Original date of publication: 2000
My edition: 2000 (Random House) (later published as I Am the Chosen King)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Amazon UK, November 2009
I’ve had Harold the King on the TBR pile for a long, long time and had nearly forgotten about it, but when I went on a trip, this seemed as though it would be perfect reading for the plane ride. The novel tells the story of the Norman Conquest from the point of view of Harold, the last truly English king.
The novel is a sequel of sorts to The Hollow Crown. It opens in 1044 with the crowing of Edward, but follow Harold’s story over the next 20 years. It covers his relationship with Edyth Swan-neck; conflict with William; and eventual crowning. Because the novel is from Harold’s perspective, it portrays him in a bit of a rosy light; its William that gets short-changed. But I thought that Hollick’s treatment of both characters seemed very realistic, given that the events of this novel took place nearly a millennium ago. Because the reader comes to love Harold and Edyth, you come to wish that they’ll have a happy ending—even though with hindsight we know otherwise.
Harold the King is well paced; the reader is never bored by endless love or battle scenes, or any of the other flaws from which other historical novels suffer. This version of the book certainly needed better editing; hopefully that was changed with the Sourcebooks republication of it. But in all I really enjoyed this novel about the Conquest. Additionally, there are Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Conquest; Sarah Bower’s The Needle in the Blood; or Valerie Anand’s Gildenford, all novels that focus on the Conquest from varying points of view.