Book Review by Georgia Francis
King of the Wood
Valerie Anand draws readers into this mysterious tale of a lesser-known religious cult, all the while masterfully capturing the chaos and passion of a turbulent time.
Stepping through time back to A.D 1100, the novel opens with the death of King William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, The audience are then taken back further to when as a new King, William Rufus is introduced to the young, Ralph des Aix, a fine Norman huntsmen and horsemen who is eager to win his knight’s fee from the King.
The King William Rufus embraces Ralph and is immediately taken by him but Ralph soon discovers that being the King’s favourite is complex and not always pleasant – although it is clear that the King cares deeply for Ralph, it is not without consequences.
For his longstanding service and loyalty, King Rufus rewards Ralph with what he has been holding out for; Ralph is offered the land of Chenna’s Tun. Many feel that the King has deliberately rundown the holdings of Chenna’s Tun and Ralph and his wife, Sybil of Fallowdene find themselves drawn into the growing conflicts between the Norman court and the Saxon world of the New Forest.
Ralph becomes involved with the Saxon cult where in order to become lord of his own manor Ralph learns that he must bear the ancient title; King of the Wood, with all its cryptic and barbaric responsibilities…a net of danger is cast over all
Valerie Anand is a fantastic novelist whose talent for bringing the past back to the present shines through in King of the Wood. An imaginative style of writing is observed throughout. It is full of mystery, danger and scandal: suspense that keeps the pages turning.
Although characterisation develops slowly a deft descriptive hand pulls the reader into every scene. Exceptional praise should be given to how Anand handles the relationship between King Rufus and Ralph, thus exploring the nature of homosexual liaisons in the eleventh century and the consequences of the King’s open and honest actions.
Although at first, the novel appears full of unrelated subplots and characters who are just padding through the story, Anand skilfully pulls them all together, tying the loose ends, leading the reader towards that fateful day when the King was shot dead by one fruitful arrow.
Anand’s speculation of who shot the King is perfectly executed with validated purpose – interesting and exciting. King of the Wood is a brilliant must-read historical novel and is once again available for readers everywhere to enjoy, thanks to Romaunce Books.