Whitaker House, 2004 (2004)
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
n an Era Far, Far Away ...
David Rose's debut novel
has a unique twist, retelling a legend. In the early eleventh century, Canute (a.k.a. the dragon king) leads mighty Viking legions to the conquest of England. The powerful Dane attacks the peaceful Anglo-Saxon town of Coventry with a vengeance. Death and destruction comes to anyone and anything that crosses the legions' path. A thirteen-year old girl watches helplessly as her once unspoiled life turns into a nightmare, with the massacre of her parents and other townspeople. Godiva survives, due to the bravery of Sister Osburga, who draws the Vikings away from the hidden girl.
en years later, King Canute controls Northern Mercia. Godiva has rebuilt her life, found love and married Leofric. But lo' the dragon king awakens and again threatens chaos. As Earl of Mercia, Leofric supports Canute's rule and is told to collect outrageous taxes from his townspeople. Godiva pleads with Leofric against the tax, to no avail. So she donates her wealth of jewels (gifts from her husband) to pay the taxes for all of Coventry. This action drives a wedge between Godiva and Leofric, while Canute views it as defiance. As in the legendary tale, Godiva is challenged to ride naked on her horse Aethenoth through the countryside to appease the king's rage, and so win his agreement to defer the taxation. Godiva, a Christian, faces dishonor and shame if she rides. (Note that the Godiva of legend is promised by her husband to abolish the tax if she rides naked through Coventry.)
his version emphasizes religious beliefs, courage, love, sadness, and survival. Rose writes sensitivity into the decision Godiva is forced to make, weaving her qualms of conscience into the tapestry of the story. Solid descriptions of battles and scenery are not surprising, given Rose's career in visual effects. However, character refinement is lacking, and the awkward, mistimed dialog hampers the story's flow. Dave Rose is recognized for award-winning visual effects in films like
and shows such as
. He tells us that Godiva is in his '
', and that the manuscript was nine years in the making. I confess to favoring tales of yore in my avid-reading repertoire. I found
an entertaining, casual read, and look forward to more in
The Viking Conquest Saga
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