dunstan
Behold The Boy – AD 934: Part one
The novel then opens with Dunstan in his teenage years. His younger brother Wulfric, who he endlessly torments but is fiercely protective of. Their father Heorstan takes the boys to meet Father Clement – the abbot. It is a meeting, that will change all of their lives. It will certainly leave its mark upon Wulfric.
‘I always wanted to protect Wulfric, but some lives are touched by the dark’ – Dunstan
Upon arriving Dunstan is fascinated at his first sighting of a pulley. It is then you become aware of what primitive times the characters are living in.
‘There are many wonders in the world, if you look’ – Dunstan admiring a pulley.
The hierarchy of the era is fully explained. I personally had no clue, despite being a huge fan of multiple historical novels and TV dramas. The roles of the thane, bishop, earls, common men and slaves are explored.
But where does Dunstan fit into this social hierarchy?
When Abbot Clement agrees to take both the boys of their education, until Christmas. It will be a move that’ll change the boys lives and the last time they’ll ever see their father.
‘A father gives strength and makes a man. A mother tempers that iron with tears and love. Too much of either makes weakness’
The boys catch the eye of brother Casper, who brutalises Dunstan at every given chance. The physical punishments and beatings, have Dunstan plotting revenge.
Brother Encarius is only young and wishes to study Dunstan’s shakes that he irregularly displays. He conjures various potions and cures. Which keeps Dunstan safe from Casper, for now. . .
The boys go through a very brutal ‘coming-of-age’ experience. The death of their father and for Wulfric learning to overcome adversity. The choices they face in their youth, are in fitting with the era. But shocking on-par with today’s society.
‘We all make our choices: some for good and some that lead to destruction’
But Dunstan finds himself with a new opportunity. One of great advantage surrounded by Lords and Lady’s at the Kings courts.
Behold The Man – AD 936: Part two
Winchester – Aethelstan’s capital
‘Men are all the same, in their desire to follow. It is too simple a description, but men are either kings or slaves’
Dunstan enters the capital with a future promise of becoming the kings hand in a year. If he can just learn how to navigate the various figures of power and authority. At the Witan council, Dunstan gets his first glimpse of the life of royalty. The warring Lords and the imminent war. It isn’t long until he finds himself on the battle field.
Upon return from battle, Dunstan finds himself being watched and then freed from his oath to the king. The king declares that he will return to an Abbot’s life and not return to Winchester. A young Dunstan is devastated. But must learn to make the best of a bad situation, if he is to survive.
‘I had come back to Glastonbury with a King’s authority. There are worse homecomings’ – Dunstan
The novel continues to detail Dunstan’s life and the events that will shape him to be the man, he will come to be. Conn Iggulden brings alive historical figures on the page, with superb detail and it makes for fascinating reading. Iggulden is a must read of this genre. 4.5*
I am thoroughly looking forward to the next new release by the author, The Falcon Of Sparta. Which holds huge appeal for me, check out the cover and synopsis below.
The Falcon Of Sparta by Conn Iggulden
Available 3rd May 2018
In the Ancient World, one army was feared above all others.
401 BC. The Persian king Artaxerxes rules an empire stretching from the Aegean to northern India.
As many as fifty million people are his subjects.
His rule is absolute.
Though the sons of Sparta are eager to play the game of thrones . . .
Yet battles can be won – or lost – with a single blow. Princes fall. And when the dust of civil war settles, the Spartans are left stranded in the heart of an enemy’s empire, without support, without food and without water.
Far from home, surrounded by foes, it falls to the young soldier Xenophon to lead the survivors against Artaxerxes’ legendary Persian warriors.
Based on one of history’s most epic stories of adventure The Falcon of Sparta masterfully depicts the ferocity, heroism, and savage bloodshed that was the Ancient World.