Review: Shield Breaker (The Wolf of King #2) by Richard Cullen

Rating: 10/10

Synopsis:

Styrkar the warrior sails to dangerous lands in this thrilling new historical adventure from Richard Cullen. The sequel to Oath Bound, longlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize 2022.

England, 1068: a land gripped in the iron fist of Frankish invaders. But the Conqueror does not sit easily on his fledgling throne. Rebellion is rife, and the flames of uprising have been ignited in every corner of the kingdom.

Thrown back into this crucible is Styrkar the Dane, former housecarl of the slain King Harold. Forced to travel to Ireland by his deadliest enemy, he must risk the fates of his brothers-in-arms in order to protect the one thing he loves.

So begins a journey that will take Styrkar to the royal court of Dublin, and the frigid climes of the north of England, for loyalty, love and vengeance. He will be tested, beaten and broken, but can any man keep the Red Wolf chained for long?

Review:

Shield Breaker is a novel of epic historical conflicts and provides a backdrop to an area of English History that isn’t normally shown in the popular media. The legend of William the Conqueror and his army defeating Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is etched in English History as a mythical and historical context. What Richard has done here is to show the reality of William’s conquests in England, and how the Normans were seen as the invaders by the elites. But to the ordinary Saxon peasant? As long as he or she managed to live their life peacefully, they didn’t care too much. But that’s not a snapshot of every single viewpoint of every Saxon. Some resisted and fought the Normans to the bitter end, perhaps fleeing to Wales or Scotland. Others went to the Byzantine Empire to serve in the Varangian Guard where they would fight against Robert, the Norman Duke of Sicily, and exact revenge.

I would say that this is a backdrop to how the Kingdom of England that we know today was formed. William was a legendary King, but he was brutal and his army massacred many thousands of innocent souls, but of course, this was the Medieval period, or perhaps the beginning. Moving aside the history for a moment, we witness the Red Wolf, once a great warrior in Harold’s army now fighting for his chance to be reunited with his unborn child and lover, Gisela. And then in comes Ronan, and what starts is an epic journey of a roller-coaster of emotions; love, tragedy, hate, war, and ruin. Without spoiling too much, we get to witness just how weak the Saxon resistance became once the Normans, or the Franks in a way, began their consolidation of rule in England.

It’s an excellent story written with great prose, great action battle scenes, and completely well done. I felt completely immersed in the time period, and not a lot in my opinion is known about it. I feel if a TV show adaptation was made out of this, it would do supremely well. 10/10 and well done to Head of Zeus for publishing a great book!