The Horse-Thegn: Tale of an Anglo-Saxon Horse-thegn in Northumbria, by John Broughton, is the 2nd book in the Saint Cuthbert Trilogy, an historical fiction based in Britain during the 800's. Having read the first book in the series, entitled, Heaven In A Wild Flower, which was an excellent read, one that I found on a par with The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, the 2nd book did not disappoint. The Horse-Thegn follows the life and adventures of Cynn, the Royal Horse-Thegn; "thegn" being an old Anglican word for a servant or nobleman. It is a visceral story, showing the brutality of Viking raiding parties invading the British aisles, and the battles, both small and large that ensued as mostly Christian Anglican folk, under the banner of such warriors as Cynn, defended their villages and borders. That said, this story is much more profound than the element of warring parties, because it shows, that despite the clashes and bloodshed, that the quintessential driving force between the attacking Danes and the British folk, was to find peace, to establish a community and to get on with life. As the story rolls out, covering some fifty or more years of Cynn's adventures, we see him and others trying to change the cultural landscape with a vision of the Britain we know today. One sees the seeds of advance, planted back then, as the Viking Danes put down their weapons, take up farming and form ties with the locals - even switching from their beliefs to Christianity to strengthen those bonds. One feels, as one reads, that one is standing back in time, the sense of realism and detail which Broughton brings to life with his words is really quite masterful. This book most definitely qualifies as classical historical fiction, but it hardly feels like fiction at all. Looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the trilogy.
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